Getting to know Chris Howell

For more than three decades, Chris Howell has shared her talents for caregiving with our healthcare system. But when she noticed a need for nurse navigation in the community, her professional path changed course a bit. In 2014, with CEO Mike Packnett’s support, she developed a program to help those experiencing a medical setback, and who might not otherwise have access to the appropriate resources, maneuver through the health system. Along with one other care navigator, Chris meets with men and women at The Rescue Mission downtown to walk through their health journey and ensure they receive the care and answers they need for a successful recovery and improvement strategy.

A true example of a servant’s heart, Chris is one of the dedicated, influential, inspirational People of Parkview. 

Name: Chris Howell, RN, BSN

Title: Community Based Registered Nurse, Parkview Community Nursing and Care Navigation  

How long have you worked at Parkview?
I will celebrate 31 years at Parkview in July. I initially graduated from Parkview’s nursing program. I started working as a student in 1985. I worked in the ICU, the Pediatric ICU, Interventional Radiology, Outpatient Imaging and Rehabilitation, and floated wherever needed in the hospital.

What was the key moment in your life that led to your current position?
I didn’t feel like I was making a difference doing what I was doing in the outpatient imaging department anymore. 

That’s when, about 6 years ago, I met a man who did not have the follow-up care and coordination that I felt he deserved. This gentleman had gone home after surgery with an appointment to follow up the next week. During that week, he had problems but didn’t want to bother anyone and ended up having major complications. He had to go back into the hospital and have another surgery. Because he missed so much work, he was let go. He then lost his insurance and was at risk of losing his home, all because he didn’t want to bother anyone. I felt that if he had better instructions or someone who called him post-op, maybe all of this could have been avoided. 

So, 25 years into my nursing career, Parkview provided me the opportunity to get my BSN and I jumped at it. I wrote my capstone paper on navigation and advocating for patients.

What moved the Rescue Mission initiative forward?
When I joined Community Nursing, we really didn’t know what was going to happen. Our CEO, Mike Packnett, met with the CEO of The Rescue Mission and came up with a “what can Parkview do” kind of plan and then my job blossomed from that.

We meet with those committing to the program within 2 weeks, and ensure that they have insurance, a primary care provider, a mental health provider, medications, etc. We help them navigate the systems, and everything from over-the-counter medication to dressing changes to medication pill box refills to appointment scheduling. You name it! Parkview provides funding, staffing, supplies, support and, of course, the vision.

Have you always known you wanted to help people in this capacity?
I was trained in critical care. I had no idea what Parkview did in our community or that there was such a big need. I have learned so much.

What is the most challenging part of your job? 
The system – insurance, post-visit follow up, discharge instructions, etc. – gives us the biggest problems. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
When we see that someone has succeeded and recognize they are headed toward real change.

Is there one specific moment in your time at Parkview that you found particularly impactful? 
I have been blessed throughout my career at Parkview, but being given the opportunity to develop a program to help those less fortunate navigate the healthcare system, helping them to move forward toward compliance and improved health, has to be the most impactful.

Where do you see the Rescue Mission initiative going?
Wow …  I see us expanding to see more of the women that need our help. The population is so transient that we will always have people that need us. Truly, the sky is the limit for navigation. 

What are your passions outside of work? 
Travel, but my real love is for my family and whatever they are doing.

If your career with Parkview has taught you anything, what would that be? That nursing is a very rewarding and challenging career that allows one to be both a professional and a mom.

What do you hope people will gain from your story?
I would hope that people would recognize that the systems are difficult to navigate and they don’t know what they don’t know. It is our responsibility to help those entrusted in our care get through the system with the least barriers. 

What items would we find on your bucket list? Which will you check off next?
Be more involved in community events, finish 2 books in a series, travel, enjoy my granddaughters. My granddaughters are at the very top of that list!


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