For 15 years, the 100 Great Iowa Nurses program has recognized nurses who have made meaningful contributions to their profession, and this year’s list includes graduates from Calamus-Wheatland and Northeast.

Megan Lahann, formerly of Wheatland and now of Coralville, and Caitlin Howe, of Elvira, are both being honored for their commitment to providing the best health care possible.

While the specific nature of their work differs, both women have set the highest possible standards for themselves when it comes to patient care.

Little did they realize, the impression they have given is not only on those they help treat, but also on their fellow staff members.

“At first I cried,” Lahann said of finding out she was on the list of 100 Great Iowa Nurses. “It was such a sweet thing, and I had no idea it would happen. Afterward, I became a little embarrassed because I know so many other nurses who deserve this award, and I don’t feel worthy of receiving it before them.

“Luckily, I work with amazing doctors who recognize the hard work and care I put into my job. I am very grateful for their support and appreciation and for giving me this wonderful award.”

Howe also was humbled by the news, and credited those who enable her to do her job to the best of her ability.

“I was grateful and appreciated (the award),” Howe related. “You can’t do this job alone. In general, the support system I have at home has been wonderful. I’ve worked with lots of doctors and nurses, EMTs … we all support one another and learn from each other every day.”

Lahann, 31, is a registered nurse who received her bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, works as a full-time nurse in ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and a part-time nurse on the inpatient psychiatric unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. 

Since she was little, Lahann wanted to be a “baby nurse,” as she called it. But while doing her rotation in nursing school, she visited a psychiatric unit and it led to a change of heart.

“I kept an open mind,” Lahann recalled. “While there, I saw a patient doing cart wheels and thought it was a very interesting population and became more intrigued. I quickly learned the need for this style of nursing and the impact it can make.”

Lahann teaches nursing, pharmacy and medical students who rotate through her department and watch ECTs.

“I really enjoy teaching others the importance of these treatments, and showing (the students) they are great treatment options that is not barbaric like they portray it to be on television and in movies.”

Lahann says there is a negative stigma attached to psychiatry. She says she gets discouraged when she tells people she is a psyche nurse, and they assume her job is easier than that of a nurse in oncology or the emergency room.

The need for psychiatry is tremendous, Lahann said, which makes her passion for her profession even stronger.

“I absolutely love seeing the changes in people,” Lahann shared. “At first, our patients often come into our unit and hate us. They take out their frustrations on us verbally or even physically. Once our patients get the mediations they need or the therapy they need to start feeling better, they often become a whole different person. 

“It is amazing to see the changes and get people back to their families and friends.”

In two different letters recommending Lahann for the 100 Great Iowa Nurses program, she was praised as being the most hard-working, amazing nurse with whom her staff members ever had worked.

“She is an absolutely integral member of the healthcare team and does a phenomenal job with teaching nurses while never missing a beat with clinical care … I am astounded by the ways in which she puts the needs of patients over her own needs,” one letter noted.

The other letter credited her being “an amazing advocate for patients, who often are stigmatized and neglected.”

“She deserves some recognition for years of fantastic nursing care; there are too many specific events to count, and this nomination is long overdue” the letter stated. “ … really she is just fantastic every day, and her reliability and consistency is part of her strength.”

Wanting to be a nurse dates back to Howe’s childhood as well. 

The 27-year-old registered nurse said watching her loved ones be cared for by medical professionals served as inspiration.

“I had family members going through health issues,” Howe explained. “In the hospital, out of the hospital, receiving treatment, bedside care … I watched all of that. It sounds cliché, but I wanted to help people and help them achieve a better lifestyle and quality of life and educate them on how to do that.”

After graduating from Clarke University in Dubuque with her bachelor’s of science in nursing, Howe jumped right into action taking a position in the intensive care unit at Genesis Hospital in Davenport.

While it was intense, it was right up her alley.

“I loved it,” Howe related. “I liked the critical thinking and the fast pace.”

After she and her husband, Tyler, married and started their family, Howe said she wanted to be closer to home. Yet, she also still wanted to work in critical care and remain with Genesis.

So, in the summer of 2015, she started working in the emergency room at Genesis Medical Center-DeWitt.

Between the location and the job itself, she couldn’t be happier.

“It’s never the same day twice,” Howe said. “I never know if my next patient will have a sprained ankle or a stroke. I like the rural, small-town community hospital. And it’s the same rural community I live in. I really like that.”

In addition to taking a leadership role of the hospital’s infusion center (infusion therapy is an alternative to oral treatment, and is the administering of medication through the use of a sterile catheter inserted into a vein), Howe also was praised for being a remarkable influence on her fellow staff members.

In the nomination letter to the 100 Great Iowa Nurses program, it states, “We have nominated Caitlin because she exemplifies a bedside nurse leader. She role models to others what a bedside nurse can do to improve care and implement best practices … Caitlin recently had an opportunity to step into a formal charge position that would take her away from the bedside. She declined, stating, ‘she was not ready to leave the bedside yet, thought she still had so much to give, and her heart currently belongs there.’”