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Howden Retires From Corvallis Hospital Leadership

By Ian Rollins

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Bill Howden has been in nursing for 35 years, spending 20 years at Salem Hospital before joining Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in 2004.

Howden, RN, BSN, who became the hospital’s vice president of patient services in 2014, will close out his career this month. The hospital celebrated his retirement with a prestigious DAISY Nurse Leader Award earlier this month.

Howden’s career is highlighted by multiple types of bedside nursing, as well as informatics work and executive leadership. He joined GSRMC as the manager for the hospital’s progressive and intensive care units before his promotion to vice president.

“I started out in health care as an orderly when I was in college in 1970,” Howden said. During the 1970s he worked in various roles, including orderly, OR tech, and ER tech. “I was at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My goal was to go into teaching, but while I was in college, there was a teacher layoff in Santa Barbara.”

So, after graduating from UCSB with a degree in biology, Howden considered going into nursing, as he had always enjoyed taking care of patients and it would give him an opportunity to apply his science background. 

He came to Salem for the Willamette Valley’s quality of life.

“I was a single parent with two kids, and I wanted to get them out of Southern California,” he said. “My brother and his family were in Salem, so I moved here and I’ve never regretted it.”

What accomplishments does he look back on? Anything that involves a team, and he said the teamwork at GSRMC makes it a special hospital for staff and patients.

“We’ve had teams working on ICU projects, and the nursing units have developed their own practice committees to look at how they can keep improving,” Howden said. “I love watching the staff talk about what they’re doing on their units. It’s energizing and inspiring.

“Health care is a team sport,” he continued. “We tell the physicians, residents and staff that repeatedly. We have a lot of different disciplines working together to improve patient care.”

Howden doesn’t have any specific plans in retirement yet, except to spend time with his wife Lora and family, and do some volunteer work.

Hospital CEO Becky Pape marked Howden’s retirement by presenting him with the hospital’s first-ever DAISY Nurse Leader Award. The award was established by the family of J. Patrick Barnes who succumbed to complications of a blood disorder in a Seattle-area hospital in 1999. The family was struck by the immense clinical skill of the nurses but even more so of the compassionate care that is at the heart of the nursing profession, so they  created the DAISY (Diseases Attacking the Immune System) Award to thank nurses and provide an opportunity to celebrate those that are extraordinary in their ability to express compassion.

Pape had the following statement regarding the award to Howden:

“As one of the leaders of our complex organization, I am certain his patience is tested daily, however, instead of frustration he projects an openness and desire to understand others’ points of view. Somehow, he taps into an endless well of compassion and allows those around him space to express themselves, learn and grow all while guiding them in a direction that meets the goals of the hospital. His leadership style effortlessly creates a team that does not feel obligated to follow his approach but instead feels supported and empowered to speak up and thereby develop solutions that we all feel ownership of. 

(Howden) continuously advocates for the patient and doing what is right, which as we know, often is not what is easy or sometimes popular. He deserves the DAISY Nurse Leader award as he embodies compassion as a nurse, leader, educator, and individual. Just as the family who created this award had hoped, it allows recognition of an extraordinary RN whose compassionate contributions to patients, GSR, SHS and the nursing profession will never be forgotten.”