Helping patients feel respected and safe

Sarah Benedict

APP Spotlight: Sarah Benedict, Nurse Practitioner, Internal Medicine, 20 S Park Clinic, Madison

Tell us about yourself?

I’m celebrating my 15-year work anniversary at UW Health, 11 of those years as a registered nurse. I pursued my nurse practitioner degree when my kids were very young. I consider getting my master’s degree as my third child! I completed my master’s through an online program and earned my clinicals at UW Health and Physicians Associated. I originally thought I’d go into cardiology but fell in love with internal medicine early in my training. I enjoy collaborating with the nurses, fellow advanced practice providers (APPs) and MDs, and really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I am very proud that my team and I implemented service geared toward treating alcohol and drug use disorders in our clinic practice, and broadened patient care for prevention of HIV.

Tell us about your family.

I am a mother of two kids, Beau, 7, and Halle, 8. They keep my husband, Matt, and I very busy. We have a 33-year-old horse, Fargo. I’ve had him since I was 13. This summer, we adopted two kittens from a local rescue. For fun, we try to get outside as much as possible and to hike, walk, bike and hang out near lakes. We recently took a family trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. The area is beautiful and fun in the summer months. 

How did you come to UW Health?

I grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and attended Viterbo University there. At a career fair, I chatted with a UW Health recruiter who introduced me to the nurse residency program and it really interested me. I completed my nurse practitioner training at Gunderson Clinic in La Crosse. I really wanted to work in an intensive care unit (ICU) and was lucky to be hired into the Cardiac Medical ICU at University Hospital where I worked for two years before transitioning to the cath lab procedure area.

What inspires you about your profession?

I love having the extra autonomy that being an APP gives me. A nurse is a highly respected role but is still working under the direction of a doctor. As a nurse practitioner in internal medicine, I design a patient’s care team, diagnose illness, prescribe treatments, and monitor routine health and wellness. I see adult patients, ages 18⸺100+ for routine visits, acute conditions or new diagnoses. I love that I am encouraged to develop my interests, including drug and alcohol abuse, HIV prevention and transgender health. I also make it my mission to get more APPs comfortable with these areas.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

I can’t recall a specific moment, but am always touched when I receive a nice card or MyChart message from a patient who is thankful for the care I provided. It is fulfilling to know I am truly helping people live better lives. I also love taking care of moms and daughters, married couples or an entire family.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

My patients have taught me humility. As a provider, I expect my patients to disclose to me highly personal details. I go out of my way to make sure they feel respected, protected and safe with me. And in turn, I’m always honest. For me, it’s okay if I don’t have the answer but it’s absolutely my responsibility to get them the help they need. My patients also teach me vulnerability. I take time to learn more about them to establish a trusting relationship. Open and honest communication is important. It’s always my job to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

The team I work with is fantastic! We are family. I see them more during the week than my own family. We trust and admire one another. They know me well; we lean on one another for help. We have a synergy with our workday. I know I can lean on the team to take care of my patients if I can’t. We troubleshoot and always have each other’s backs. The nurses, MAs and scheduling personnel are such an important part of my team, and I couldn’t do my job without their huge efforts.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I’m proud we are raising our children to respect the healthcare community and diversity. They are proud of their dad, who is our family’s general care provider. He transitioned from his full-time job as an engineer when COVID-19 hit hard in March 2020 and has been home taking care of our family and home ever since. I’m proud we can thrive in a time of uncertainty. It has really tested us as a family unit and we are doing incredibly well.

I also must mention another inspiration. My husband’s mother—who I never met—passed away in her 50s from breast cancer. She was a trailblazing nurse practitioner in family medicine. We laugh that he married a nurse practitioner—it’s like a true continuation of her memory and legacy.

At the end of the day, I love my job—I’m lucky.