Sarah Sakala

Sarah Sakala, BSN, RN is the 2019 recipient of the Laura D. Smith National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) Scholarship. She earned a BA in illustration from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2007 and a BS in nursing from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in 2015. During her time as an undergraduate she was passionate about serving her local homeless veteran community and made this a priority while leading her Student Nurses Association as president and serving as a Florida Nursing Student Association delegate, among many other volunteer endeavors.

She fell in love with cardiac nursing and spent the next 2.5 years working on a local cardiac PCU while concurrently maintaining membership on her hospital board’s ethics committee and co-founding and chairing her unit’s Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB) committee. She became Six Sigma Lean certified in 2017 to enhance her unit’s efficiency and cut wastes.

In 2017 she started a concurrent masters and doctoral program at UCF to become a family nurse practitioner with a DNP degree. The leadership exhibited by undergraduate UCF professors, combined with a strong desire to enrich the field of nursing through exemplary behavior and to attain the knowledge and ability to drive real change in healthcare drove this decision. She strongly believes in servanthood as the basis for both nursing practice and for leadership. During these years she became secretary to her local Sigma Theta Tau chapter and continued to serve in many capacities. These have included tutoring low-income teens at no cost, feeding the homeless through local churches, cleaning up beaches along Florida’s east coast, and fundraising for Relay for Life multiple times, a personal favorite charity organization. Additionally, she has been mentoring undergraduate nursing students, maintaining her undergraduate SNA chapter’s website, fostering animals for the SPCA, and providing certified dog therapy to local medical facilities and elementary schools to visit special needs classrooms and children with autism. She advocated for the end of greyhound racing both in Florida and worldwide.

The focus of her doctoral work is improving primary care provider detection of, therapeutic communication with, and competent, non-stigmatized care for adults with autism in the primary care setting. She plans to expand this work to pediatric, specialty, and acute settings after graduation, which is scheduled for August 2020. With the DNP, she plans to bridge research to practice and provide education and leadership in any institution of employment. She also hopes to teach and empower nurses to make change and give them a voice in the workforce in large healthcare settings to reduce burnout and improve morale. With experience as a nurse practitioner, she hopes to join the U.S. Air Force to serve military family units and earn a post-graduate certificate in nursing education to teach future generations.