As new fathers across Northeast Pennsylvania celebrate their first Father’s Day today, many can thank Karen Fiorillo for giving them the skills and confidence they need to raise their children.
As the longtime perinatal education coordinator at Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, Fiorillo has spent more than a decade teaching expectant and experienced parents as well as soon-to-be siblings the ins and outs of preparing for birth and caring for babies.
After growing up in North Scranton, Fiorillo set her sights on pharmaceutical work but changed to nursing after realizing she wanted a more hands-on job. The more her sister, a fellow nurse, tried to discourage her from entering the field, however, the more Fiorillo wanted to do it. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in nursing from The Pennsylvania State University and went right into working in the labor unit as a graduate nurse.
“They recommend that you get a couple months or a year of medical (or) surgical (work) just to get experience to figure out the whole body system before specializing,” said Fiorillo, who now lives in Clarks Summit. “I just went against the grain.”
From 1992 to 2000, Fiorillo worked as a labor nurse at Scranton’s former Mercy Hospital, where she had previously worked as a nurses’ aide. She then joined the Moses Taylor staff in April 2000, three months before the hospital opened the baby delivery unit that she said today brings about 2,400 children into the world annually.
“It’s a lot of babies,” Fiorillo said.
She worked as a labor nurse at Moses Taylor as well as for a time before volunteering to help with the educational side of things, as she and a few others had received Lamaze certification. Her time as an educator continued on a per diem basis while raising her own kids — Ryan, Rebecca, Alison and Avery — and she moved into her current coordinator role after it opened in 2004.
In the months leading up to birth, families attend classes with Fiorillo that include Baby Basics, which focuses on topics such as diapering and bathing; Infant and Child CPR; Sibling Class, which helps children prepare for the addition of a brother or sister; and Childbirth Education, which explains the birthing process and Lamaze techniques. Fiorillo also gives parents tours of the hospital’s birthing area and teaches neonatal resuscitation and basic life support classes to hospital staff, all the while updating the research within the curriculums. Fiorillo enjoys teaching Lamaze the most.
“Being the labor nurse at heart, that’s my love,” she said.
Fiorillo aims to “take that fear out” of the delivery process. She loves dispelling myths people bring to the classroom, and she explains every stage of labor and what parents can expect to see and experience once in the hospital. Every experience is different, as she knows from giving birth to her own children.
“I was the labor nurse before the mom, so I knew too much (going into labor), but I saw the normal experience, the different scenarios. … It was a benefit, though, that I knew,” Fiorillo said.
When it comes to teaching the basics of caring for infants, Fiorillo stresses the individuality of children.
“What works for you putting your baby for a nap might not work for the next one,” she said.
And after delivery, as parents prepare to leave the hospital, Fiorillo visits them in their hospital room to see that they feel OK.
“Follow-through is great,” she said. “They feel more comfortable seeing the familiar face.”
The multi-tasking her job involves can pose a challenge, especially since she’s also busy outside work. Fiorillo has supported her daughters’ softball careers, serving as president of the Abington Softball Fan Club; served on the board of Ballet Theatre of Scranton; and helped out at Nearra’s Pizza, a restaurant her husband, Neil, and his cousin own in Scranton’s Green Ridge section. She’s also in the midst of supporting her husband as he fights testicular cancer that has spread.
“It does take a village,” Fiorillo said.
But at the hospital, at least, Fiorillo has found joy in helping couples achieve what amounts to winning a prize, she said, and the couples appreciate that.
“I love it every single time,” she said. “(Birth) makes everybody so happy. … It’s a big, big milestone in these people’s lives.”
Meet Karen Fiorillo
- At home: A Clarks Summit resident, she is the daughter of Robert and Jean Jenkins, Scranton. She is married to Neil Fiorillo and has four children, Ryan, Rebecca, Alison and Avery.
- At work: Perinatal education coordinator at Moses Taylor Hospital and a nurse
- Inspirations: Her children
- Aspiration: To make it through the present challenging time (“I can’t get any further from day-to-day life,” she said.)
- Diversions: Golfing, running and her kids’ activities
- Aversions: Negativity and when people do not follow through on something
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest