Excellence in Nursing Awards 2020

Meet this year's 13 outstanding nurses

Until recent events reminded the world of just how much we need them, nurses were the unsung heroes of the medical community. These talented individuals provide their skills and sacrifice on a daily basis, and now thanks to COVID-19, we have a glimpse of the debt we owe. New Hampshire Magazine, in partnership with the New Hampshire Nurses Association, is proud to say thanks to them all by calling out a few in our Excellence in Nursing Awards. This past winter, we accepted nominations for New Hampshire nurses in 13 vital specialties, from pediatrics and public health to leadership and education. The winners were selected by an independent committee of nursing leaders from adjoining states. Each nurse profiled in the following pages represents the very best in nursing — those who go above and beyond to comfort, heal and teach.

Meet this year’s award-winning nurses:

Kelly Snow, BSN, RN, CMSRN, Resource Nurse
Sharry Keller, RN, CHPN
Julie Percy, RN-BC
Julie Reynolds, RN, MS and Chief Executive Officer
Rachel Ritter, APRN-CRNA
Samantha Presby, BSW, RN
Patty Roncone, BSN, RN, Clinical Teacher NICU
Kimberly Anick, BA, BSN, RN-BC
Kelsey Anne Pearl, BSN, RN
Lisa Lang, BSN, RN
Pamela Laflamme, BS-N, RN-BC, CHFN
Alyssa O’Brien, Ph.D., RN
Theresa Calope, BSN, RN


Kelly Snow, BSN, RN, CMSRN • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Kelly Snow, BSN, RN, CMSRN, Resource Nurse

Medical-Surgical Nursing
Elliot Hospital

When Kelly Snow looks back at her career, which began in 2002 at Elliot Hospital (in the same unit she’s in today), she doesn’t point to one single story or person that inspires her to strive for excellence, rather the collective experiences and lives of all of her patients.

“I do remember all the stories that I have heard from my patients,” says Snow. “[Stories] about when they were growing up and where they live, their war experiences, their careers, where they have traveled throughout the world, and the way they talk about their families.” Some stories, she says, are happier than others, but she always wants to “get to know them as a person and not just for the reason they are in the hospital.”

That ability to be a good listener, she says, is a key trait of being a nurse, along with compassion, empathy and communicating openly. She’s lucky, she adds, to work with a team that’s become more like family, allowing them to work together to care and advocate for their patients.

“We care for [patients] and give them emotional support during what can be a scary and vulnerable time for some,” she says. “At the end of the day, I like to live by the Golden Rule — ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated.’ So far, this rule has made my nursing career successful.”


Sharry Keller, RN, CHPN • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Sharry Keller, RN, CHPN

Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Palliative Care Team

Though nursing wasn’t Sharry Keller’s first job (she was briefly a journalist, then taught elementary students after getting her master’s in education), it’s what she was meant to do. “From a single, memorable encounter during my student nursing clinical experience, taking care of a woman with a cancer diagnosis, I knew I wanted the opportunity to specialize in oncology nursing,” she says. The valuable lessons she learned — that in addition to clinical competence she needed to be a good listener while also providing emotional support — have served her well since starting at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in 1985. Looking back on that formative experience, she says, “It was being able to care for the whole person, who happened to have a serious illness diagnosis, that resonated with me, and still does in my work in palliative care.”

Along with her interdisciplinary team, she makes sure families and patients are getting what they need — social work, healing arts, chaplaincy and volunteer services.

“Compassion and good communication skills — both careful listening and sensitivity and clarity in responding — are two of the things at the core of what we do.”


Julie Percy, RN-BC • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Julie Percy, RN-BC

Gerontologic and Long Term Care Nursing
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Concord Primary Care

For those with older loved ones suffering from chronic illness, there is comfort in knowing that there are dedicated, compassionate healthcare professionals who are able to provide care when they cannot — people like Julie Percy, who’s spent the better part of two decades caring for the elderly.

When she began working at the internal medicine department at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in 2000, she says she “instantly fell in love with the geriatric population. I attended many geriatric conferences and was moved by the passion I found in my heart for these folks.” She adds, “I immediately decided to focus my specialty in this area.”

Her professional “aha” moment at Dartmouth-Hitchcock was preceded by an experience at an end-stage Alzheimer’s facility a year earlier. A determined mom of twins, who was convinced her sons (now 65 years old) needed rescue, managed to get outside. With Percy’s quick thinking, kindness and help, she calmed her patient and helped her walk safely back inside. Ever since, she says, “I have been dedicated to the elderly.”

Over the intervening years, she says she’s been inspired by many doctors and colleagues, but “the most important inspiration are my patients and their families,” says Percy. “This is an ever-growing, vulnerable population of patients.”


Julie Reynolds, RN, MS and Chief Executive Officer • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Julie Reynolds, RN, MS and Chief Executive Officer

Nurse Leader
Cornerstone Visiting Nurses Association

For Julie Reynolds, being in hospice care is both challenging and fulfilling. It requires communication and business skills, she says, plus the ability to set good boundaries, and, more importantly, passion for what she does. Reynolds, the CEO at Cornerstone VNA, encapsulates all of these qualities. She both educates and supports her patients and their families and her staff, while ensuring everything runs smoothly so that her providers can do their jobs well — giving the best care possible to patients in their homes.

After working for several years in a hospital, Reynolds transitioned to working in homecare in 1986, when the need for skilled care at home was increasing. “This is where I found my passion,” she says. “I could see the results of my work and the benefits of patient education, care at home and the teamwork required for it,” she adds. “It was apparent that there was a learning gap in the homecare industry, and this really drove me to learn more about it and share my knowledge with my peers. It’s very rewarding to be able to look back from then to now and see the amazing strides that we have made along the way.”


Rachel Ritter, APRN-CRNA • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Rachel Ritter, APRN-CRNA

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Collaborative Anesthesia Partners

Rachel Ritter is the last person you see before you fall asleep when you receive anesthesia, and she’s the first person you see when you open your eyes. As a nurse anesthetist, her job is to meet you and create a unique plan for your anesthesia, keep you asleep, give you medicine and perform life-saving procedures to keep you safe. “I provide care across the lifespan and spectrum of services,” says Ritter. “Services range from ear tubes for your child to spinal anesthesia when your mom needs a knee replacement, to labor epidurals to emergency intubations or surgery, and from nerve blocks to special intravenous lines.”

Ritter draws inspiration from her coworkers, but most of all from her patients, whose strength, resilience and grace encourage and inspire her to excellence each day. One of her most special memories was witnessing the love that her patient’s son was able to give to his father in his last moments. “His father lingered longer than we anticipated, and his son repeated his quiet litany of love, again and again,” recalls Ritter. “I still consider it one of the most beautiful moments I’ve witnessed in my career. As nurses, we are privileged to be part of pivotal moments in people’s lives, and for this I am truly grateful. It is an honor that we are trusted to care for people when they are most vulnerable.”


Samantha Presby • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Samantha Presby, BSW, RN

Pediatric and School Nursing
Lafayette Regional School

Being a school nurse is anything but easy. During any given day, she might see a student for conjunctivitis, take multiple temperatures, and meet with a parent or two — all before 8 a.m. As difficult as it can be, Samantha Presby also knows how rewarding it is to lead by example, and to have a positive impact on students.

Looking back, it was her mother’s perseverance through adversity that inspires her to be the best nurse that she can be. “My mom instilled strong work ethics, goal achievement skills and empathy in me, which when combined with my passion for nursing allow me to serve my students and their parents to the best of my abilities,” says Presby. Providing comfort, a sense of calm and establishing trust with students and their families is a gift, she says, and she believes that it’s imperative to holistically approach and educate the next generation of nurses about this special field of care.


Patty Roncone, BSN, RN, Clinical Teacher NICU • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Patty Roncone, BSN, RN, Clinical Teacher NICU

Maternal-Child Health Nursing
Southern New Hampshire Medical Center

Great educators know that learning never ends. After 28 years in a NICU/Special Care Nursery, clinical teacher and nurse Patty Roncone says she still learns something new every day at work. Her drive to continue her professional growth comes from wanting the very best for her patients. “I want to be the type of nurse that I would want to care for my own family and loved ones,” says Roncone.

Her original plan to become a midwife changed right out of nursing school when she was offered a full-time position in a NICU. It was there she “fell in love with the privilege of caring for premature infants and their families. It was divine intervention and I have never looked back.”

Empathy, she says, is one of the key traits for someone in her specialty. “Having an infant in the NICU or Special Care Nursery is often times a scary and overwhelming time that should have been happy and joyful,” she says. “Most families did not even dream that they might find their baby requiring intensive or special care. Having empathy helps you connect and build a relationship with the families of the infant you are caring for.”

Inspiration comes both from a role as an educator and from her patients, who she calls “amazingly resilient.” Watching patients grow from such early adversity into healthy, thriving children is “why we do what we do,” she says. “To help families cope and become competent caretakers of their infants with our guidance in the beginning.”


Kimberly Anick, BA, BSN, RN-BC • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Kimberly Anick, BA, BSN, RN-BC

Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
New Hampshire Hospital

Of all the ailments that require the support and healing powers of a nurse, the least understood are illnesses of the mind. So it makes sense that, when asked what trait is most important for a psychiatric nurse, Kimberly Anick replies, “Advocacy.”

Prior to becoming a nurse in 2014, Anick spent five years in Boston as a research assistant interviewing people with serious mental illnesses. After listening to countless stories of struggle, resiliency and recovery, she decided that she wanted to help. “As a nurse, I continue to listen and learn so much from my patients, and then utilize emerging treatment approaches and evidence-based practice to be able to provide them with the best possible care,” notes Anick. “I am a fierce patient advocate and I try to empower my patients to advocate for themselves and for others with mental illness. The majority of my patients are admitted involuntarily, but they deserve the right to actively participate in their treatment.”

Mental health outcomes might sometimes seem less clear than those in surgery or internal medicine, but she finds ample inspiration: “My patients’ courage inspires me. Caring for them is a great honor and responsibility, and they deserve my best every day.”


Kelsey Anne Pearl, BSN, RN • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Kelsey Anne Pearl, BSN, RN

Emergency Department Nurse
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital

With a dad who was a police officer, Kelsey Anne Pearl grew up in a family accustomed to community service. It’s also a family with strong bonds, ensured by her mom, “my biggest cheerleader,” says Pearl, “and the glue that holds the family together.” That homespun blend of selfless service and camaraderie is also what she loves about her work in the emergency department at Wentworth-Douglass.

“The ED is a completely unpredictable environment requiring you, in a matter of seconds, to transition from treating a young child’s cuts and scrapes to helping save a patient in cardiac arrest,” she says. “You never know what is coming through the ED doors next, and that is what makes life in the ED so challenging and rewarding.”

She began her career as a licensed nursing assistant, advancing to become an RN (Registered Nurse) in a geropsychiatric unit and then to a “float pool” that allowed her to explore other specialties. Soon after discovering that emergency work was her passion, she joined the ED team at Wentworth-Douglass.

“My ED family provides the camaraderie of a sports team, the dysfunction of a Thanksgiving dinner with distant relatives, and friendships that felt like they have existed since childhood. No matter what kind of day it is, we are all there for each other, and we push each other to excel,” says Pearl.


Lisa Lang, BSN, RN • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Lisa Lang BSN, RN

Ambulatory Care Nursing
Ambulatory Care Nursing Foundation Medical Partners

Like the science that empowers it, nursing is a self-improving system when properly practiced. It’s by passing on the lessons learned that each new generation of nurses can build upon the hard-won successes of those who have gone before.

As a nurse educator for a multispecialty health organization of 70 southern New Hampshire practices, Lisa Lang is a crucial link in this chain of success. Her primary focus is strategies for infection prevention and control, and emergency response. The scope of her work includes everything from one-on-one mentoring to mock emergency drills to basic life support recertification classes. “I always try to consider what opportunities can arise from various situations, thinking, ‘how can this be done differently, more efficiently, cost-effectively, or made safer for staff?’”

Her specialty, ambulatory care, is an evolving arena of nursing that’s rooted in relationships, so her relations with aspiring nurses are fundamental. “Working alongside our nursing leadership team or staff nurses within their clinic setting, provides me with a valuable opportunity to hear their voices, see their concerns, and advocate on behalf of their needs. This is a privilege I do not take lightly,” says Lang.

“In addition, I maintain hands-on nursing skills by working per diem in our walk-in clinics,” she says.


Pamela Laflamme, BS-N, RN-BC, CHFN • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Pamela Laflamme, BS-N, RN-BC, CHFN

Cardiovascular Nursing
Coordinator, Elliot Cardiovascular
Consultants Heart Failure Program and Co-chair Elliot Hospital Multidisciplinary Heart Failure Committee

Pam Laflamme wanted to be a teacher, but a high school guidance counselor talked her out of it. She looked into nursing, attended a three-year diploma program where she was introduced to clinical rotations in her second month and was hooked.

It was during her critical care rotation that an instructor — “My first nurse-hero,” says Laflamme — modeled a passion for caring for the critically ill with “evidence-based practice and guideline-directed therapy. Although I have not seen her since graduation, I think of her often and still hope I am meeting her tough standards.”

She returned to school after 20 years to complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing, obtaining her certification in cardiac-vascular nursing in 2015. “In 2016, I was the first nurse at the Elliot to earn certification as a certified heart failure nurse,” she says.

“When first diagnosed with heart failure, most patients are eager to learn everything they can about their condition,” she notes. “As they begin to feel better, however, many patient revert to their old habits … and often ‘forget’ the importance of taking their medications and continuing with medical follow-up.”

Reflecting on the irony of her guidance counselor’s advice, she says, “As patients ‘forget,’ I use every opportunity to interact with them, take a few extra minutes to reassess their understanding of their current treatment plan, their adherence to it and then reteach anything they may have ‘forgotten.’”


Alyssa O’Brien, Ph.D., RN • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Alyssa O’Brien, Ph.D., RN

Nurse Educators and Nurse Researchers
Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing University of New Hampshire

Alyssa O’Brien describes herself as a “boomerang.” She started as a nursing student at the University of New Hampshire, and is now back at the University of New Hampshire teaching students and encouraging them in the same way that her nursing mentors encouraged and inspired her during her educational journey. She brings experiences, stories, and a passion for family-centered care into the classroom, as well as a deep level of patience when working with her students.

“I use my therapeutic communication skills with students every day,” says O’Brien. “I don’t try to immediately provide the answer or solve the issue, but instead I take a back seat and provide support while they work through it on their own. You need to let students, and patients, determine their own goals, motivation and answers.” Being vulnerable and sharing of yourself through your teaching is crucial for allowing students to see that you are all human and always learning. “They need to hear faculty say, ‘That is a great question and I don’t know that answer, but let’s figure it out together.’ This helps them to create a foundation of lifelong learning, an understanding that they don’t always need to be perfect, and a realization that a curious mind will help them to be better practitioners.”


Theresa Calope, BSN, RN • Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Theresa Calope, BSN, RN

Public Health Nursing
City of Nashua, Division of Public Health and Community Services

The most essential traits for a public health nurse are the genuine desire to provide care and advocate for the needy, and Theresa Calope embodies both. “By keeping these two traits in mind, a nurse is able to serve and help every patient with great compassion,” says Calope.

She has always felt that this profession was a higher calling. She perused a variety of opportunities, from being a 2D echo nurse in the Philippines to taking on the dual position of health unit coordinator and licensed nurse assistant in the United States. Eventually, she settled into her role as a public health nurse after working at a rehab nursing facility for two years.

She enjoys having the opportunity to serve the community, improve the overall well-being of individuals through preventative health services like immunization and STD clinics, lead home visits, and educate the public about various illnesses and ways to spread awareness and knowledge regarding prevention, a service that has become increasingly important in the time of COVID-19.

“It took many years, but I am now realizing the importance of something that Florence Nightingale wrote in 1870, ‘It would take 150 years for the world to see the kind of nursing I envision,’” recalls Calope. “I feel as though I am continuing this very vision every day in my nursing career, and especially in the times that we are now in 2020, and I think other people will realize it too in this pandemic time.”


Categories: Nurses