The 2018 Excellence in Nursing Awards
Too often, nurses are unsung heroes of the medical community. In fact, they are key members of any healthcare team, but their skills and contributions go unrecognized time and time again. New Hampshire Magazine, in partnership with the New Hampshire Nurses Association, wants to help change that with the 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 here represents the very best in nursing — those who go above and beyond to comfort, heal and teach.
Meet this year’s award-winning nurses:
Barbara Stuart, ADN, RN, CHPN
Sarah Bemish, MSN, RN
Carmen J. Petrin, MS, RN, APRN, FNP-BC
Margaret Crowley, PhD, RN
Christine Dodier, BS, RN
Heather Brander, BSN, RN
Jennifer Alicea, MSN, RN, CNL, CEN
Julia Puglisi, MSN, RN-BC, CNL
Kate Collopy PhD, RN
Mary Bidgood-Wilson, MSN, APRN, FACNM, FAANP
Sarah Heron, BSN, RN, CPN
Lourdes Hambrecht, MSN, RN, WHNP-BC
Mary Scott, BSN, RN, CEN, CPEN
Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing
Being in palliative and hospice care is both challenging and fulfilling. It requires clinical and communications skills, good boundaries, and more importantly, the ability to remain present in difficult situations. Barbara Stuart, nurse coordinator at Wentworth Health Partners Palliative Care Practice, encapsulates all of these qualities. Stuart educates and supports patients, families and staff while ensuring that providers are able to efficiently deliver care in multiple locations.
After working in hospice nursing for five years, Stuart transitioned into the growing field of palliative nursing in 2007. “I’m inspired every day by the patients we see who continue to live their lives to the fullest,” notes Stuart. “At some point, we will all have our own illnesses and must pray there will be someone there to support both ourselves and our loved ones.” Being present in a family’s most intimate and heartfelt moments is an inspiring gift, and Stuart says that it is imperative to educate the next generation of nurses about this special field of care.
Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Of all the ailments that require the 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 and mental health nurse, Sarah Bemish replies, “Understanding.” She began her nursing career on a geriatric-psychiatric unit at the Elliot Hospital in 2007. “Initially, I thought I would stay on that unit for a year or two and then move on to another field, but I fell in love with the field of psychiatry and never did move on,” she says. Her work has been evolving constantly, though, from an adult inpatient psychiatric unit to a psychiatric evaluation unit in the emergency room and on a behavioral emergency response team. Mental health outcomes might sometimes seem less clear than those in surgery or internal medicine, but she finds ample inspiration: “A smile. A handshake. Those moments in a conversation when an individual says, ‘You really get it,’ and that person knows that he or she is no longer alone in a long-fought battle.”
Carmen J. Petrin
For most, a career means working at one thing. For Carmen J. Petrin, she combines caring for patients with teaching her considerable skills and knowledge to others. As a nurse practitioner, she works with cardiologists at the New England Heart and Vascular Institute, managing the care of patients with cardiovascular disease. When wearing her teaching hat, she’s a clinical education specialist at Catholic Medical Center where she has taught programs on cardiovascular nursing. As an American Heart Association Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) instructor, she has taught courses to healthcare providers who care for victims of cardiac arrest and cardiovascular emergencies.
She started her career as a staff nurse, eventually becoming an instructor at a nursing school, but she says her career really began when she became a critical care educator and ACLS Instructor in 1982. A few years later, in 1986, she was a part of the team that designed and implemented the institute’s successful cardiothoracic surgical program. It was in 2005 that she became a nurse practitioner.
Over the years, she found it important to maintain intellectual curiosity to keep up with current advances and a passion for teaching. What continues to motivate her, she says, is her patients. “I am inspired by patients and families who tell me that I made a difference and had a positive impact on the quality of their lives,” she says. Like any great teacher, she also finds inspiration in watching her students improve. “These successes inspire me to continue learning and strive to be the best that I can be.”
Public Health Nursing
“I didn’t want to be a teacher or a secretary,” says Margaret Crowley of her decision to study nursing. “My imagination took me no further than these options in 1968,” the year she entered the five-year nursing program at Northeastern University. Obviously much has changed since then for women’s careers and for healthcare. Many of the positive recent changes in medicine come from the perspective offered by healthcare consulting companies like Qualidigm, where Crowley worked as the NH state director of a seven-member team until her retirement back in February. Providers contract with her organization to learn ways to make care more safe, effective, efficient, fair and patient-centered. One example: “Advancing antibiotic stewardship in outpatient settings,” she says, “to work toward making the best, most appropriate treatment decisions.” Crowley says that one of the qualities of a great nurse is to be a good listener and that’s the case for her consulting work, as well. Her motivation along the way has been supplied by a long list of mentors and colleagues, each of whom, she says, “taught me there is always more to learn and that we can all do a bit better tomorrow.”
Ambulatory Care Nursing
In 1986, as a high school junior, Christine Dodier took her first real job in the medical records department at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. It was then she knew she was meant to work in healthcare. “My fate,” she says, “was sealed from that moment on.” Now, WDH is her “home away from home,” and her role as Clinical Educator/Professional Development Specialist means she provides “guidance, education and support to clinical staff (RNs, LPNs and medical assistants) who provide care to patients of all ages at 30 primary care and specialty practice locations.” It’s no surprise then that she cites the ability “to build and nurture relationships with patients, colleagues and providers” as one of her top-three most important traits. The other two? Honesty and integrity. Her inspiration stems from relationships as well, saying “I am inspired by the hope that my words, actions and ability to truly connect with others inspires my family, especially my children, my friends, my colleagues and all I come in to contact with to embrace every opportunity to make a positive impact in any way that they can.”
Resource nurses, like Heather Brander, are advocates for patients, families and staff, and are mentors and preceptors all in one. A typical day in the hospital includes making daily assignments for nurses, working with multiple staff members from varying departments, organizing and keeping tabs on secretaries and being available for questions, concerns and assisting with family dynamics. For over 20 years, Brander’s humble and selfless attitude has carried her far beyond the call of duty in her position in the Geriatric Psychiatric Unit at Elliot Hospital.
She finds that patience is key when working in such a high-stress environment. “It’s extremely important to remember that our specialty population is delicate in many, many areas including mental status as well as medical needs,” notes Brander. “I often ask myself, ‘is this the best thing for the patient?’ I also remind myself that each and every patient is someone’s daughter, dad, grandmother, brother or best friend. That helps put all of our hard work into perspective.”
Although her primary role is Clinical Nurse Leader, she also serves as sexual assault Nurse Examiner Coordinator and staff RN at the Elliot Emergency Department. Along with all those “hats,” nursing is a second career for Jennifer Alicea. She was in her 20s working as an accountant when she went back to school and took a substantial pay cut to pursue her passion for nursing.
And working in the emergency department, around people who share her passion, is a continuous source of motivation to her. “They are my second family,” she says. “If there is something I can do to improve their day, I am happy to help.” Sometimes she helps by sharing hard-earned wisdom. “My advice to new nurses is that patients should never be considered ‘just’ a chest pain patient, abdominal pain, patient, angry patient, etc.,” she says. “There’s always potential for risk, for the unexpected and consideration to be given to the layers of the individual we are treating.”
After growing up watching her mother’s dedication to raising her children and working as a nurse, it was no surprise that Julia Puglisi was inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. She earned her degree in psychology and entered the nursing profession with the hope of increasing mental health awareness and compassionate care for those with mental health disorders. “I fell in love with direct patient care in the inpatient setting,” recalls Puglisi. “I completed many of my clinical rotations on the unit where I currently work at Elliot Health System and had several personal connections to the unit as well.”
Puglisi finds that one of the most important aspects of her career as a nurse “is to empower my peers to provide the most compassionate, skilled and evidence-based care.” She works tirelessly to ensure that her patients are taken care of, a quality that she gets from her mother. “My mother has taught me the value of seeing the world through the lens of another,” notes Puglisi. “I try to remember that everyone is facing a battle that we know nothing about and give them the most powerful tools for healing — kindness and love.”
Nurse Educators and Nurse Researchers
Kate Collopy’s first job was as an intensive care nurse at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, straight out of college. She’s since advanced to what she considers “the best job at WDH, bar none” serving as the director of Nursing Education, Research and Innovation there. She considers that kind of continuity and staying power to be the crucial element in nursing. “You have to play the long game,” she says. “It takes years and years to develop the kind of infrastructure, culture and talent that’s needed to accomplish what our team does.” Her original decision to go into education and research wasn’t hard. “It wasn’t a choice so much as how I’m wired,” she says. She recalls the first time she had a chance to extubate a trauma patient who had been in a coma and on a ventilator. “As soon as I was able, I was asking him questions about what it was like and what he remembered.” As a result, she was able to improve her care to the next patient. “That’s why we go into this field,” says Collopy. “We generate new knowledge and impart best practices.”
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
New Hampshire is a state of firsts — from declaring independence from England before anyone else to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, the Granite State is used to pioneer status. Mary Bidgood-Wilson fits right into this tradition. During the course of three decades plus of caring for patients in Moultonborough, Bidgood-Wilson was also instrumental in key pieces of legislation that lengthen the state’s list of firsts. Starting in the ’90s, she worked on a state bill that allowed nurse practitioners (NPs) to be reimbursed directly, rather than through a physician. She was also involved in the 15-year process of giving NPs full prescription powers, and New Hampshire paved the way on both. “We were ahead of the curve,” she says. “We are seen as pioneers across the country.” Her achievements are not limited to legislative victories. Thirty years ago, she opened her family practice, which just to happened to be the first midwifery practice in the Lakes Region. Eventually, she sold the practice to LRGHealthcare, where she has worked ever since. As she transitions into retirement, she is also stepping down as executive director of the New Hampshire Nurse Practitioner Association, which honored her with NH Nurse Practitioner Lifetime of Service Award in 2016. Though proud of her impact on increasing acceptance and recognition for NPs in New Hampshire and beyond, her inspiration and motivation always stemmed from her patients. “For 30 years I took care of people in my community,” she says. “I had the privilege to be at many, many births.”
Sarah Heron has been a pediatric nurse at Elliot Hospital for about three years, but she says her interest in the medical complexities of children took root in college and has shaped her career along the way. She gets inspired observing the strength of children who endure life-threatening medical challenges, but also working alongside their parents. She spent four years as a pediatric home care nurse and recalls patients who were not expected to survive through infancy, “Yet I saw them learn to walk, communicate and truly enjoy life as they grew up,” she says. Her nursing skills were important, but it was parents who would “play the role of nurse, therapist, teacher, advocate and so much more” that made the ultimate difference. “My experiences with these families instilled many of the traits and values that I have today and made me a better nurse,” she says. “Children are incredibly resilient,” she notes, and they can maintain a positive outlook even when hospitalized, but they face unique challenges. “Having a nurse who understands these challenges goes a long way in helping children and their caregivers feel safe and secure while in the hospital receiving necessary medical care.”
Maternal-Child Health Nursing
Labor and delivery nurses assist in bringing new life into the world every day. Hambrecht Lourdes, a labor and delivery nurse at The Birth Place at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, enjoys being a part of a family’s birth story — an experience that she holds close to her heart. Lourdes graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After passing her NCLEX exam and receiving her registered nursing license, Lourdes worked in a high-risk obstetrical unit. The job provided her with a solid foundation to build her career on and over 18 years later, she still finds the same joy in it that she had on day one.
While it can be unpredictable at times, Lourdes is motivated and committed to providing excellent nursing care to her pregnant mothers. “For me, there is nothing more rewarding than being present during the birth of a child,” remarks Lourdes. “Having a child is an enormous life-changing event for these families. I want them to be able to reflect back on the day their child was born and think it was a great birth experience.”
The emergency department in any hospital is where the most stressful and complex medical situations play out and by definition it’s always open. As nurse director for the ED at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, Mary Scott is responsible 24 hours a day and seven days a week for the operations there, overseeing about 100 employees. She’s worked there for 30 years. “I love emergency nursing,” she says, “and this emergency department.” She leads her team by maintaining an open-door policy for staff and says that a primary task is to be fair and consistent to inspire confidence, but she adds, “You never know what the day will bring, so flexibility is key.”
In such an intense work environment, it takes strong communication skills, perseverance and a sense of humor to keep things going. Scott does her part by leading, but she says she finds her own inspiration from her staff. “They always keep going,” she says, “no matter how challenging the day, night, or week.”
About the Photographer
Before calling the Monadnock Region home, photographer Kendal J. Bush traveled the world as an editor and videographer for the National Geographic Channel and NBC. She combines years of experience as a photojournalist with her film school education to yield colorful, creative portraits and corporate, wedding and event photography. Her work is frequently featured on the cover of Parenting New Hampshire magazine and in the pages of New Hampshire Magazine’s Bride.
Thank you to those who joined us on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 to celebrate this year’s award recipients at the inaugural Excellence in Nursing event. Thank you also to the New Hampshire Nurses Association for their guidance and support.
Photos from the reception were taken by Wendy Wood.