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Too often, nurses are the unsung heroes of the medicine. In fact, they are key members of any health care team, but their skills and contributions go unrecognized time and again. As the world corrects back to baseline post-pandemic, the public has become more aware of the challenges nurses face, and the professionalism and compassion they demonstrate as they continue to provide the best possible care in stressful, uncertain times. 

New Hampshire Magazine, in partnership with the New Hampshire Nurses Association, is proud to celebrate the important contributions by nurses and their many talents with the seventh annual 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 below represents the very best in nursing — those who go above and beyond to comfort, heal and teach.

Nhmagazine 41 Sharon BreidtSharon Breidt MSN, RN, Director of Nursing

Professional Nurse Educator
Keene State College

When Sharon Breidt needs inspiration, she looks back to the founder of nursing, a 19th century social reformer she fondly refers to as “Flo.”

“I have a girl crush on Florence Nightingale,” says Breidt, the director of nursing at Keene State College. “She was a woman of privilege, and chose to step away from her life of luxury and roll up her sleeves and head to the Crimean War to make positive change in how patients were treated,” Breidt says.

“She defined the profession of nursing and the importance of hygiene, nutrition, clean air and caring. Flo toiled endlessly and taught many through education and modeling behavior. She never asked more of her students than she gave of herself. She set high standards.”

Breidt is responsible for maintaining the college’s accreditation with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the New Hampshire Board of Nursing. She also serves as coordinator of Keene State’s nursing simulation lab.

Breidt began college majoring in deaf education because she always loved to teach. When Ronald Reagan was elected president, she become concerned that there would be less federal funding for education, particularly special education, so she changed her major to nursing.

“I knew to be my best self, I needed to balance work and family and felt nursing would allow me flexibility,” she says. “(Now) 41 years later, I do not doubt the decision to become a nurse. It is where I belong and defines me.”

She met the “handsome guy” who would become her husband when he was a roommate to a patient in her care. The couple celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary in September.

Breidt cherishes the many people whose paths she has crossed during her career.

“One neat thing I found out last year is one of our 2024 graduates first heard me teaching before she was born. Her mother was in a childbirth class I had taught, and now 21 years later she is my student.”

Cf196328 Carol LongCarol Long DNP, MS, RN, CENP, NEA-BC, Director of Inpatient Care Services

Senior Nurse Leader
Elliot Hospital

Carol Long began her career in 1979 as a licensed practical nurse in a small community hospital in northern Maine. In 1981, she and her husband moved to New Hampshire, where she started at Elliot Hospital in Manchester. Long worked for several years as an LPN on a medical surgical unit. In 1989, she received her associate’s degree in nursing.

Long, who describes herself as a “lifelong learner,” didn’t stop there. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s in management and, in 2019, a doctorate in nursing.

“I have had the privilege and opportunity to experience a variety of roles during my time at Elliot, to include unit educator, resource nurse, manager and director,” Long says.

As director of inpatient care services, Long collaborates with managers who have clinical oversight and daily operations for medical/surgical, critical care, the IV team, the outpatient infusion center and respiratory therapy.

“In my role, I can mentor managers, drive operational excellence and quality in patient care, while promoting a work environment that positively influences staff satisfaction and retention,” Long says.

She considers excellent communication “with astute listening skills” as essential for a great leader. “However, staying genuinely humble, caring and kind has served me well in my roles,” she says.

Over her career, Long has been inspired to make a difference for patients and staff and elevating the practice of nursing.

“My love of learning gave me the drive to always do better, be better, and motivate others to do the same,” she says. “I have had personal and professional satisfaction in impacting so many individuals’ lives and careers when exploring with them what is possible for them professionally.”

Nhmagazine 52 Erin MaltaisErin Maltais RN, BSN, Staff Nurse/Clinical Lead

Emergency Nursing
Concord Hospital Laconia/Franklin

Erin Maltais entered the medical field in high school, and while the seasons of her career have changed over the years, her health care inspiration has never wavered. “People are my inspiration,” she says. “To help, to teach and to train people so they are able to take care of themselves and others will always be the driving force of why I do what I do.”

After going through trade school to receive her LNA, Maltais joined the Red Cross to finish the hours she needed to take the boards and receive her license. From there, she has learned and grown as she’s gained experience. The days can be long and hard, but it her team carries her through. “I’m blessed to have the knowledge, training and ability to take care of patients in some of the most vulnerable times in their lives,” she says. “I am very fortunate to be able to work with such a great team so that together we can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Nhmagazine 24 Jennifer OsoborneJennifer Osborne BSN, RNC OB, C-EFM, Clinical Nurse Educator/Perinatal Safety Nurse

Maternal Child Nursing
Dartmouth Health — Cheshire Medical Center

In one day, Jennifer Osborne gained a niece and a career trajectory. When she was 14, she was present for the birth of her niece, and from that moment on knew she wanted to be a nurse. Her passion for obstetrics has helped propel her career.

“I love caring for pregnant women and being present for childbirth,” Osborne says. “I find it incredibly fascinating and a true miracle every single time I witness it. It is truly miraculous. I will never not be in awe of the moment new life enters this world. This is a time in a woman’s life that she never forgets, and knowing I was there for her in the most difficult and best times of her life is an honor to say the least.”

It isn’t always happy, but Osborne holds a special place in her heart for the families who have to say hello and goodbye at the same time. “Knowing as her nurse you were there for her and could hold her hand and help her through her toughest time is something that never gets forgotten. I love what I do, and I am so happy I chose this career in nursing.”

Cf196487 Ian BIan B Kirit DNP, RN, CEN, Informatics Nurse Specialist

Nursing Informatics
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center

The most essential traits for an informatics nurse are flexibility and patience, and Ian Kirit embodies both. “In my field, you must be able to deal with a variety
of personality types,” Kirit says. “As a nurse who has worked in various clinical settings, I can relate to nurses’ pain points, and that experience is integral to my daily interactions with staff.”

Kirit employs technology to enhance nursing efficiency and patient safety and has traveled around the country implementing emergency department systems. The moments of joy along the way have been plentiful, but the times when he is able to meet people out in the community may be the best. “I love seeing people when they tell me, ‘Oh, I remember you. You were my mom’s/dad’s favorite nurse,’ ” he recalls. “It’s such a simple thing, but you know deep within that what you
did for them really mattered to make that lasting impression. Nurses’ light may not always shine the brightest, but we know we always have that inner spark to light up someone’s darkest moments.”

Cf196390 Kimberly BernardKimberly Bernard MSN, RN, Chief Public Health Nurse

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

For Kimberly Bernard, kindness is a strategy for success.

“Kindness isn’t about being nice, it’s about fostering trust, having empathy and facilitating collaboration — essential ingredients for addressing the complex
health needs of my staff and the community we serve,” says Bernard, chief public health nurse at the Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services.

Bernard oversees community health staff and programming for the Greater Nashua region, leading initiatives to improve community health and well-being.

After graduating with a diploma in nursing at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston in May 1994, Bernard welcomed her first child that June and passed her boards four days later. That fall, she began pursuing her bachelor of science in nursing degree at Rivier University.

Over her 30-year career, Bernard has worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The majority of her practice, 20 years, was at St. Joseph Hospital. She has also worked at Mass. General, Parkland Medical Center and Rivier University.

Bernard earned a master of science degree in nursing education at Western Governors University and a certificate in advanced nursing leadership Saint Anselm College. She plans to take the public health certification exam this spring.

Her mom encouraged her to pursue a career in nursing.

“I am grateful to my mother for her role modeling of what it really means to be a nurse.”

Cf196519 Diane MDiane M. Stearns MSN, APRN, Advanced Practice RN Hospital I Lead

Dartmouth Health

Understanding her “why” is Diane Stearns’ key to success, a trait she also sees in her colleagues and even her patients. “My clinical team, colleagues and patients all inspire me to grow, provide comfort and education and share my passion for oncology nursing with others,” she says. “They help me know my ‘why.’ To be able to accompany patients as they navigate through their cancer journey is a privilege.”

As an ambulatory nurse practitioner and the lead advanced care provider for Dartmouth Cancer Center, Stearns knows the intensity of her field and the depth of empathy, advocacy and humanity that it requires, but her patients make it all worth it.

“I recently had the privilege of working with a lovely elderly gentleman with a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome, and our goals were to provide support in the way or growth factors and transfusions to supplement the declining function of the bone marrow,” she says.

“As we prepared for the end of his life, he reminded me that in all that we have to offer patients with diagnostics and novel therapies, what he and I needed was the privilege of being able to provide my presence, acknowledgement of who he was as a person beyond his diagnosis, education about his disease process and therapy, honest communication and shared decision making throughout his disease trajectory.”

Cf196296 Crystal GeoffroyCrystal Geoffroy MSN, RN, Assistant Nurse Manager

Frontline Leader
Manchester VA Medical Center

Crystal Geoffroy wanted to be a nurse for as long as she could remember. Thanks to her parents’ guidance and support, Geoffroy’s passion for caring for others has turned into a nursing career that has spanned two decades. “My parents always taught me that if you want something bad enough you have to put forth the effort,” Geoffroy says.

That support and guidance continues to inspire her nursing today. “I know that what I do on a daily basis is beneficial to every person that I come across,” Geoffroy
says. “I know that I make a difference in the lives of those I take care of.” A variety of traits are important to possess if you are in her field, ranging from integrity
to advocacy to reasoning, leadership, versatility and empathy. “Patients’ needs can change frequently, and as nurses we need to bring our best qualities forward
to promote positive patient outcomes and strengthen the overall nursing profession,” Geoffroy says. “We are critical members of the health care team.”

Cf196925 Small Melanie Da GataMelanie D’Agata RN, Home Health and Hospice RN/Case Manager

Hospice-Palliative Care
North Country Home Health and Hospice Agency

After losing her father-in-law to cancer within six months of diagnosis, Melanie D’Agata pivoted her career and enrolled in nursing school to pursue her new passion for providing end-of-life care to those who need it most. Now, she is a case manager for 25 to 30 patients where she helps with a variety of needs, from wound care to blood draws to hospice system management. “My goal is to provide my patients with the same care that I would want for my family,” she says. “It requires commitment to follow through in seeking answers to lingering questions and extending reassurance, honesty, compassion, empathy, and at times, maybe even
tough love. This can sometimes become exhausting. Then I look to my dedicated team for inspiration to dig a little deeper to continue to try to make a difference every day.”

Many traits are crucial in her field, but good communication may top them all. “Not only does transparent communication with patients and families allow us to truly get to know them, understand every aspect of their needs and identify barriers to progress, it also allows them to feel heard, to better understand the plan of care, and creates trust and confidence for better outcomes,” she says.

Cf196665 Emily KordasEmily Kordas RN, Registered Nurse

Medical Surgical Nursing
Concord Hospital, Laconia

Emily Kordas always knew she wanted to follow in the “wise footsteps” of her grandmother and become a nurse.

“I think that the heart of nursing is patience and understanding,” Kordas says. “In nursing, you encounter many patients from all walks of life: patients who are dealing with a new life changing diagnosis, family members who don’t know what is to come next, and patients who just need a little extra support.”

At Concord Hospital in Laconia, Kordas worked on a med-surge/orthopedic unit. She recently accepted a position as a clinical manager at Concord Orthopaedics.

One day, Kordas cared for a young patient in the emergency room who was suffering with a failing kidney. When Kordas returned to work the next day, she learned the patient was now on her regular unit, and Kordas requested to be her nurse again.

“She was alone most of the day without any family support, so I tried to be there for her and hold her hand through each difficult conversation,” Kordas says.

Kordas told the patient she would return on her day off to wish her good luck before her surgery. When Kordas arrived, the patient was in tears and handed her a card.

“Later that day, I read the card, and it was the most touching moment of my career. In the card, she wrote, ‘After meeting you, I have found the strength and courage
I have needed to stay positive and keep moving forward’ and ‘I will forever remember your kind words and huge heart.’”

Cf196596 Mona LavalliereMona Lavalliere MSN-NI, RN, BCMA-Coordinator/Staffing Methodology Coordinator

Nurse Innovator-Entrepreneur & Quality Improvement
Manchester VA Medical Center

Nursing and technology often work hand-in-hand, and nursing informaticists like Mona Lavalliere help bridge the gap between the two to lead the charge of change and innovate patient care. During a 21-year career as an ICU and same-day surgery nurse, Lavalliere saw the impacts of technology on patient outcomes firsthand.

When an opportunity opened up to join the informatics team at Manchester VAMC, she knew she had to apply. “I knew I had found a position that would encompass my passion for innovation and technology while complementing my expert experience in direct patient care,” Lavalliere says. Not only is Lavalliere able to provide the same impassioned level of patient care, but she also is able to care for her patients by ensuring everything technologically is running smoothly.

“I recall one instance when I discovered that nine out of 12 downtime contingency computers were not working,” Lavalliere says. “I immediately went into action, following procedure, and placed an HR ticket and then advised all nursing units to print out medication administration records daily as a backup to BCMA. Then one day when rounding, I noted none of the downtime contingency computers were running and spoke up. I told our chief of IT that I was having a difficult time
sleeping at night thinking about the veterans, and the possibility that they wouldn’t receive their medications correctly if those downtime contingency computers were not fixed immediately. He told me that he was a veteran and that he hoped that all nurses could have as much compassion in what they do.”

Cf196970 Topaz Sharpen Lucile MarvinLucille Marvin BSN, RN, CDCES, NEA-BC, Program Manager

Exeter Hospital

Like the science that empowers it, nursing is a self-improving system when properly practiced, especially with a team. 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, and the lessons from patients who have been teachers all their own.

As a diabetes care and education specialist as well as program manager of the HealthReach Diabetes program at Exeter Hospital, Lucille Marvin is critical in this chain of success. The scope of her work ranges from daily work of in- and out-patient DSMES team members to ensure policy compliance to human resource management to working as a clinician once a week in the in-patient setting.

“My experience caring for my patients shapes what happens next,” she says. “If I need to learn more, I learn more. If I need to work with our senators to help insulin more affordable, I will do that. Continual process improvement for me is very deeply person-centered.”

Marvin, who has worked in her field for over 10 years, says compassion and engagement guide her team every day.

“You need a genuine, empathetic understanding of what it is to live with Type 1 diabetes, especially how they eat, how much insulin is needed to keep everything right and more,” she says. “They are the true heroes of the story.”

Cf196457 Deborah MccarterDeborah McCarter Ph.D., RN, WHNP-BC, IBCLC, Professor

Saint Anselm College

While reflecting on her nursing career, Deborah McCarter believes that the most essential characteristic to nursing is humility. “Without it, there is no willingness
to grow or change,” says McCarter, who is now a professor of nursing at Saint Anselm College. Since her graduation from Simmons College in Boston in 1979, McCarter has been a staff nurse, a women’s health nurse practitioner, a lactation consultant, childbirth educator and now, a professor. Her motivation for her career in women’s health stems from the realization that women’s physical and emotional needs are often unmet at different points of their lives. That realization is what
inspired her to advocate and be a “caring touch for those who need it most.” “(This) has also been the inspiration for my research and publications. I only hope I have passed this (passion for women’s health care) onto my students,” she says.

Not a single story could capture her gratitude for moments of connections with patients over the years, but one particular special story comes to mind. “I recently cared for a woman in a prenatal clinic in Atlanta whose pregnancy presented a significant life crisis for her,” she recalls. “Through a translator, we addressed the reason for her tears and her concerns and planned together for her care. As she was leaving the exam room, she stopped to speak to me, so I offered to include the translator again. Instead, she just came and gave me a big hug. No translation was needed!”

Categories: Nurses, People