For almost 20 years, patients requiring emergency care at Memorial Hospital may have been seen by Mary Vigeant. The nurse practitioner (NP) has treated emergency patients at Memorial since the early 2000s. This month, her skills, services, and contributions to her profession earned her recognition as the New Hampshire Nurse Practitioner of the Year.
In a typical year, the award would have been presented during a banquet honoring others in health care. This year, the association joined many others in education, religion, and business by celebrating Vigeant’s honor virtually in an online ceremony on April 9.
“This really is an award to be accepted on behalf of my medical staff. It’s a culture that is warm and welcoming. I’ve been blessed and fortunate to work with wonderful clinicians on medical staffs my entire career”
Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Office Dr. Matthew Dunn notes that Mary “serves as a role model to us all for what it means to be dedicated to your profession, your organization, and community. She is tireless in her efforts to continuously improve all of what we do. Mary is an excellent clinician and it is a pleasure to work with her.”
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, an NP “assesses patients, orders and interprets diagnostic tests, makes diagnoses and initiates and manage treatment plans—including prescribing medications.” They are a vital link in patient care working independently and often collaborating with physicians.
At Memorial Hospital, Vigeant was recently elected President of the Medical staff by her colleagues, a responsibility that recognizes the role nurse practitioners play at Memorial and honors her ability to lead and represent her medical colleagues.
“Years ago, Memorial recognized we needed everybody if we were going to move forward,” she says. “The medical staff bylaws were changed to fit that culture. We were the first in the state to recognize everyone who was practicing within their capabilities. We made everyone equal.” As Memorial works to integrate with the MaineHealth system, she is excited that other MaineHealth hospitals are able to see the value NPs and other advanced practice professionals bring to the medical staff. “MaineHealth has looked at Memorial’s structure and would like to see that structure in more of the organization’s locations.”
The former college English major began her nursing career working as a nurse’s aide during summer vacation. “I thoroughly enjoyed it.” This started her climb up what she calls the “clinical ladder,” beginning with a licensed practical nurse certificate, going to nursing school for her registered nurse license, followed by a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nursing. It is the master’s degree that qualified her for state testing and licensure as a nurse practitioner.
Vigeant found her medical “home” in emergency medicine early in her career at St. Luke’s Hospital, near Boston, while preparing for her NP exam.“I always knew that emergency medicine was in my heart,” she said.
At that time, she says most NP programs prepared graduates for primary care roles. She was the first NP hired in the St. Luke’s emergency department where one of her research projects was exploring the medical and financial benefits of using nurse practitioners in emergency medicine. Today, St. Luke’s has an emergency staff of half medical doctors and half nurse practitioners.
By the late 1990s, Vigeant and her husband had a second home in the Conway area. She inquired at Memorial about working as a per diem (per day) provider, but Memorial was not interested in hiring nurse practitioners at the time. A few years later at a New Hampshire NP event, Vigeant saw a job posting for Memorial Hospital.
“I called the then-emergency medicine director and said I was just interested in a per diem role. He wanted me to take a full-time job right away, and I said ‘I really love where I’m working’ but we worked it out. And here I am all these years later.”
Vigeant says her best memories come from the patients, though she admits to not remembering names. “I will remember the patient, the room they were in and what they were here for. I love being a thread in the fabric of their lives.”
She says she has had an interesting career at Memorial Hospital and quickly gives credit to the people around her, from the medical staff to the support staff. “I work with great people. We are really a team. And everybody here is a valued member of the team.”
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH. It is a member of the MaineHealth integrated health care system. Memorial hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, diabetes care, behavioral health, women's health, podiatry, orthopedics and physical therapy. Additional Memorial facilities include The Merriman House nursing home and Mount Washington Valley Adult Day Center providing senior care services in a comfortable, home-like setting.