Nursing, Pandemic Style

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Hailey Blanchard (’16), fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Photo credit: Hailey Blanchard

Olivia Belrose, Writer

Hailey Blanchard (‘16), a recent graduate of McGill University (‘20), has experienced a number of milestones since graduating from college, transitioning from an urban to rural setting, and hitting the ground running with her career as a nurse at Northwestern Medical Center. 

Along with her interest in science and the human body, Blanchard’s mother, who is a palliative care nurse at Northwestern Medical Center, inspired Blanchard to work with people in health care. 

After a fulfilling her college career at McGill, Blanchard looked back on her time at Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans, and how the community aspect of the high school drew her back to the small-town feel of St. Albans. 

“It was really nice to work in the same community where I’ve grown up,” Blanchard said.  “My experience at McGill was the complete opposite because I was in a big city, but it was nice to see the contrast between different hospitals.” 

During her high school career, Blanchard worked as a caregiver at Homestead Senior Living, where she assisted senior citizens with daily care such as bathing, eating and providing companionship. 

Reflecting back on some of her high school courses, Blanchard particularly remembers her freshman year with Polly Rico and Larry Trombley for their accelerated Writing Workshop and Global Studies courses.

To this day, she still continues to read some of the books from her first high school English class such as Tuesdays with Morrie, one of her favorite memoirs. She fondly remembers history lessons from David Rider’s and Larry Trombley’s classes and how they prepared her to change her perspective on the world after having left Vermont and living in a place with a variety of cultures. 

While at BFA, Blanchard led both a busy academic and extracurricular life with a schedule full of classes and endurance sports such as cross country, Nordic skiing and track and field, sports that she has continued to participate in while navigating her new career. 

As someone who looks forward to working with and helping others, Blanchard knew nursing was the right career choice for her as it has been both challenging and rewarding, especially in her experience working with Covid patients. 

“It’s sad to see patients in such a vulnerable state without their family by their side, especially our end-of-life Covid patients, but it’s rewarding in the sense that I get to be there for them,” Blanchard said. 

Blanchard’s career at Northwestern Medical Center didn’t exactly begin as planned in July when staff were exchanging, traveling and leaving the medical field due to complications of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Despite the current challenges of nursing, Blanchard continues to encourage students and younger people to pursue a career in nursing or medicine at a community hospital. In a state with one of the oldest populations in the country, Blanchard says it is challenging to get recent college graduates to live and work in the state of Vermont. 

Blanchard even encourages those who are skeptical about going into the health field to explore programs outside of getting a four-year degree. Becoming an LNA (Licensed Nursing Assistant) or an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) are accessible options that lead right into becoming a registered nurse, but on a slower path. 

“There has definitely been a lot of trauma in experiencing the loss of life for families,” Blanchard said.  “It’s definitely going to take a while for people to bounce back from being overworked and burnt out, something I’m lucky enough not to be experiencing as a new nurse.”