Experienced nurse leader Alison White has joined Gifford Medical Center as its vice president of patient care services – a role that oversees the Hospital Division, including inpatient care, the Birthing Center, ob/gyn and midwifery practice, Emergency Department, nursing home and Adult Day Program.
A graduate of the bachelor’s degree nursing program at the University of Vermont and the master’s degree health care administration program at Independence University in Utah, White has spent her career in nursing and then nurse leadership.
Her nursing career focused on cardiac and dialysis patients – populations she loved because of the relationships formed with patients. “They grow to be your family,” she says.
White went on to serve as director of care management at Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC), the director of regional care management and quality improvement for the Dartmouth Hitchcock Alliance, the director of clinical outcomes at CVMC and most recently vice president of quality, chief nursing officer and patient safety office at the Berlin-based hospital.
A motorcycle accident in August that nearly took her life left White reevaluating her priorities, however. She was seeking a better work/life balance, and says she has found that at Gifford.
“I felt like I hit the jackpot,” says White, who joined Gifford earlier this year. “The people are so open and warm and helpful and genuine, really genuine. Team comes through. It has a feeling of family. It doesn’t have a feeling of ‘corporateness,’ but at the end of the day the job gets done.
“I’m just so grateful to be here. I look forward every day to coming in.”
White succeeds Linda Minsinger, a long-time vice president who has transitioned to a new role: executive director of Gifford’s retirement community that will soon be under construction in Randolph Center and requires substantial planning.
“I think Alison is a great opportunity for Gifford’s Hospital Division. She comes with expanded current knowledge in the health care field and quality. I feel she will provide the staff and leaders with a new and different view of their roles,” says Minsinger, who is equally enthusiastic about her new role, which in part develops not just a community, but a culture “to ensure the residents and staff are happy and enjoy all the activities and opportunities that are offered.”
White lives in Barre with her husband Paul, a Vermont State Police captain. They have two children, Catie, 21, and Jeffrey, 18. White enjoys photography, volunteering at her church, serving on the Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice board and traveling in her free time.
Gifford’s Blueprint for Health Team has expanded to include additional mental health and addiction counselors offering one-on-one care at all Gifford primary care locations. In this file photo, from left, care coordinator Keith Marino, Health Connections (financial assistance) case worker Michele Packard and certified diabetes educator Jennifer Stratton discuss a patient at the Bethel Health Center.
In 2012 as part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Gifford Medical Center completed a Community Needs Assessment.
Less than two years later, the Randolph-based medical center has already made huge strides addressing many of the needs found in that study.
In a survey of Town Meeting attendees in nine communities in 2012 plus feedback from other groups, community members’ described their priorities for a healthy community, perceived health problems and risky behaviors in the community, and their health needs or lacking services.
Among factors for a healthy community were good jobs and a healthy economy, access to health care, good schools, and healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Top health problems listed by survey respondents included addiction, obesity, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. Top health needs, or services community members have tried unsuccessfully to access, within the community were assisted living and nursing home care, alcohol and drug counseling, and dental care.
Today, Gifford is preparing to break ground in the spring on a senior living community in Randolph Center that will, over time, provide a full spectrum of housing options including the relocation of its award-winning nursing home and newly created assisted and independent living. Gifford has earned the coveted Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation, making it one of only three hospitals in the country to be both a Critical Access Hospital and an FQHC. This means expanded access to care, including dental and mental health care. And the medical center’s Vermont Blueprint for Health Team has greatly expanded over the past year to include more mental health and addiction counselors, providing services at all Gifford primary care locations.
Among Gifford’s free community services is a chronic illness support group. Here Gifford pharmacist Jane McConnell provides medication advice to past participants.
“Each of these major initiatives, which have taken substantial work, targets an identified community health need. Meeting these needs and addressing the community’s feedback defines the future of Gifford and its expanding role,” says Ashley Lincoln, director of development and public relations at Gifford.
The Community Needs Assessment process is required every three years, but Gifford’s efforts are ongoing. The medical center continually provides community outreach initiatives to meet care needs, many of which are offered for free. These include classes, support groups, and health fairs. Additionally, many initiatives support local economic health, including a buy local approach.
The medical center also continues community outreach daily through a boots-on-the-ground approach that has Blueprint Community Health Team working directly with individuals and community organizations to address health and socioeconomic needs, particularly for the chronically ill.
“The Blueprint for Health is a statewide initiative. Gifford has placed extra focus on meeting community members’ needs so they can successfully manage their health,” says Blueprint Project Manager LaRae Francis. “This approach means not waiting months or years for needs to be determined, but matching resources and needs today to create an ongoing healthier community for all.”
A grant from through the Vermont Department of Health helped support the costs of the 2012 report. The full report is available on Gifford’s website in the “About Us” section under Community Reports.
In between birth and death there is a dash. You know: the diminutive line on a tombstone or obituary indicating all those years of life between birth and death.
Linda Morse made “The Dash” famous in a poem by the name that challenges us to reflect on how we live our dash.
On Dec. 5, Gifford Medical Center picks up the discussion with “The Dash: Quality of Life Matters.”
The free discussion open to all is a continuation of last winter’s popular education series on death and dying and reopens a new series expected to last into the spring, explains organizer Cory Gould, a mental health practitioner and member of Gifford’s Advanced Illness Care Team.
The talk will include interviews with pre-selected participants on their quality of life. For example, Dr. Daniel Stadler, assistant professor of medicine and an internist with special interests in geriatrics and palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, will interview a woman in her 90s about her life experiences.
Other discussion points during the 5-6:30 p.m. event will focus on:
What do we mean by “quality of life?”
How do you measure it?
Is your quality of life different than someone else’s quality of life?
Does quality of life change over time?
How does one’s quality of life relate to the quality of one’s death?
“There’s a truism that’s been repeated over and over again and that is that people die as they lived,” says Gould. “We want to involve participants in a discussion of the question: ‘What gives life meaning for you?’”
Following this free talk, other talks are planned on advance directives; what dying looks like; a “death café” or open discussion about death; and a discussion on death with dignity versus assisted suicide.
Speakers will explore the concepts but there will be ample opportunity for group discussion and sharing.
Last year, the popular series included sessions on starting the conversation of end of life and preparing for death, such as through Advance Directives; what is a “good” death; and various aspects of grief.
Prior attendance at discussions is not required and all are welcome.
No registration is required for this free educational discussion. Gould can be reached at (802) 728-7713 to answer questions.
The talk will be held in the Gifford Conference Center. The Conference Center is on the first floor of the hospital and marked with a green awning from the patient parking area. For handicapped access, take the elevator from the main lobby to the first floor. For directions to the medical center and more, visit www.giffordmed.org.
RANDOLPH – Emergency medicine physician Dr. A. Nicole Thran has joined Gifford Medical Center full-time, providing care in the Randolph hospital’s 24-hour Emergency Department.
A native of New York City, Dr. Than attended Tufts University in Medford, Mass., earning her bachelor’s degree in biology. She went on to medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her internship and residency in emergency medicine were at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester.
Dr. Thran has worked in emergency medicine since 1991 at hospitals in Connecticut, Virginia, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and, since 2012, in Vermont at Rutland Regional Medical Center and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. There she was what is known as a locums tenens physician. Continue reading →
Gifford Medical Center’s plans to create a senior living community in Randolph Center and renovate the Randolph hospital to have private inpatient rooms cleared a final permitting hurdle Thursday when it earned Certificate of Need approval from the Green Mountain Care Board.
The 5-0 decision was the final approval needed for the project to move forward.
“We’re ecstatic. This project has been years in the making and we’re excited to be moving forward. Our community is in dire need of more senior care and housing options and patients will benefit from the private room model, which is proven to enhance patient safety and satisfaction,” said Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin, who was on hand in Montpelier Thursday to hear the board’s unanimous vote.
As part of the project, Gifford will move its 30-bed, award-winning nursing home, the Menig Extended Care Facility, to 30 stunning acres in Randolph Center. When the new nursing home is built, current nursing home rooms at the downtown medical center will be converted into private hospital rooms.
Independent and assisted living options will be added over time in Randolph Center to create a vibrant senior living community. Up to 150 total units are planned. The project’s first phase calls for the reconstruction of the 30-bed nursing home and a 40-unit independent living facility. Later phases, including 60 more independent living units and 20 assisted living units attached to the nursing home, are spread over 20 years.
Faced with facility constraints and a great number of inefficient older buildings in its downtown location, Gifford has been planning for this project for years. Many options were considered, including rebuilding the entire medical center. Looking at the most affordable, least disruptive option, the hospital finalized its plans in 2011 and filed for Act 250 approval under select criteria on Oct. 3, 2011.
Significant discussions on the use of “prime agricultural soils” for the development delayed discussions and approval on those criteria did not come until Jan. 3 of this year. Full Act 250 approval was sought on April 2, 2013, and awarded Aug. 13. Randolph Development Review Board approval also came earlier this year.
The hospital first filed its Certificate of Need application on Oct. 3, 2012. After the initial detailed review, Gifford resubmitted a revised application in May. A final hearing was held just last month on Sept. 26 and a verbal decision issued on Oct. 10.
A written decision was released late Monday. In it, the board finds the project has met all Certificate of Need criteria, including regarding cost, need, quality and access, and public good. “Gifford has demonstrated that the project serves the public good by enhancing services, improving quality of care and increasing customer satisfaction,” the five-member board wrote.
“We appreciate the Green Mountain Care Board’s thoughtful review and support of this project. The board clearly saw the need and the vision. Due to this decision, we will soon be able to better meet the needs of our community,” said Woodin, who also thanked community members for their support.
“It’s very exciting for all of us, for the staff, for the residents of Menig as well as those who will live in independent and assisted living. Thank you very much for the time, effort and all of the work folks have put into this.”
The hospital plans to begin construction on the Randolph Center nursing home in the spring.
95-year-old Major Melvin McLaughlin warmly celebrated
From left, Patrice Thabault of Home Instead Senior Care presents 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin and Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin with a $5,500 in recognition of McLaughlin to support a charity of his choice, Gifford.
Randolph’s Maj. Melvin McLaughlin has spent more than 40 years selflessly volunteering at his local medical center, Gifford. On Wednesday that volunteerism was recognized – big time.
The 95-year-old retired U.S. Marine, fondly known as “Major,” was named the country’s 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer by Home Instead Senior Care.
Home Instead is the world’s largest provider of non-medical, in-home care services for seniors. Last year it launched the Salute to Senior Service Contest to recognize senior volunteerism.
Nominated by the staff at Gifford for his daily visits to the hospital, McLaughlin was named the Vermont winner of the contest last month and on Wednesday at noon at Gifford in Randolph was recognized as the national winner.
“Home Instead wants to encourage a positive outlook on aging,” Vermont franchise owner Patrice Thabault noted in presenting the award. “The Major and other (senior) volunteers are really changing the face of aging in the United States.”
With the recognition came a $5,500 check ($500 as the state winner and $5,000 as the national winner) from Home Instead to Gifford, the charity that McLaughlin chose to recognize with his award.
Representatives of VA Medical Center, from left, Chief of Voluntary Services Karen Campbell and Patient Services Manager Wendy DeCoff, present 2013 national Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin of Randolph with a Courage of Valor award. The award is for World War II veterans who are VA patients.
The gifts didn’t stop at the national recognition, however.
Hearing about McLaughlin’s honor, VA Medical Center Chief of Voluntary Service Karen Campbell attended Wednesday’s presentation to honor McLaughlin, a long-time VA patient, with its Courage of Valor award.
“They don’t necessarily have the time, but they always have the heart,” Campbell said of volunteers, “and, boy, do you have that.”
Fran Keeler of Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) read a letter of commendation from DAIL Commissioner Susan Wehry. “Your more than 40 years of dedicated service … is appreciated. You’re an inspiration to us,” Wehry wrote.
Sen. Bernie Sanders sent his own letter of congratulations, thanking McLaughlin “for demonstrating such generosity and goodwill over the past four decades.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy sent McLaughlin a flag that had flown over U.S. Capitol.
And Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin unveiled a granite plaque anonymously donated and featuring the words McLaughlin says to each patient, nursing home resident, and staff member he visits at Gifford: “Has anyone today told you that they love you?” McLaughlin then answers, “God does and I do too.”
The plaque of Barre granite now sits in the hospital’s visitors’ entrance as a permanent fixture for all to see.
Major Melvin McLaughlin, the nation’s 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer, is surrounded by his three daughters, from left, Sally Truckenbrod of Bethel, Nancy Stevens of Raleigh, N.C., and Audrey Rhoades of Washington, N.H. The daughters surprised him by all attending a July 3 celebration of McLaughlin’s national recognition. It is the first time the family was all together since McLaughlin’s wife’s passing almost four years early to the day. She died on July 4 and was a resident of the Menig Extended Care Facility at Gifford, where McLaughlin still volunteers.
McLaughlin first moved to Randolph in 1967 after retiring from 25 years with the U.S. Marines, serving in World War II, Korea, and the infancy of Vietnam. He built a home and a second for one of his daughters, Sally, and then found himself with free time. He started volunteering at Gifford on Thursdays, delivering the local newspaper to patients.
Later, he took patient meal orders on a clipboard and then several years ago began making general rounds seven days a week, visiting with patients and staff alike, offering his telltale phrase of love, plenty of hugs, a positive attitude, and plenty of gratitude.
Woodin called that gift of love an intangible, but a powerful gift that anyone can afford. The fact that that gift and lesson on experiencing love comes from a tough Marine makes it all the more powerful.
Woodin sought to return the favor by asking the large crowd in attendance at Wednesday award announcement to honor McLaughlin with a warmly and loudly delivered, “We love you, Major.”
“My cup runneth over,” Major said in response, encouraging all in attendance to live each day with only gladness, no shame. “Thank you, Lord, for your blessings. I am a rich man.”
Read much more about McLaughlin on the Salute to Senior Service Web site, www.salutetoseniorservice.com, and look for him in Thursday’s Randolph Fourth of July Parade. He is the grand marshal.
RANDOLPH – At some point in life, driving may become more challenging or perhaps too challenging. “Keeping the Keys” is a free workshop by AAA that offers tips for safe driving longer. And Gifford Medical Center is bringing the talk to the Randolph area.
AAA Northern New England traffic safety specialist Rayette Hudson of Maine will offer the free workshop on June 18 in the Gifford Conference Center from 5-6:30 p.m.
Gifford Blueprint Project Manager LaRae Francis helped organize the talk. The talk is being held during Safe Driving Month.
The discussion targets drivers ages 50 and over as well as families of aging drivers. Discussed will be adjusting to natural changes in driving ability, keeping driving skills sharp and safe driving as long as possible.
“Everyone ages differently,” notes Francis. “Just because you hit a certain age, it doesn’t mean it’s time to take away your keys. But what are some signs to look for? How do you prolong safe driving? How do you choose a car for a senior?”
According to data from AAA, older drivers are actually among the safest drivers. They’re less likely to speed, less likely to drive after drinking, more likely to wear their seatbelts and avoid high risk driving situations, such as driving at night or in poor weather conditions.
Increasing age, however, is generally associated with a decline in functional abilities, such as vision and reaction time. An increase in medical conditions and consequently the number of medications taken can also both impact driving abilities.
Statistically, older drivers have lower crash rates per miles driven than young drivers. But because of their fragility, drivers age 85 and older are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents.
While the goal of the talk is to keep drivers on the road as long as possible to maintain quality of life and independence, the talk will open the door to discussions on when it is time for some drivers to relinquish the keys, Francis notes.
To join the discussion, register with Zach Bean at the Kingwood Health Center at 728-7100, ext. 6, by June 14.
RANDOLPH – For more than 40 million Americans, Medicare provides their health insurance. Across the nation and here in Vermont, more Americans become eligible each day, leaving big questions about the federal insurance program and just what it covers.
Gifford Medical Center is aiming to help answer some of those questions for its employees and the public in a free talk this April.
“Medicare – Ready or Not… ” is being held on April 11 from 6-7 p.m. in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center. The talk will feature a presentation from Acadia Benefits Inc. health insurance specialist Scott McKee on Medicare parts A through D, eligibility and resources. Continue reading →
BERLIN – Tara Meyer has realized her grandmother’s dream, and then some.
Meyer’s grandmother wanted to be a nurse during World War II. Ironically, it was demand to act as her family’s caregiver at home that prevented her from realizing her dream.
Meyer wanted to be a furniture maker and traveled from her hometown of North Attleboro, Mass., to Goddard College in Vermont to learn the trade. But a job after college in a family-owned home for adults with developmental disabilities had her looking to nursing.
“I loved working with people. The woodshop was lovely. (But) All the old men got sick of me yacking in their ear,” jokes a warm, friendly and outgoing Meyer. Continue reading →
Free Jan. 31 community discussion focuses on how to live well while dying
RANDOLPH – Few would likely pick a “bad” death. But what is a “good” death and how do you choose one?
Those are the questions regional hospice and health care experts will address at a Thursday, Jan. 31 event at Gifford Medical Center titled “What is a ‘Good’ Death?” The talk, a free community discussion open to all, is from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center. Continue reading →