Brattleboro Memorial Hospital: Nurse retires after 55 years

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BRATTLEBORO — Linda Bedard, 77, began working as a student LPN at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital at the age of 21 on July 4, 1961, the year John F. Kennedy was elected president and Elvis was crooning over radio waves.

Over the next 55 years, she would witness changes to the hospital, including numerous construction projects, nursing responsibilities, and staffing changes. Her first assignment as a student nurse led her to the 10-bed male ward. BMH, like most hospitals of the time, separated patient care by gender as well as a dedicated pediatrics ward.

Her manager was impressed with her patient care and offered Bedard a position in the medical-surgical unit upon graduation. Bedard accepted her offer and moved into campus housing in the Dunham Building — now home to administrative offices for the hospital.

After several years on the unit, Bedard transitioned into per-diem roles with local OB/GYN's to spend time and care for her young family. By 1973, she was ready to head back to a hospital setting and accepted a role in the obstetrics unit. Her mother-in-law was a longtime nurse on the ward and Linda was eager to continue the legacy. Continue she would, for the next forty five years. Reflecting on their combined tenure, she noted, "There's been a Bedard in the maternity unit for over 70 years."

Graduating with her RN from Greenfield Community College in 1983, Bedard became the first C-section nurse for the hospital, guiding patients through what to expect, and caring for them from admission to recovery.

When reflecting on the most significant changes over her career, Bedard noted the change in hospital staffing to aid nurses in focusing specifically on patient care.

"When I first began, our staff was comprised of only candy stripers, LPN's, and one floor RN," she said. "We were responsible for the washing of linens, creating the formula, and many other tasks that kept us rushing to balance care with chores."

She also reflected on the change in dynamics of doctor and staff relationships. "I come from the old school and still stand up when a physician enters the room and refer to him or her as `Doctor' when a patient was present."

What is most impressive to Bedard is the shift in patient care options.

"Dads and partners are now able to be present during the birth. Also, women are given more choices in how to have their baby."

She enjoyed the addition of certified nurse midwives as caregivers for women, adding that they provide a new perspective to obstetric patient care.

A mother and grandmother herself, she delivered all her children and grandchildren at BMH, creating a lasting legacy. For Bedard, retirement will be bittersweet.

"I still remember the first baby I helped deliver back as a nursing student and I maintained that joy of welcoming a new life into the world for each baby over my years. My first baby was just as special as the last."


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