It’s never too late to answer the call for a career in nursing


Stepping into a new field of work can be daunting for a number of reasons. But when I think about the unconventional path I took to pursue my calling as a nurse, I can confidently say I would do it all over again.

I have dedicated many years to my veterinary career in various roles and as an entrepreneur by opening the first mobile veterinary practice in the state of Virginia. My career took a turn after I volunteered with Emergency Medical Services in Northern Virginia and became an EMT. I quickly realized how much I enjoy caring for people and their families, my community and my colleagues. My decision to pursue a second career in nursing was very natural and an exciting transition in my life because I knew I was going to turn my passion into a career.

As I have progressed in my career and in my current position, I have found that thinking beyond oneself is something that develops over time. When I think about my own “why,” I know that when we take care of each other, we take better care of our patients.

At Portsmouth Regional Hospital, we understand that a solid foundation, respecting the voices of our caregivers and sharing responsibilities to one another, enables our caregivers to put patients first. As part of HCA Healthcare, our leaders take the time to visit and walk in our nurses’ shoes, experiencing a day in the life of a Portsmouth Regional Hospital nurse and hearing directly from them about best practices and learning what to do doing and doing is not working for patient care. By listening to our caregivers and creating a work environment that prioritizes caregivers, we empower them to create a healthier future for our patients and communities.

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Over the past year, HCA Healthcare has invested in significant improvements at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, such as the new expanded Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and a new step-down cardiac surgery unit, to ensure we are able to provide quality care to our patients , for which we are known. Portsmouth Regional Hospital has been consistently recognized for its quality of care, safety and patient satisfaction, recently being named one of the ‘Best Maternity Hospitals of 2022’ by Newsweek magazine. Our maternity and childbirth nurses have played a big part in receiving this very well deserved award and they are among the very best nurses. The excellence of our colleagues speaks to the quality of care provided to the Portsmouth community and why they show up for their patients day in and day out.

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Our caregivers of tomorrow have much to learn from the caregivers making a difference today. As a mentor to young nurses, I remember my background, the support of incredible mentors, and the challenges along the way as a nurse. Because I drive this forward by putting myself in the shoes of other nurses and where they are in their careers, I can mentor in a way that is consistent with the way they learn and the challenges they face.

At Portsmouth Regional Hospital, we partner with HCA Healthcare hospitals Parkland Medical Center and Frisbie Memorial Hospital in New Hampshire to provide education and training for future nurses to meet the needs of our healthcare system and the communities we serve. There are endless opportunities for professional development and HCA Healthcare offers scholarships for students to pursue a nursing career in New Hampshire. From tuition reimbursement programs and educational support to collaborative relationships with local nursing schools, I have had the opportunity to grow with HCA Healthcare and be supported to be my best self.

For someone working in a field unrelated to healthcare but interested in the possible career path to becoming a nurse, or for a recent nursing graduate looking to expand their career, there are so many different places at HCA Opportunities Healthcare and Portsmouth Regional Hospital. My message is simple: It’s never too late to answer the call to pursue a career in nursing.

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As nurses and care leaders, we must maintain our resilience and commitment to our roles, remain adaptable in the face of change, and always remember our “why.” The immense challenges and pressures that caregivers have faced over the past two years have not gone unnoticed. I encourage all of my fellow caregivers to be proud of how far we’ve come and to find small ways that remind you of your passion for caregiving.

As we look to the future of healthcare, nurses will continue to play a larger and more influential role in the delivery of healthcare. While I’ve never lost my love for animals—and continue to spoil my pets—it’s the moments when I’m side-by-side with another nurse and holding a patient’s hand to offer comfort that remind me of my ‘Why’ reminds’ of the transition into nursing and that as nurses we have a gift to share.

Michelle Dodd is Chief Nursing Officer at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.



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