Message to the Community: Preparations to Protect You

Speare Memorial Hospital Prepares for a COVID-19 Battle

These days we can get overwhelmed with information about COVID-19 and how it is spreading across the country and world. Worry about how it will impact Central New Hampshire can be distressing. And no organization feels that burden more than the employees at Speare Memorial Hospital, and for good reason.

“We know that the need for medical care over the next few weeks and months will be higher than we’ve ever seen,” says Michelle McEwen, president and CEO of Speare Memorial Hospital. “Our teams have been working tirelessly to prevent the spread of this virus in our community so that we can continue to care for those who need us most.”

According to a recent Harvard study, New Hampshire could be hundreds of beds short of what will be needed to handle an influx of patients.

“I want to assure you that Speare is preparing for this influx,” says McEwen.

Speare continues to put measures in place to ensure that the COVID-19 virus does not spread within the organization. These measures include the implementation of telehealth or virtual visits that allow patients to meet with Speare’s primary care providers and specialists online without having to leave their homes. This is made possible because the federal government has temporarily lifted restrictions for telehealth visits.

“With fewer restrictions, we can move forward more quickly,” says McEwen, who hopes to have virtual office visits available in the upcoming weeks.

Front entrance nurses

To further protect patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19, Speare is prepared to begin a new triage process for those coming to the emergency department (ED).

  • All patients are screened and those with respiratory symptoms, a sign of COVID-19, will be separated from those that do not.
  • Those without symptoms will be directed to the ED entrance.
  • Those with symptoms will be given a full medical screening to determine if they should be admitted to the hospital. If they should be admitted, they will enter the ED through a separate entrance.
  • The ED itself has been divided into two areas; one for people confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 and another for people who need ED care but do not show signs of COVID-19.

“We also have plans regarding our patients requiring hospitalization,” says McEwen. “This includes increasing our capacity, growing our 25-bed hospital to a 40-bed hospital.

Plans have been put in place to ensure that Speare’s obstetrics unit remains COVID-free, so expectant Moms can safely deliver their newborns. 

Other plans include adding ten beds in the Medical-Surgical area and, similar to the ED, separating this space into two, with one section dedicated to COVID positive and suspected patients; and another section for non-COVID patients. 

To care for those patients with COVID-19 that will require intensive care and ventilation, Speare is planning to convert their surgical care unit into a 7-bed unit with ventilators and dedicated staff to care for this very ill population. 

PSU image FB arena set up for COVID19 surge

“Even with all our planning, we anticipate the needs of the community may exceed the 40+ beds we will have at the hospital, so we have been working with the National Guard, the State, our regional Emergency Preparedness resources, and Plymouth State University to create an Alternate Care Site at the PSU Ice Arena and Welcome Center,” says McEwen. “This is a significant feat, and sometimes overwhelming task. We are truly grateful for our partners that are helping us with these efforts.” Cots were recently installed, and supplies are being inventoried and moved into the facility. Logistics and staffing planning are in process.

“Our entire organization is focused and committed to being as prepared as possible to care for an increased number of community members critically ill with COVID-19,” says McEwen. “We can’t stress enough that prevention is the best public health action each of us can take. It is important that we all take this virus seriously; stay at home, practice social distancing and hand hygiene.  This is the best antidote for avoiding an overrun healthcare system and keeping our community healthy”.

Community Update from Michelle McEwen, President/CEO

Speare has been working with the National Guard, the State, our regional Emergency Preparedness resources and Plymouth State University to create an Alternate Care Site at the PSU Ice Arena and Welcome Center. This site will serve as an extension of the hospital in preparation for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Recently cots have been installed, supplies are being inventoried and moved into the facility, and many more planning efforts are taking place regarding logistics and staffing.

This is a significant feat, and sometimes overwhelming task. We are truly grateful for our partners that are helping us with these efforts! 

Speare SIM Lab: Learning Together… While Giving Back

SIM Lab at PSU IMG 1490

After serving as a clinical training site for Plymouth State University (PSU) nursing students for nearly a decade, Speare and PSU embarked upon a new training opportunity this year.

PSU nursing students learn first-hand how to access and triage patients in the school’s state-of-the-art simulation lab, working with students who are trained to act out specific symptoms and problems.

In recognition of the training Speare has provided PSU, leadership in the school’s department of nursing offered their simulation lab as a great opportunity for nurses at Speare to train in medical scenarios that they experience infrequently.

Donna Driscoll, DNP, and Dawn Monahan, MSN, both clinical associate professors in the PSU school of nursing, put together a post-partum hemorrhage scenario for Speare OB nurses and providers.

“We don’t have an opportunity for this type of training, and we really need to practice,” says Beth Simpson, nurse director at Speare. “We had an amazing experience working with the team at PSU.”

“We learn together, and it’s so nice to give back,” says Donna.

She adds that the experience allows faculty to teach at a different level.

“We teach our students at a more basic level,” she says. “The nurses and physicians from Speare who came over are actually practicing medicine, so it makes us step up our game.”

When PSU nursing students are at Speare, they are beginning their hands-on training. When Speare nurses are at the PSU simulation lab, they are advancing their skills to the next level. It’s a win-win.

School Nurses: a Shared Support

From stomach bugs to caring hugs, Speare nurses are at the frontline, keeping our children safe and healthy.

School Nurses - Photo [Front L-R]: Brooke Ashworth-Wisner, Russell Elementary School; Elizabeth Mills, Thornton Central School; Heather Mason, Holderness
Central School; Sandy Rodriguez, Plymouth Elementary School; Judy Macord, Wentworth Elementary School; [Back L-R]: Denise Petrycki,
Plymouth Regional High School; Lorraine Cathy, Campton Elementary School; Toria Haungs, substitute nurse; and Dianne Reid, Waterville
Valley Elementary School nurse coordinator
Photo [Front L-R]: Brooke Ashworth-Wisner, Russell Elementary School; Elizabeth Mills, Thornton Central School; Heather Mason, Holderness Central School; Sandy Rodriguez, Plymouth Elementary School; Judy Macord, Wentworth Elementary School; [Back L-R]: Denise Petrycki, Plymouth Regional High School; Lorraine Cathy, Campton Elementary School; Toria Haungs, substitute nurse; and Dianne Reid, Waterville Valley Elementary School nurse coordinator

Employed by Speare, school nurses work in eight local schools and live in the communities we serve. Having these qualified community members charged with caring for the children in our neighborhoods is what makes the Speare/SAU 48 school nurse partnership so strong.

“Our role is to advocate for and protect our students, serving their best interests,” says Lorraine Cathy, a school nurse at Campton Elementary School. “We are a community lifeline, helping kids get proper healthcare and serving as a resource for parents and those working within our schools.”

As the primary healthcare link between students, parents, teachers, and local medical providers, school nurses handle much more than bumps and bruises. They are often relied upon to make sure kids get the care they need – from determining if a child’s symptoms warrant a visit to the doctor to helping children with acute and chronic illnesses.

“In addition to monitoring the complex health and social needs of students, school nurses must also follow state requirements regarding immunizations, physicals, and reporting neglect,” says Dianne Reid, school nurse coordinator at Speare. “And that’s what you’ll find them doing every day.”

All eight nurses agree, “We are the voice of the children in our community.”

“School nurses become a very stabilizing force in the lives of students and staff,” says Brooke Ashworth-Wisner, school nurse at Russell Elementary School. “They are comfortable in our presence, and they look to us for that example of integrity. We are a daily force in their lives.”

By compassionately taking care of the physical, mental, and emotional needs of students, Speare’s school nurses can bolster a child’s ability to attend classes and ultimately achieve a healthy, meaningful educational experience.

And these school nurses can think of nothing they would rather do for their life’s work.

Speare Trains & Hires High School LNAs

HS LNAs blue scrubs IMG 1844 with frame

Speare and Plymouth Regional High School have been working together since their licensed nursing assistant (LNA) program began 15 years ago.

In addition to hiring many LNA students from the program, Speare has donated bedside tables and assisted the high school in purchasing new adjustable beds to help make the school’s lab seem more like a hospital room.

HS LNAs garbed up

Speare Welcomes its First Baby of 2020

Craig Henry Curtis and Meaghan Babbitt2

Happy New Year and welcome to the world, Henry Curtis, the first baby born at Speare Memorial Hospital in 2020. Congratulations to parents Meaghan and Craig Babbitt of Campton, NH on the new addition to their family!

A patient at Plymouth OB/GYN Meaghan said, “Speare is amazing. The experience in the birthing suite was so intimate. Dr. Ebner and all the nurses were so attentive. They really focus on you here.”

Meaghan and Craig are very excited that Henry Curtis is the first baby of the new year born at Speare, and are looking forward to their new baby checkups at Plymouth Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Speare’s 2019 Hospital Campaign for Organ Donation wins Bronze Award

2019 hospital campaign for organ donation bronze medal award
Dianne Reid MS, BSN RN, NE-BC – Staffing Development – School Nurse Coordinator, Deb Mallett, RN, Debra Thompson, RN, BSN, CEN – Nurse Dir, Critical Care Services, Kris Hering, MSN, RN, NE-BC, FACHE – CNO

During the 2019 Hospital Campaign for Organ Donation, Speare Memorial Hospital was recognized with a Bronze Award for efforts to increase awareness in the local community about organ, eye, and tissue donation.  Speare was one of nearly 1,500 hospitals and workplaces that worked closely with organ procurement organizations (OPOs), Donate Life America (DLA) state teams or state hospital associations.

The hard work of these 1,500 organizations generated more than 48,000 donor registrations between Oct. 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019.  Speare was one of 19 New Hampshire hospitals to be recognized at the November 2019 annual education program sponsored by New England Donor Services OPO in Windham, NH.

To register your decision to save and heal lives, visit to learn more about organ, eye, tissue, and living donation, visit      

* Living donation is not included in a donor registration.

Northeast Delta Dental Foundation Awards Grant to Speare’s Dental Health Program

Northeast Delta Dental Grant pic2

The Northeast Delta Dental Foundation recently awarded a $2,500 grant to help fund the purchase of dental supplies for Speare Memorial Hospital’s Dental Health Program which provides free or low-cost dental health services to more than 1,600 local children annually.

“This is a real asset to our state,” says Ruth Doane, certified public health dental hygienist at Speare. “Before Speare brought a dental program into local schools, many students had never been to a dentist and had some very serious issues with their teeth. But, now, students are able to receive more expedient care, resulting in less missed school and fewer trips to the ER for dental infections.”

The mission of the Northeast Delta Dental Foundation is to improve the access to, and the quality of, oral health care and education for the public and the dental communities in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. To learn more about Northeast Delta Dental and its Foundation visit

Speare’s Dental Health Program was established in 1998 in response to growing concerns from the local school nurses about the unmet dental health needs of area school children. Today, the program provides free dental screenings, services and education to children enrolled at School Administrative Unit 48, and the Ashland, Lin-Wood, and Warren School Districts.

“We provide dental screenings and fluoride varnish applications free of charge, and cleanings and sealants are offered on a sliding fee scale,” says Ruth. She goes on to say, “No one is ever denied services because of their inability to pay. That’s just one reason why this program is so valuable.”

More than 20 area dental practices currently partner with Speare to provide care to those referred from the program with dental concerns. Support is also provided through the Dental Health Program to families who need financial help, referrals to Medicaid, and assistance with overcoming other dental care barriers.

Clinics are also offered monthly at Plymouth OB/GYN and to the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) programs in Plymouth and Bristol for at-risk pregnant women and pre-school children. The program also includes two childcare facilities, the Lincoln-Woodstock Community Child Care (LWCCC), and Plymouth Head Start (PHS).

It can be tough to find dental care in rural areas throughout our country. Because there are still places in New Hampshire where people do not have access to dental care, Speare has been training dental hygiene students to work in these settings when they graduate.

With grants from Northeast Delta Dental and local business sponsorships of the annual golf tournament, Speare is able to provide dental services and educate a new generation of dental hygienists while lowering the incidences of cavities in children. Seeing more healthy smiles in our central New Hampshire community is its own reward.

Dr. Theodore Capron Joins Speare Primary Care

Dr. Capron for directory

Speare Primary Care welcomes Dr. Ted Capron to the practice at 103 Boulder Point in Plymouth.

Board-certified in family practice medicine, Dr. Capron has more than 35 years of medical experience, many of those as a dedicated family physician in Meredith for over two decades. After relocating out of state in 2017, he and his wife have made the move back to New Hampshire.

 “We love being in New Hampshire again,” says Dr. Capron who enjoys a variety of outdoor activities.

Dr. Capron has special interests in end-of-life care, bioethics, and electronic health records but gets his greatest fulfillment from his relationships with patients.

“It is great to see patients again and get to know them on a first-name basis,” he says.

Dr. Capron worked with Speare two years ago while participating in the selection, implementation, and provider training for a new electronic health record shared by Speare and Lakes Region General Healthcare.

“I learned a lot about Speare in that process and was always impressed by the leadership,” says Dr. Capron. “I knew I was coming to a quality place and not the unknown.”

And Speare is happy for that, adding him to the team at Speare Primary Care.

Dr. Capron is accepting new patients. Please call 603-536-1881 to schedule an appointment.

Health Tips for the Holiday Season

by Janette Gaumer & Ryanne Haskell, Registered & Licensed Dietitians

Thanksgiving Dinner

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family, friends, and good food; with that being said, unfortunately, it can also be a time when we run into problems with weight gain. Remember, your healthy eating habits don’t have to stop during the holidays and you can still enjoy some of your holiday favorites all in moderation. Here are some healthy eating tips that you can use this holiday season:

1. Don’t Skip Meals: Start your day off right with a wholesome breakfast like and Easy Egg Bake and make sure to eat a healthy meal or snack prior to a party to avoid overeating.

2. Watch Your Portions: Enjoy and savor your favorite holiday dishes but be mindful of your portion sizes. Moderation is the key!

3. Eat Protein Foods First: Avoid filling up on carbohydrates first and be too full to eat your nutrient-dense protein source and end up overeating.

4. Chew & Eat Slowly: Be mindful of the taste of your food, chew thoroughly, and slow down your eating to be able to listen to your body and when you feel full.

5. Make & Bring a Healthy Dish: Bring a healthy dish, such as a veggie platter, or chicken salad with veggie slices to share at all holiday parties/events so that there will be a healthy option to eat.

6. Grab a Small Plate: Use an appetizer or dessert plate and you will not be able to load up your plate with an excessive amount of food and calories.

egg nog with twirly candy cane

7. Watch the Drinks: Avoid drinking your calories and limit egg nog and alcohol; drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated & to fill up your stomach! Aim for drinking at least 48-64 oz. (6-8, 8 oz. cups) of water per day.

8. Say “NO” to Leftovers: Tell your guests ahead of time to bring food only for one meal and to be prepared to take any leftovers home with them.

9. Make Time for Physical Activity: Physical activity can help relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. Aim for walking for at least 15 minutes, 2 times/day.

people walking holding hands in background with snowman in front

9. Be Realistic: Focus on maintaining your weight instead of losing (or gaining!) weight and set realistic goals this holiday season. Make staying healthy a positive New Year’s resolution!

The Registered Dietitians at Speare can help you find sensible answers to common nutrition concerns. Sitting down with a dietitian can be a good investment of your time since we can tailor our recommendations to your individual needs and help you to more quickly reach your health goals.

Contact Janette or Ryanne in Speare’s Nutrition Services at 603-238-2244 for additional information or to schedule an appointment.