Longtime nurse named hospital president

Barrington resident has been part of The Miriam Hospital family since 1987

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/14/21

She has always wanted to help people.

Dr. Maria Ducharme volunteered at a senior care facility when she was a teenager, worked for decades as a nurse, and just recently was named president of The …

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Longtime nurse named hospital president

Barrington resident has been part of The Miriam Hospital family since 1987

Posted

She has always wanted to help people.

Dr. Maria Ducharme volunteered at a senior care facility when she was a teenager, worked for decades as a nurse, and just recently was named president of The Miriam Hospital. The longtime Barrington resident became the first nurse in the hospital’s 96-year history to be promoted from within to the top leadership position.

It has been a long and steady climb for Dr. Ducharme — she has filled eight roles during her time at The Miriam, each position preparing her in some way for her new job.

Dr. Ducharme has held leadership roles in inpatient nursing, respiratory therapy, and rehabilitation services. And for the last 10 years, she has served as senior vice president for patient care services and chief nursing officer of The Miriam.

Her work has played a role in The Miriam’s continued tradition of excellence, as she has helped the hospital attain four-year Magnet recognition — considered the gold standard for nursing excellence — six consecutive times. That is an accomplishment that has been reached by only three other hospitals in the United States.

“Dr. Ducharme has dedicated her career to The Miriam Hospital’s mission of providing advanced medical care at the highest quality level in a community setting,” said Lifespan President and CEO Timothy J. Babineau, MD. “I am so pleased that the Lifespan community will continue to benefit from Dr. Ducharme’s deep knowledge, experience and expertise as she leads The Miriam Hospital as its next president.”

Lifespan Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Todd Conklin agreed.

“By cultivating talent within our organization, The Miriam Hospital will now remain under the stewardship of a highly respected leader who, without missing a beat, can continue to enhance The Miriam’s reputation as both an outstanding hospital and employer,” he said.

Early work

Dr. Ducharme began her work of helping people when she was a teenager.

Needing to log service hours for her confirmation, she volunteered at the senior living facility Hattie Ide Chaffee in East Providence.

“I immediately fell in love with taking care of patients … and helping families,” Dr. Ducharme said, during a recent interview.

After fulfilling her service hours requirement, she decided to stay on. She was not yet 16, so she applied for and received her working papers, and she continued on even after graduating from Barrington High School.

Decades later, Dr. Ducharme can still remember the names and faces of the residents — especially Edith. During a recent interview, Dr. Ducharme shared a story about her work at Hattie Ide Chafee: She was about 17 or 18 years old and had just finished a shift. She drove home, pulled her car into her driveway and then heard a noise coming from the back seat. She turned around and found Edith, a woman who lived at Hattie Ide Chafee, sitting there.

“Edith had stowed away in my car,” Dr. Ducharme said, smiling. She recalled that Edith had regularly tried to slip out of the senior facility.

Dr. Ducharme continued working while she attended Rhode Island College. She graduated and in 1987 was hired as a cardiovascular medical/surgical nurse at The Miriam.

Throughout her time there, Dr. Ducharme has taken advantage of learning opportunities.

“I have loved every minute of it,” she said.

Dr. Ducharme was content with her position as chief nursing officer, so when the president’s position at The Miriam became available, she did not give it much thought.

“I was very happy with my role,” she said.

However, the hospital’s former president, Arthur Sampson, suggested she apply for the post. She followed the advice and participated in a robust application process, competing for the job against dozens of other qualified candidates. In October, she learned she had been selected.

Dr. Ducharme shared the news first with her husband and their three daughters.

“My daughters couldn’t have been prouder,” she said.

Dr. Ducharme said the advancement holds special meaning, as she hopes it serves as an example to her three daughters. She wants them to know that they too can achieve their goals. At the same time, she is particularly proud that she was able to reach this level without sacrificing her work as a mom.

“I never missed a Barrington play… or a Nayatt picnic. That was important to me,” she said.

Continued excellence

Dr. Ducharme said working at The Miriam has been a wonderful experience.

She said the organization has treated her well, and she praised her fellow hospital employees and leadership. She said the hospital’s stellar reputation is the result of many factors. She said the hospital employees are a big part of it, as well as the mission and goals established at The Miriam.

That culture, she said, help draw a special type of people to work at The Miriam.

Dr. Ducharme, who helped oversee the refinement and deployment of new safety protocols that were developed in response to Covid-19, said the hospital’s staff has faced (and continues to experience) numerous challenges throughout the pandemic.

“I think about the people who are taking care of these patients day in and day out,” she said. “I worry about people’s fatigue… and their resilience for sure. But I think people did find deep deep meaning in the work that they do.”

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