Five Questions With: Anne Schmidt

Anne Schmidt, a registered nurse with more than 30 years of nursing experience, has returned to Rhode Island as The Miriam Hospital’s senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer.

Offered the role after a national search, Schmidt left her post at Novant Health University of Virginia Health System in northern Virginia. She has held previous leadership positions at South County Health, St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital. Schmidt joined The Miriam in early May. 

PBN: What was it like becoming The Miriam’s chief nursing officer amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?

SCHMIDT: I had lived and worked in Rhode Island for many years, so I was well aware of The Miriam Hospital’s stellar reputation – both as a place for patients to seek outstanding care and as an institution where employees are proud of their work culture.

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While I was honored to begin leading the nursing staff, it has also been particularly challenging. The successive surges of COVID patients, in addition to our usual caseload, has taxed our workforce. While the demands have been daunting and unrelenting at times, my job has been made easier thanks to our exceptionally capable and confident leadership team. Every day I see incredible teamwork, support and care for each other.

PBN: Do you feel that the pandemic influenced public opinion about nursing not only at The Miriam but across Rhode Island and nationally?

SCHMIDT: There’s no doubt about the connection between the pandemic and the public opinion of nurses. The public has been exposed to the critical – even courageous – role that our health care teams play to preserve the health of our communities. And our community responded with gifts of meals, public displays of recognition and donations to bolster the teams’ wellness and resilience. We are extremely grateful for their support.

The pandemic has also taxed our inter-professional teams in unimaginable ways – on-the-job stress, fears of infection and grief from seeing so many patients succumb to COVID-19. These “battle” scars are not easily erased.

PBN: What is the nursing culture like at The Miriam?

SCHMIDT: The culture here is truly remarkable and it’s a huge responsibility to preserve and enhance it. It’s one thing to say that such a culture exists, but quite another to have the accomplishments to back that up. The Miriam has now maintained Magnet Recognition for 24 consecutive years and is one of a select few institutions to earn the four-year designation six times consecutively. This is the highest nursing credential awarded to recognize quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in nursing practice. What that means is when you work here, you are surrounded by nurses who care deeply for their patients, take pride in their professional partnerships and are driven to improve their skills and advance the nursing profession.

PBN: Is there an urgent need for more nurses at The Miriam? What are your thoughts on the need for more nurses statewide?

SCHMIDT: I’m hopeful that the attention the pandemic has brought to nurses and nursing will encourage people to enter the field and attract people who want a meaningful career of helping people when they are most in need of it.

Prior to the pandemic, in Rhode Island and across New England, we were experiencing an aging workforce. The pandemic has unfortunately exacerbated some of these staffing challenges. Although we have done a fantastic job trying to manage and balance our workloads, we must replenish our ranks and welcome both experienced and new nurses into our organizations. Fortunately, The Miriam has always attracted some of the best and brightest nurses and care partners and will continue to do so.

PBN: How do you recruit when the pandemic has made gatherings difficult?

SCHMIDT: We’re eager to resume holding traditional job fairs and to meet people in person, as we did earlier this summer, but we need to be mindful of the safety of our staff and candidates during this latest COVID surge. Our recruiters have responded by becoming more creative, including meeting candidates virtually.

We’re actively hiring qualified candidates and Lifespan [Corp.], as a system, has adopted attractive bonuses to complement our already competitive pay and benefits and job flexibility. Any nurses looking to join the amazing nursing team and positive culture at The Miriam can visit jobs.lifespan.org to locate vacant positions at The Miriam and learn more about our dynamic team.

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing writer.

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