Manchester VA Medical Center nurses recognized for extraordinary dedication to veterans

The theme for 2017 was Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit.

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Photos by Gerry Marino, Veteran and Manchester VA Volunteer, and Kristin Pressly, Public Affairs Officer

Barry McKeon, US Army, Lt. Col. (Ret) and Phyllis Larochelle, LNA at the Manchester VA Medical Center.

MANCHESTER, NH – Across the nation nurses were celebrated during Nurse’s Week [May 6-12] for the compassionate care they offer.  The theme for 2017 was Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit.

At Manchester VA echoes of thank you were heard throughout the facility along with smiles and hugs from Veteran patients who wanted to share their appreciation for our nursing professionals.  “The Nurses at Manchester VAMC always make me feel welcomed and have genuine concern for my welfare.  Their compassion has a positive impact on my life in general that goes beyond health care,” was shared by a Veteran patient.

Not surprisingly, Manchester VA nurses have a long-standing tradition of supporting one another. Every year during Nurses Week specialized education, information fairs and recognitions are planned.  During these events nursing professionals are celebrated for their invaluable contribution to health care.  “It is never just about one nurse, it is about all nurses.  We work together to support Veteran health care here at Manchester and we are honored to be doing it,” said Jennifer Winslow, Acting Associate Director of Patient and Nursing Services.

As part of Nurses Week, Manchester VAMC holds an awards ceremony to recognize the nursing staff.  This ceremony highlights the exemplary nursing professionals who we at Manchester VA are honored to call our staff.  In some cases these staff members are also Veterans, or the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters of Veterans, but more importantly they are Veteran providers and caregivers.

In preparation for Nurses Week, Veterans were invited to leave a message for their nurses.  At the awards ceremony, the room was dressed with messages from Veterans.  “Maryanne, you took great care of me today.  Thank you for caring and making a difference in my life today.  God bless you!”; “The nursing staff here at Manchester VA is wonderful.  I have found you all to be very helpful and professional.  Thanks for all the help and have a great Nurses Week.” “Thank you sir for your caring and help, and thank you for being here for us.”

Danielle Ocker, Director, Manchester VA Medical Center who originally started her professional career as a nurse, opened the award ceremony.  “After many years of caring for others you may have forgotten to care for yourself,” said Ocker.  “Working long hours being sure to share a smile, while helping those you are caring for through their pain can be all-consuming; you may not break for comfort let alone a meal during your shift.  We [nurses] are not known for putting ourselves first.”  She went on to remind the nursing staff to recharge and find balance to ensure they were best able to serve those Veterans who entrust us with their care.  Ocker thanked all the nurses who tirelessly see that Veteran needs are met, and reminded them they have answered a special calling – “to care for those who have borne the battle.”

Elizabeth Lynch, Sarah Lynch, Rebecca Muirhead, Veteran and Nurse Practitioner, Mental Health, Manchester VA and Thomas E. Lynch, III

During the ceremony, the following awards were presented:

Rebecca Muirhead, Nurse Practioner in the Mental Health service at Manchester VAMC, received the 2017 Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Nursing in the category of Expanded Role Nurse.  Ms. Muirhead was selected because of her exceptional nursing leadership at the Manchester VAMC. Rebecca has an ability to develop a trusting therapeutic rapport with Veterans almost instantly.  Her provision of true holistic care, professionalism and dedication is recognized by all and appreciated.

Upon receiving the award Muirhead shared, “I certainly appreciate the recognition; however, any recognition I am receiving is a reflection of the dynamic team of which I am only one member.  I appreciate the opportunity to work with such a unique group of Veterans.”

Peter Vingelis, Jennifer Vingelis, RN, Manchester VA Medical Center and Elva Hawkins

Jennifer Vingelis, RN, Manchester VA Medical Center received the 2017 Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Nursing in the RN category.  Jennifer is a strong advocate for Veterans who provides holistic care and excellent care coordination to a very complex group of Veterans. She is tremendously dedicated to both the Veterans she serves and her co-workers.  Her work is ever-improving. She is always willing to take on an extra project to better the practice for Veterans or work life experience for her fellow nurses.

“Today seems to be a bit much truly, it is hard to believe I am being recognized for what brings me joy every day.  This award ceremony was very special in part because my husband Peter is here to support me.  Importantly, it is also quite special because my mother Elva, who was my inspiration to enter the nursing profession, is here with me today as I receive this honor,” said Jennifer Vingelis.

Chery Greer, LPN, Manchester VAMC Conway Community Based Outpatient Clinic and Dr. Linda Pimenta, Associate Chief Nurse/Clinical Operations, Manchester VA Medical Center

Chery Greer LPN received the 2017 Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Nursing in the category of LPN.  Chery has a special way of connecting with Veterans and their families at the Conway Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).  She offers them support and focuses on their experience to be sure all their needs are met.  Chery takes special attention ensuring that she addresses any special needs given the rural location of the Conway CBOC to be certain the plan of care is developed based on the Veteran’s needs.  Her attention to teamwork, always seeking to assist others in their work, is just one of the many components that add to her success!

“As a spouse of a Veteran who served for 25 years, as well as daughter, sister, and niece of Veterans who have served this country, it is an honor to care for our community’s Veterans. I am privileged to be a member of an extremely talented PACT TEAM in Conway who are committed to ensuring Veterans receive the care they deserve,” said Chery Greer, LPN, Manchester VAMC Conway CBOC. 

Shawn Buxton, U.S. Navy, Phyllis Larochelle, LNA, Manchester VA and Norm Ducharme

Phyllis Larochelle, LNA at the Manchester VA Medical Center Community Living Center (CLC), received the 2017 Secretary’s Award for Excellence in the category of Nursing Assistant.  Phyllis always goes the extra mile for the Veterans demonstrating compassion and support for all Veterans.  She is never too busy to assist a Veteran or a co-worker, and lifts the CLC with her laughter and humor.  She routinely puts others first offering to work additional weekends to allow co-workers time off, and she is always prepared to weather the storm by coming in early and staying through snowstorms to assure the CLC has coverage. 

Of special note, on the day of the awards ceremony, Phyllis was on a scheduled day off.  As part of a ploy to get her to the ceremony a Veteran told her he needed her to get him to an appointment.  Without hesitation, Phyllis volunteered to assist.  Imagine her surprise when she entered the room only to see the Veteran she was to help waiting to greet her with flowers.  Phyllis is in every way exceptional in her profession and beyond.

“Veterans have a special place in my heart, they are my family, and I am supported by my own wonderful family to do what I do for Veterans at the medical center.  I want to offer a special thanks to my son Shawn Buxton, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman, 1st Class and my husband Norm for being here for me today and everyday – thank you for helping me to be all that I can.”

Manchester VA Medical Center Nurses Week Planning Committee Members – Tamara Yaselsky, Dr. Linda Pimenta, Shauna Dalleva, Dr. Kim DeMasi, Catherine Oliver, Donna Swallow, Sherri Henry, Paulette Cross, Gail Brown, Meri Robinson [Missing: Jennifer Winslow, Michelle Andrejak, Valerie Greene, Dr. Mary Marchetto, Jessica Dewyngaert and Carol Williams]

“I want to take a moment to thank the Manchester VA Medical Center Nurses Week Planning Committee who ensured our nursing professionals were commended for the great work they do on behalf of Veterans.  Nurse’s Week provides all of us the encouragement to thank a nurse, or the many nurses who have improved our health and lives,” said Danielle Ocker, Director, Manchester VA Medical Center during the closing of the award ceremony.  “Importantly, this year’s theme empowers these professionals to find balance of mind, body and spirit, to preserve themselves so they can continue to impact the lives of others.  This award ceremony closes out the week-long celebration, but by no means concludes our appreciation of these professionals.” 

To learn more or to seek assistance, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.  For more general information about the services and benefits available go to


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