Wendy Cornwell has worked at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital since “Well…let’s just say ‘forever’,” she laughs. Though her nursing career at BMH began on the medical/surgical floor, Wendy has spent the better part of a few decades working through virtually every department of the hospital — as a nurse in the ICU, Supervisor of the evening shift, then Post-Anesthesia Care, Nurse Educator, Director of Education and Community Health, and now as the Director of Community Initiatives and Blueprint Project Manager for the VT Blueprint for Health program.
Throughout her entire tenure at BMH, Wendy has been a faithful supporter of the BMH Annual Fund, special events, and capital campaigns for the Richard Building and the Emergency Department. “It’s ‘Walking the Talk’,” she says. “You have to believe in what you’re doing and believe in the institution that is supporting you to do it, “ she says. “This hospital has placed a lot of confidence in me over the years, and the hospital administration has been very supportive of our community initiatives, so I feel like I should return that confidence with my financial support.”
Wendy was born in Brooklyn, NY and visited Massachusetts in the summers with her family, eventually migrating north with her husband to settle permanently in the region. Though she and her husband live in Orange, MA, she’s been making the regular commute up to Brattleboro for years now, and considers it somewhat of a second home. “Brattleboro is very unique,” she observes. “The thing that impresses me the most is the vast amount of community resources that are available to people. Currently the community is working hard to improve how we work together as a team to provide health care.”
Wendy sees BMH as having a particularly important role in this community. She appreciates how the hospital’s focus on innovation and improvement has had a positive impact on the patients served by one of the initiatives she oversees — the Community Health Team (CHT), a collection of skilled health care professionals available to assist patients with the tools and support they need to reach their personal health goals. CHT services include individualized nutrition education and health coaching, diabetes education and management, tobacco cessation classes, social work and care coordination services. She credits her team with providing critical services for members of the community who need support in managing their health concerns. “What I love about this team is that they are so patient-focused, and really take the time to understand the complexity of patients’ lives.”
Over the years, Wendy has witnessed enormous change in the health care field. “This is the most challenging time in health care that I’ve ever seen,” she remarks. The level of complexity in patients’ lives, particularly those with mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as the socioeconomic factors that impact her patients’ health are constant challenges. “We’re living in a much more uncertain health care environment than in years past,” she notes. As Vermont and the nation move toward a healthcare model that is much more focused on patient outcomes and the health of entire communities as measurements of success, she sees BMH as being well-positioned to respond to these new dynamics. “Our leadership is always looking to the future, and has such a willingness to embrace innovation,” she says.
“This hospital is like a little jewel in so many ways; as a health care provider and as an employer. It’s a very important institution in this community that keeps growing and improving,” says Wendy, noting that while the community may appreciate BMH as a long-standing community institution, they may not realize what it takes to keep such a resource afloat. “I think the community knows that there is a lot of caring here, but they might be surprised to know how many people wear so many hats and how people step up to the plate and juggle so many different roles to make it all work.”
Wendy sees her support of the hospital with her gifts to the Annual Fund as an extension of her commitment to her profession and to the community. “You come to the institution to give of your skills and everything you have to offer. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity, particularly later in my career, to do this important population health work. There has been a lot of faith placed in me by this hospital, so I feel like I should give back.”