Laurie Harding

An aging population requires greater health care services. Like it or not, as we age, the need for greater, and more intensive care increases. Nurses can provide much of that care, and the information patients need to access care. This is one of the reasons Laurie Harding was motivated to start the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project.

Harding, an RN with a strong background in community health care, began the program with Dr. Dennis McCullough about five years ago. Their goal was to assist communities in recruiting professional nurses to work for towns, and local parishes, in helping direct elderly residents to receive the proper health care services. Harding remains co-director of the program today. Dr. McCullough passed away in early 2016, and today, Dr. Bob Rufsvold of Lyme is her co-director.

Harding’s organization has proven successful in finding nursing professionals to work within each community, and act as a liaison to assist residents. Some of the area towns that have nurses placed through the program include Lyme, Thetford, Sharon, and Hartland. The Eastman community in Grantham also has a nurse. Additionally, church parishes such as the Church of Christ at Dartmouth have nurses placed through the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project. In all, Harding estimates about 200 elderly clients work with the nurses in the communities served.

The nurses recruited through the project are often newly retired, says Harding. As a result, they still are licensed, and have recent clinical experience. “Our nurses are very good clinicians,” says Harding, adding they are well versed in connecting their clients with the right services to help them. Besides directing clients to services, the nurses also help with direct care. “They help manage symptoms,” says Harding.

In addition to this work, Harding also serves as the president of the Headrest Board of Directors. Headrest is the Lebanon organization devoted to helping those suffering with substance abuse, or facing a crisis. Headrest offers a 24-hour hotline, a residential program, and outpatient counseling. A key component of their work involves teaching job skills, and helping the clients transition back to community life, says Harding.

Harding, who holds a masters degree in community health nursing, also served 10 years in the New Hampshire legislature, working on the health service issues she champions. Recognition of community health problems, and providing funding to assist these problems is something the state could be more proactive in, Harding says.