Meet Nurse Rich Durkee

07/16/2020
Pictured left to right is Stephanie Hamelin, RN, Jon Nadler, MD, and Rich Durkee, RN.

A group of new nurses, part of CHA’s New Graduate Residency program, arrived at Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) in early February weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Massachusetts and the East Coast. “The new nurses hit the ground running in the pandemic of our lifetime,” said CHA New Graduate Nurse Residency Coordinator Rich Durkee, MSN, RN. “Some of these nurses, in their first days providing care, were holding up tablets and phones connecting COVID-19 positive patients to their loved ones before they were intubated.”

The group of 16 nurses was part of CHA’s third cohort in the New Graduate Nurse Residency program. The 12-month program, managed by Rich, is an innovative model that offers classroom and clinical instruction through lectures, group discussions, simulation, role-playing, and case studies. Rich was instrumental in building the program from the ground up three years ago when he joined CHA as a nurse educator in the Emergency Department at CHA Everett Hospital.

“I always joke that my personal journey in health care began with a simple first aid kit in Boy Scouts,” said Rich. As a young person, Rich had some pretty dangerous hobbies according to friends and family members. On weekends he could be found ice climbing and mountaineering near his home in Groveland, MA. Rich had to develop life-saving skills because he was often on his own in the wilderness and needed to know how to keep himself safe while enjoying the outdoors.

As the years went on, Rich became an EMT and his first job in health care at a horse racing track in [Salem, NH] helping jockey’s recover from injuries. Later, he served as an EMT in Lynn and Lawrence, MA, and soon shifted into a management role.

“I knew I wanted to become a nurse during the aftermath of Hurricane Rita,” said Rich. He was part of a federal emergency management team that was developed in Tyler County, Texas, in 2005 to secure and rebuild a county hospital devastated by the storm. “When we arrived, the hospital was completely boarded up without electricity and all of the patients had been transferred to other locations,” said Rich. Rich and his team helped to manage the hospital for 72 hours as additional resources were brought to bear to help the community recover.

Soon after, Rich and his team were shifted to Colmesneil, Texas, to build a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) clinic in a municipal building parking lot. “A couple arrived at the MASH clinic with a really sick newborn baby. We sprung into action and quickly got the baby the care she needed. A few weeks later, the family came back to say thank you and it was then that I knew I wanted to be a nurse taking care of vulnerable populations,” said Rich.

“CHA is a special place with care integration that takes into account the whole person,” said Rich. “We have case managers embedded in the Emergency Department who connect patients to housing, addiction recovery services and other social supports on the spot.” According to Rich, much of nursing is providing care to the whole person and not just some of their body parts. At CHA, staff explore a patient's interactions and relationships with friends and family members in order to help them build healthy lives in the community.

“It’s invigorating to support our new nurses and hear their stories of resilience from the front line,” said Rich. “There’s nothing quite like the unbridled energy of a new nurse during their first weeks on the job at CHA. It’s infectious and breathes life into many of our departments.” CHA is building and implementing new care delivery models to support patients and the community every day. Learn more about nursing careers at CHA.

Cambridge Health Alliance

Contributed By: Cambridge Health Alliance

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health care system committed to serving all members of our communities. We have expertise in primary care, mental health and substance abuse, and caring for diverse and complex populations. CHA patients receive high quality care in convenient neighborhood locations, and have seamless access to advanced care through CHA’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. With over 140,000 patients in Cambridge, Somerville Everett and Boston’s Metro North, CHA is working hard to offer the integrated services its communities need now, and in the future.