Marion makes offer to new public health nurse

Aug 4, 2020

MARION — In the face of a pandemic, the Marion Board of Health opted to hire more experienced public health nurse Lori Desmarais to fill the shoes of retiring health nurse Kathy Downey instead of a less-experienced but enthusiastic applicant. 

The board got five applications for the position. As part of its Aug. 4 meeting, the board interviewed Desmarais and one other candidate, Kristen Meiggs. 

Desmarais works full-time at a nursing home in infection control, and also holds three public health nurse positions for Freetown, Lakeville and Dighton. 

She has worked in nursing homes for about 23 years, and as a public health nurse for the last five or six years. 

She is also actively involved in her community in Freetown where she lives, serving on its Cultural Council and (in pre-pandemic times, at least), serving as an EMT. 

Asked what she loved most about public health, Desmarais said “being with people and being able to educate people.” She added, that she gives her cell phone out and “people call me at all hours. Sometimes they just need to ask a question.”

She has practical experience with the electronic health system that Marion uses, and has also organized events like blood pressure clinics before. 

In one of her towns she noticed that she had certain residents who were calling 911 a lot and worked with Bristol Elder Services to get them more support at home. 

Many of the other questions for Desmarais had to do with her four jobs, and how she would manage those with a position in Marion. She said she would leave her nursing home position, and make Marion her priority, only keeping her other public health nurse positions if she could. 

Meiggs lived in Mattapoisett and has volunteered in its Medical Reserve Corp, and with Mattapoisett’s previous Public Health Nurse Amanda Stone, but had most of her professional experience as a nurse practitioner. 

Town Administrator Jay McGrail and board member Dot Brown were drawn to Meiggs’ energy and enthusiasm, however board members Edward Hoffer and John Howard were concerned with her lack of experience in public health, her unfamiliarity with the confusing electronic health system and that she would need significant volunteer support from Stone and Downey. 

After much discussion, the board voted to offer Desmarais the position, and follow up with Meiggs if the salary is an issue for Desmarais. 

Downey plans to retire in the third week of this month.