The Wellness Center at New England College is nestled under tall, mighty trees that rain down a watercolor frost of leaves. Working inside are some of the most student-oriented folks on campus, prioritizing the health, safety, and wellbeing of every pair of shoes that walk the worn paths of campus. If you happen to pass by the Wellness Center and look up at the windows, you can spot Laura Anderson decked out in her bright scrubs, waving with a smile that emanates from her eyes; a genuine smile that is notable even from behind a fun patterned mask.
Anderson is the Medical Director and a Nurse Practitioner for New England College. She has called NEC home for nine years but has been a nurse for over thirty, noting that she would not trade being a nurse for any other profession. “I have a passion for what I do, and I cannot see myself doing anything else.”
When I asked Anderson what drew her to pursue being a nurse as a career, she explained, “I’m not really sure what inspired me to be a nurse. No single event sparked my interest, it was just a profession that I felt called to.” She recalled a memory from her childhood, explaining how she had been quoted in a newspaper at six years old saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a nurse and earn 100 million dimes!” She continued, “Not sure how close I will ever come to that 100 million dimes, but I love what I do, and I’m doing what I love. That’s the most important thing.”
Anderson shared how her profession is very diverse, enabling her to go anywhere and do anything. “I’ve traveled to other countries including Romania, Guatemala, and El Salvador on mission trips. It’s very interesting to see how other countries approach healthcare.” She went on to add, “When I was in Guatemala, we lost power and our overhead lights in the operating room during a surgery. They put headlamps on our heads and held flashlights for us . . . and the surgery went on!” Before landing at NEC, Laura even opened a private practice in Concord called Anderson Family Healthcare. “My practice was probably the biggest challenge of my life in so many ways, but I have no regrets!”
Now calling NEC home, Anderson is surrounded by college-aged students, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. When I asked her what her favorite part of her job was, she exclaimed: “The students! I enjoy watching students grow from young adults to adults as they traverse their college career. The transitions that occur between the first year and the last year are pretty cool to see.” She looks forward to seeing and interacting with her students, even in small ways! “I look forward to seeing students out and about around the campus, chatting with them or sharing a wave from the road when I am in my office. Sometimes students even come to my window to say Hi!”
Anderson’s genuine care for students is selfless and widely appreciated, now more than ever. Students, faculty, and staff are all trying to navigate this unique semester as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic. I asked her about the hardest part of her job, and her response was one I believe many people can relate to: “Right now, I worry about our NEC students, faculty and staff, as well as their family members getting sick with COVID-19 and having an adverse outcome.”
Things are constantly changing, which requires everyone to be adaptable. The Wellness Center has made changes to ways they interact and accommodate students, being adaptable to meet their needs while making them as comfortable as possible while keeping them safe. “We’re still seeing students in the Wellness Center but are incorporating tele-health. This is how it is throughout any medical practice in COVID-19 times. We are also seeing students outside! Despite COVID-19 changes, we still strive to provide the best care that we can for our students.” She comes to work with the goal of doing everything she can to keep our campuses healthy.
The pandemic has even changed how Anderson dresses for work. “During pre-COVID-19 times, I would wear normal clothes to work and some really awesome shoes as I have done for years,” she notes (as a student I can say her shoes are pretty awesome!). Now she has switched to brightly colored scrubs and lace up sneakers, saving her awesome shoes for the weekend. “I can’t complain though, scrubs and sneakers are quite comfortable and now I have some really cool socks!”
Anderson has a knack for shedding light even when things feel dark, a quality I have noticed in nearly every nurse I have interacted with. They manage to convey reassurance that is comparable to sun beams cutting through the clouds. “There are many challenges that we face every day, but the students are trying to make the best of this semester, and that is great to see! We need to be kind to each other during these challenging and stressful times.”
Anderson is one of those people spreading kindness to others during these challenging and stressful times, while keeping our campus as safe and healthy as possible. From the NEC community to Laura Anderson: Thank you for all you do!