Chicoine opted to return to Rhode Island College because the support is unparalleled.
Wendy Chicoine’s eureka moment came after her middle daughter, Paige, was diagnosed with an eye-movement disorder.
“I went home and told my husband that I was going back to school for nursing,” she says. “To this day it’s a decision I’ve never questioned. I know I’m in the right place.”
Since 2011, Chicoine, 46, has been a fixture at Rhode Island College’s School of Nursing. She earned her R.N. to B.S.N. in 2013; her M.S.N. in public health and community nursing in 2018 and received a Doctor of Nursing practice degree at the May commencement.
“I keep coming back to the School of Nursing because I know I have the support of the school and I know the professors genuinely care and want you to succeed,” she says. “The professors understand that most of us are full-time employees with significant responsibilities.”
As associate vice president of clinical operations and clinical education for Providence Community Health Centers (PCHC), Chicoine’s responsibilities have not gone unrecognized.
For her leadership in caring for 60,000 patients at PCHC during the COVID pandemic, she was named the 2021 Community/Public Health Nurse of the Year, an award sponsored by Rhode Island Monthly and the Rhode Island State Nurses Association. Nurse honorees are nominated by their peers and selected by a panel of nursing professionals and educators.
Chicoine was also recognized for her role in establishing the state’s first walk-up and drive-through COVID testing site in April 2020. She assisted with developing operational procedures, infection control procedures and identifying patient education.
“It was all hands-on deck and very surreal,” Chicoine says when asked about PCHC’s COVID response. “You learn about these types of things in public health but don’t really think about it until it happens. The worst part was constantly trying to keep up with the frequent changes, which was exhausting. However, I was able to utilize my skills in a way I never had before, and I learned so much. It was a true team effort.”
As a health care administrator, Chicoine aims to keep her mind focused on how she can help the broader population on a systems level.
“My goal is to improve the overall health and well-being of people, not just at the individual level but at the population level,” she says. “That’s where I find my passion. What I love about my job is that I get to do this every day. As nurses, we must make sure patients are the primary focus and to treat them with dignity and respect.”
Receiving her third degree from the college is special, Chicoine says, because she’s doing it alongside her 23-year-old daughter, Taylor, who is earning a degree in health sciences with a concentration in human services.
Taylor says she admires her mother’s will to learn. “She’s very hard-working, smart and caring,” adding that it’s an honor to graduate with her. Chicoine’s daughter Paige is currently an art education major at RIC.
Chicoine says her devotion to education stems from a desire to motivate her children.
“I want my kids to be proud of me,” she says. “I’ve been going to school since they were young. I hope I’ve showed them that they can do anything they set their minds to. Will I ever stop learning? Probably not. I always want to learn more.”
Case in point: Chicoine is enrolled this fall in a Rhode Island College graduate nursing course to earn a quality and safety certificate.