Profile in Compassion

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Profile in Compassion

2017 St. Martin de Porres Award Honoree Steven Paradis, R.N. 

By Paul McAvoy, Photography by Matthew Lomanno

Medicine is a healing art, and those who practice it know that it takes more than science and the latest drugs or technology to restore health. Compassion is still at the heart of healing, and this year the New Hampshire Guild of Catholic Healthcare Professionals chose to honor Steven Paradis of Goffstown with the St. Martin de Porres Award for his compassionate approach to cancer medicine. 

Steven E. Paradis, R.N., B.S.N., O.C.N, is a lifelong New Hampshire resident and a nurse at the Elliot Regional Cancer Center at the Elliot Hospital in Manchester. He has spent the past 20 years in nursing and was honored with this award because of the way in which he has lived out his faith in his healthcare work. “I was shocked at first,” Steven said, “I think the thing that’s impressive about the award is the saint they named it after. He’s a remarkable man, and exceptionally humble.”

The saint’s humility is reflected in the approach that Steven brings to his own work, with humbleness and a trust that God will be able to work through him. “I know that when I take care of a patient, I ask for strength that I can help them in the best way that I can,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s a prayer, but I guess it is.”

What’s surprising is that nursing is a second career for Steven. He is proud to say that he graduated from Saint Anselm College twice, once in the 1975 with a degree in business and economics and then again in 1997 with a degree in nursing. Though he always enjoyed biology, he gravitated towards business the first time he went to college and worked for nearly 20 years in banking in Manchester at the Amoskeag Savings Bank and in the Portsmouth area at several other banks. Steven lost his position during the banking upheaval of the 1990s and started to think about going back to school for nursing. He credits Saint Anselm College, where his wife Denise worked and where they met, as well as Benedictine priests like Father Peter Guerin, O.S.B. and Father Cecil Donahue, O.S.B. for encouraging him to return to school, and for then helping to make it a reality.

The biggest champion he had was Saint Anselm’s Director of Nursing, Dr. Joanne K. Farley. “She was a huge influence,” Steven said. “Dr. Farley had developed a program for people without nursing backgrounds who wanted to change to the profession. She was really a huge catalyst for me to be able to do what I did, to be able to go back to St. A’s as an adult learner, which at the time was not typical there. She was really the one who helped me to make the change. I went back to school with students my own kids’ age; that was interesting!”

Steven worked hard, going to school full time while also maintaining a full time job. When Dr. Joanne Farley encouraged him to apply for an LNA license, he was able to get evening work at the newly-opened Bishop Peterson Residence, a nursing home for retired priests in Manchester, while still attending classes during the day. For three years Steven took all the courses and completed clinical experiences while working and raising a family. Steven’s goal was to finish college before his sons began their college careers, so that he could contribute to their education. With determination and much support he was able to do it.

Another Saint Anselm connection, Dr. Margaret Emmons, NP, helped him obtain a nursing position at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, N.H. This is where he obtained excellent nursing experience from a very supportive team. St. Joseph is also where he realized his love of oncology and for caring for that patient population. Steven worked at St. Joseph Hospital for four years before accepting a position at the Elliot Regional Cancer Center.

Steven continues to work at the Elliot Regional Cancer Center as their Nurse Clinical Leader, helping patients who are being treated for cancer. Steven’s faith influences the way in which he helps treat patients, he says. “Sometimes a cancer diagnosis is pretty frightening. My position gives me the opportunity to listen to patients and help them through the processing they need to go through,” he said. “A lot of cancer diagnoses are very curative, but there are those that are not, and it’s a pretty privileged role to be able to help people in whatever challenges they’re facing, be it clinical with the physical needs, or emotional, helping them cope with what they’re experiencing.”

In his 20 years of nursing, Steven has seen heartbreak and joy, as well as difficulties and challenges and often remarkable resilience in the patients he’s served. What helps keep him grounded is his faith, and the way he quietly approaches his work. Though modest in his descriptions of his work, Steven’s compassionate presence in the hospital helps communicate something profound about God’s love to each patient that he serves. “It’s just about the care you give them, and whatever help you can offer with their medical needs,” he explains. “Those medical needs almost always come with emotional needs. The spiritual part is there, it’s almost understood.”

Today, Steven continues to live out his faith by being involved at the Parish of the Transfiguration in Manchester, as well as singing in the Diocesan Choir, volunteering at New Horizons Soup Kitchen, and being an active grandfather to his five grandchildren. He and Denise live in Goffstown, not far from Saint Anselm College, and Steven is quick to recognize the importance that Saint Anselm has played in his life and how much he cherishes his experiences there. “There are not too many people who can say they graduated from there twice!” he says with a laugh. He has remained close with many of the monks and lay people in the Saint Anselm community. “It’s a real gem here in our backyard, and the Benedictines are there praying for us every day.”

Steven has enjoyed learning more about St. Martin de Porres, and is inspired by the way the saint reached out to the sick who were in need without counting the cost. That selfless kind of caring is what drives Steven and many in the nursing profession. It’s a way to live out the Catholic faith by example. “[My faith] gives me the opportunity to interact with patients on a compassionate level,” he says. “The field of nursing gives people that opportunity more so than most professions.”