Last April, a woman brought a bag of mixed medications to National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Baxter Boulevard in Portland. In most places, this is a simple transaction. The woman hands the bag over, and police dispose of the drugs.

But nurses with Maine Medical Center partner with the Portland Police Department for Drug Take Back Day because they see it as an opportunity to improve public health. So Lynne White, R.N., a nurse on MMC’s R6, went above and beyond when the woman arrived.

White pulled her aside to explain how to safely store and organize her prescription medications, and how to contact the Northern New England Poison Control Center if anything goes wrong.

The exchange highlights how nursing professionals at Maine Medical Center use their clinical expertise and patient communication skills to benefit the community well beyond the hospital’s walls.

“Being able to engage the community in a relaxed setting and in their own environment is important,” said Clinical Nurse III Leslie Knight, B.S.N., R.N., CMSRN, chair of community outreach in MMC’s Nursing Professional Excellence Council.

“Our community is everywhere. We’re able to reach people where they are and, in some cases, prevent their coming in to the hospital.”

Nurses at MMC foster a culture of collaboration and community outreach. Nursing colleagues across the organization, regardless of tenure or experience, are encouraged to bring ideas forward for discussion and support. As a result, MMC nurses are proven innovators.

More than 1,000 Maine students have learned CPR because MMC nurse Christine Lord, B.S.N., R.N.-B.C., created a training program in local schools. Last year, Donna Ackerson Green, B.S.N., R.N., and her team of nurses at the Cancer Care Clinic found a way to deliver colonoscopies to members of Maine’s homeless community. Colleagues in both the inpatient and outpatient areas volunteered their time to help with the screenings.

“Our leaders want to empower us to do all we can with our nursing licenses. We care about our community, whether we’re at work or at the grocery store,” said Heidi Gwinn, R.N., CMSRN, co-chair of MMC’s Nursing Professional Excellence Council.

On April 28, MMC nurses again partnered with the Portland police at National Drug Take Back Day. They will collaborate with the city’s Public Health Division at a health fair at the Portland Public Library on May 17, teaching sidewalk CPR, using a bug light to teach hand hygiene, holding skin cancer screenings and much more.

Last year, MMC earned Magnet designation for the third consecutive time from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an independent organization within the American Nurses Association.

The rare distinction is awarded to approximately 2 percent of U.S. hospitals, and community outreach is one important reason for the achievement.

Nurses play a critical role as MMC always works to advancing its three-part mission: caring for our community, educating tomorrow’s caregivers, and researching new ways to provide care.

“Innovation is one of our organizational Values at MMC,” said Chief Nursing Officer Marge Wiggins, D.N.P., M.B.A., R.N., FAAN, NEA-BC.

“Every day, our nurses find new ways to deliver better care to their patients as well as their community.”