The Little Hospital That Could: CEO of Cottage Hospital Is Determined to Make a Big Impact

As the chief executive officer of Cottage Hospital in Woodsville, Maria Ryan wears a lot of hats — financial adviser, advocate, mentor and more — but one of her favorite roles is visiting with patients in the hospital.

“My meeting schedule is like a hamster wheel, but if I have five minutes sometimes I’ll just go and ask permission to go in and meet patients,” Ryan said during a recent interview. “And it just fills my heart.”

In fact, the 52-year-old Ryan, who also is a nurse practitioner specializing in emergency care, recently asked her assistant to help figure out how she can spend more time in the emergency department, where she currently works one shift about every four months.

Ryan, a native of Manchester, got started in health care as a certified nurse’s aide before beginning her nursing education at New Hampshire Technical Institute, where she earned an associate degree in 1989 and became licensed as a registered nurse. She then earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of New Hampshire in 1994 and a master’s degree from Rivier College in Nashua, N.H., in 1997 as an advanced practice registered nurse. She is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and also holds a degree in health care administration from Warren National University in Wyoming. (Warren National University, formerly known as Kennedy-Western University, closed in 2009 following a failed accreditation bid.) Ryan joked that Warren National’s online program, which she completed in 2008, was just a formalization of everything she had learned from decades on the job.

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