Merrimack Valley Life

NECC nursing program celebrates 50 years

Since 1970, Northern Essex Community College has graduated 3,500 associate degree nurses, the great majority of whom are working locally at hospitals and clinics, long-term-care facilities, doctors’ offices, and schools. If you have been a patient locally, chances are high that an Northern Essex nursing graduate has cared for you.

Margaret Fitzgerald, founder of Fitzgerald Health Associates (which provides certification and continuing education for health-care providers) and a nurse practitioner at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, was a member of Northern Essex’s first class of nursing graduates. After graduation, Fitzgerald continued her nursing education, eventually earning a doctor of nursing practice. A widely published author and acclaimed lecturer, as well as a working nurse practitioner, Fitzgerald says that it was at Northern Essex that she was first recognized as a leader, when she was asked to be the nursing student representative to stand beside President Harold Bentley during the nursing accreditation process. “It was the first time in my life that someone had pulled me aside and told me I had leadership potential,” she says. “That has stayed with me throughout my career.”

Since the nursing program was started, the college has expanded its health programs to include 20 programs, with respiratory care, practical nursing, radiologic technology, medical assisting, and many other options.

Close to one-third of currently enrolled students are majoring in health care, and in 2014, the college celebrated the opening of the El-Hefni Allied Health & Technology Center in downtown Lawrence, a 44,000-square-foot facility where health-care students receive hands-on experience in simulated environments such as a hospital intensive care unit, a trauma room, an acute care hospital room, and an ambulance.

If you are a graduate of Northern Essex’s nursing program, you can share your story by emailing the alumni office at Or you can share your story with the hashtag #NECCNursing50 on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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