On the evening November 21, 2016, just before the start of the 38th Annual Distinguished Lecture in Nursing “Nursing Leadership and a Culture of Health,” students were bustling about the Villanova room in Connelly Center. Yet, from the start, the audience could quickly sense this lecture was like no other they had ever attended, nor would it be one they would ever forget.
Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, Senior Adviser for Nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), set the stage to address the audience about the vital role of nurses in healthcare, a topic she had spoken on countless times through her role in shaping and leading the Foundation’s nursing strategies to create a higher quality of care in the United States for people, families and communities, and helping to assure that RWJF’s commitments in nursing have a broad and lasting national impact.
On this day, however, her message was unique. Dr. Hassmiller shared her personal perspective on being a recent recipient of nursing care when she began to unfold the tragedy and loss of her husband due to a bike accident a little over a month prior. Dr. Hassmiller spoke of her husband losing the fight for his life while under the care of many compassionate nurses. She drew parallels from her long standing career of fostering nursing leaders but remains humbled by the irreplaceable care that was received during such a difficult time. She clung to the support of nurses who slowed down in their busyness to just- ‘care’. As she recounted the heartbreaking details of her personal story, the students were transfixed.
Before her RWJF colleague Beth Ann Swan, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, dean and professor of the Jefferson College of Nursing addressed nursing and a culture of health, Dr. Hassmiller recapped how the nurse’s ability to just be there for the patients and their families and provide support goes beyond words in this profession. She then ended her lecture with a charge to the burgeoning nurses in the room, “My message for you is to go forward with care and compassion because care and compassion are what matter the most.”
This annual event is part of the College of Nursing’s Naratil Family Health & Human Values Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by the Alpha Nu Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International — nursing’s honor society.