"Whether you are doing dialysis, delivering a baby, or diagnosing cancer, remember that while you are doing it every day, it is the first time for the patient."
Coordinator of the Women’s Health Center, Huntington Hospital
After graduation, many of Judy Koles’ classmates went on to work in medical-surgical units. Always wanting something different, she accepted a position in the CCU at Einstein Hospital in Bronx, New York, and began training for her first specialization, cardiology. She briefly joined a start-up private practice in cardiology before returning to Einstein Hospital to take on her second specialty, pediatric dialysis. In 1986, after taking several years off to enjoy her growing family, she returned to nursing and took on the challenge of medical oncology.
“I’d already put big needles in small children, so I thought I could easily put little needles in big adults. It was so much more than just chemotherapy,” she says. Hence, outpatient oncology became a passion of hers.
Since 1993, she has been with Huntington Hospital, specializing in counseling and patient education. The Women’s Health Center conducts more than 25 mammograms each day, plus biopsies and M3 modalities. They strive to provide immediate results and detailed plans for each patient. Their average time from mammogram to diagnostic procedure is 10 days, compared to a national average of 19 days.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
I grew up in Westbury, Long Island, and I attended a local university as a psychology major. At some point I realized I wanted a profession in which I could help people every day, and where a four-year degree would prepare me for a life-long career. After a lot of consideration, I transferred to Adelphi’s nursing program. It was undoubtedly the best decision of my life.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
I remember Erma Bahrenburg, who taught us Basic Nursing. It was very mundane material, but she somehow made it fascinating.
I also remember a sad story from my clinical experience, about an older male patient dying of cancer. He was estranged from his two daughters and he wanted to see them before passing. I took the challenge of tracking down the phone number for one of his daughters (remember, “Googling” was not an option at the time). I remember calling and her telling me that she was not interested in reconciling with him. He passed away on Rosh Hashanah, which was very significant to me because of the whole Jewish tradition of “Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die.” I was very upset, but I also learned an important lesson: there isn’t always a happy ending.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
Whether you are doing dialysis, delivering a baby, or diagnosing cancer, remember that while you are doing it every day, it is the first time for the patient. The day you forget that is the day you need to find a new career.
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