"There is no better field than nursing; I would highly recommend it to any young person looking for a career, or any adult person looking to change careers."
Vice President and COO, Delaware Hospice
Margery White attended Rockland State Hospital School of Nursing and graduated with a diploma in nursing in 1968. She began her career in the med-surgical unit at Nyack Hospital in Nyack, New York where she worked for seven years. Determined to further her abilities through education, she went on to earn her B.S.N., her master’s degree, and ultimately her Ph.D. in nursing research. With each degree she also ascended the administrative ladder, eventually holding positions such as Vice President of Operations and Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer. Dr. White enjoyed her time in administration, because it allowed her to represent her fellow nurses on a broader scale. However, she routinely did patient rounds, finding it helpful to bring order and normalcy to a chaotic profession.
After 30 years in acute care, Dr. White became increasingly uncomfortable with end-of-life treatments and the way she saw patients dying. Her goals were changing, and she wanted to help people find a more peaceful and dignified death. She joined Delaware Hospice in February of 2008, and serves as the Chief Operating Officer. On any given day, more than 600 patients and their families rely on Delaware Hospice to provide support services.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
When I was in high school, the girls were encouraged to become teachers, nurses, or secretaries. My guidance counselor thought nursing would fit me well, and one day brought me to the nursing school at Rockland State. That’s where I started my career. I learned a love for education in that program. I continued to seek educational opportunities. One day, while I was working on my bachelor’s degree in nursing, a guest lecturer came in to present her research on elderly couples and their reaction to being widowed. It was like a light bulb went off in my head, and I knew I wanted to earn a Ph.D. and do research of my own.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
I commuted from Goshen, New York (about three hours one way) every Friday. There was a small group of us in the Ph.D. program, but I remember that everyone was very focused. During our dissertations, one of my classmates Kathy Gallo bought us all “Just Do It” t-shirts from Nike; it really epitomized our determination to finish.
I remember professors Dorothea Hays and Pierre Woog. They helped me refine my research and dissertation on how patients perceive overheard laughter and humor among the hospital’s staff. Nurses almost always find a way to use dark humor to cope with some of the tragedy we see, but I wanted to explore that from the patient’s perspective. Many people don’t understand the coping mechanisms humor offers us.
What are some of the changes you have seen in nursing through the years?
In my first job, I came to work on the first day and started my first shift. There was no orientation or training in the hospital. We now offer full orientation to new staff, and connect them to a preceptor. The biggest clinical change I have seen is the dramatic reduction of severe injuries from car accidents due to the use of seat belts.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
Never take anger personally. Patients and their families may react to their fear of loss with anger, but it’s not directed at you.
As adjunct faculty at Wilmington University, I give all my nurse students a copy of Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing. Nightingale’s thoughts on those pages are still appropriate today.
Lastly, plan for retirement. We don’t go into nursing for the money, but life goes by in the blink of an eye. We need to respect ourselves and plan financially to support our retirement years. There is no better field than nursing; I would highly recommend it to any young person looking for a career, or any adult person looking to change careers.
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