Nurse-Attorney, Professor of Nursing and Law
After receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Adelphi University, Alice Rini was ready to embark on a career dedicated to education.
“Adelphi taught me that nursing is an independent profession.” says Mrs. Rini. “I left Adelphi having gained that knowledge, and I wanted to pass it on.”
Following a teaching position at Flushing Hospital School of Nursing, Mrs. Rini joined the faculty of Nassau Community College. As a professor of nursing, she taught medical-surgical and obstetrical nursing. Mrs. Rini particularly loved that being an educator provided her with the opportunity to “do it all.” She recalls, “Teaching allowed me to be in the clinical facility, and make a difference in students’ lives.”
While the academic year was spent in the classroom educating future nursing professionals, Mrs. Rini devoted her summers to working in the clinical setting, in order to keep her nursing skills sharp. “My students were critical thinkers and highly intelligent people,” says Mrs. Rini. “To be prepared to answer their questions, I needed to keep up with advances in the field of nursing.”
Mrs. Rini attended St. John’s University to study sociology. She completed the course of study and passed comprehensive examinations in the areas of leadership, social movements, and religion.
Upon accepting the position of chair of Northern Kentucky University’s School of Nursing, Mrs. Rini and her family relocated from New York to Kentucky. At Northern Kentucky University, Mrs. Rini played an instrumental role in the development and accreditation of the baccalaureate nursing program. “It really expanded,” Mrs. Rini says, recalling the transformation of the University’s two year program into one that now offers both a bachelor and master of science in nursing, both of which are accredited.
Following seven years as chair of the nursing program at Northern Kentucky University, Mrs. Rini decided she wanted to further her education and pursue a law degree. “I wanted a better understanding of the legal issues I was confronting as an administrator and a member of the faculty,” she explains. In 1988, Mrs. Rini graduated from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law of Northern Kentucky University.
With her degree came recognition of the importance of understanding the laws in one’s field; she made it her duty to impart this knowledge to future professionals. Mrs. Rini began teaching at the University’s College of Law, and developed several courses for the nursing program; Legal and Ethical Issues in Nursing, Health Policy, and Healthcare Economics.
Today Mrs. Rini shares her wealth of knowledge outside the classroom, contributing to books, particularly in the areas of law and ethics, and taking part in speaking engagements and workshops for both nursing and law groups. She is also a consultant for long term health care facilities and community agencies.
Throughout her education and career, Mrs. Rini has been involved with Sigma Theta Tau, Alpha Kappa Delta, National League for Nursing, American Association of Nurse Attorneys, American Bar Association, Kentucky Bar Association, Northern Kentucky Bar Association, National Gerontology Nursing Association, and the Institute for Health Freedom.
Mrs. Rini and her husband Leonard Paul Rini, also an Adelphi alumnus, live in Alexandria, Kentucky, just twenty minutes outside of Cincinnati; they have three children. In her free time, Mrs. Rini loves to travel, visit with friends and family, read, and do needlework. She is also an expert with firearms and is an accomplished marksman, providing firearms education through the local shooting club.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
My father’s good friend was a physician on the faculty at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After he mentored me in high school, I thought I wanted to be a physician in obstetrics and gynecology. In the 1950s, however, there was an underlying attitude that girls would just be taking up space in medical school. My father’s friend suggested nursing instead.
My guidance counselor at West Hempstead High School introduced me to Adelphi, which had a reputation for being intellectually stimulating. Unlike many hospital schools of nursing, Adelphi did not care that I was only 16; Adelphi respected my educational and other accomplishments. When I interviewed, the people I met were terrific. Although I had a strong interest in Spanish and music, I began at Adelphi as a nursing major.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
Adelphi’s campus was so interesting in comparison to West Hempstead High School, which was brand new at the time I attended. The old buildings and trees at Adelphi made it feel like “real” college; it was the ideal of what I thought a college would look like.
I liked the old library in Levermore; it was a wonderful place to go and study. I remember its wooden chairs and tables; it felt good being in that environment. As a nursing student, I got the opportunity to meet so many different people in the sciences. I remember a graduate student friend who was a chemist introduced me to a memorial library located on the fourth floor of Blodgett Hall. I loved going there; it was private, a great place to study, and just an interesting place to be.
The students had close relationships with the faculty. As a student, you knew everyone, and everyone knew you. I knew faculty that I did not even have classes with.
I remember that there was a snack bar in the lower level of the then new dormitory, where students used to hang out. Everyone carried cards; if we had five minutes before class, we would play bridge.
When I first started at Adelphi, Margaret Shay was the Dean of the School of Nursing; Eileen Jacobi became the dean by the end of my sophomore year. My favorite professors were Justina Eisenhauer, Eileen Jacobi, Gordon Derner, Cathy Gale, Chester Barrows, Marion Greenstein, and Ruth Harley, who was Dean of Women. I later met Mildred Montag, who had been a great influence at Adelphi, and I had the privilege of doing some research and writing with her.
I have fond memories of my sorority, Phi Mu. I still communicate with, and occasionally see, some of my sorority sisters. Phi Mu was a group of scholarly women. As freshmen, the sorority was very supportive of us; they helped us make the transition from high school to college.
I was a part of the Spanish Club. Every Wednesday we had our own table at lunch where we ate and spoke; we socialized and discussed issues in Spanish. I also wrote for the newspaper; my column was called “White Captions,” which was a take-off on the white caps we wore as nurses, although I hated caps and avoided them after graduation. Every week, I would write about what was going on in the School of Nursing. I was also a member of the orchestra and choir.
In the 1950s, our four year curriculum required two years of physical education. I loved dance. The dance department offered master classes, those opportunities to study with professional dancers from New York City and elsewhere who would come to teach specialized classes. It was very exciting; I never missed those opportunities.
My nursing class was very close. We were from the beginning; we just clicked. I was married in my senior year, and had my first baby before graduating. We wore yellow uniforms, and several months into my pregnancy, I started to show. My classmates got together, and made me a maternity top out of the skirts of our nursing uniforms. When my daughter was born, she was referred to as “the class baby” by my classmates, because they went through my pregnancy with me. Many of us who graduated together continue our close friendships and have had several formal reunions.
What are some changes you have seen in nursing throughout the years?
I remember working at Meadowbrook Hospital for my clinical; the hospital was nothing like it is today. Most units had 55 to 58 patients; they were huge! Nurses worked in teams, because there was no way one nurse could handle that many patients all by him/herself. Typically there were three to a team; a registered nurse, a practical nurse, and a nursing assistant. One team covered the middle, and one took each end of the corridor.
The nursing assistant was an integral part of the team; very much a part of the group. In the hospitals now, nursing assistants do not seem to be treated with as much respect. Judging from my graduate students’ studies, it seems that the relationships among workers in the healthcare facilities have been devalued. I don’t think people in the 1960’s felt the same way. Back then, people felt more responsible for each other, at least in my experience.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
Make ethical practice your most important goal.
Don’t let a depressing healthcare environment get you down.
Do your best for each patient; treat each patient as an individual.
Know the laws in your area; make it your responsibility, even if you did not learn this kind of information in your school.