Registered Nurse, Nurse-Educator
Former Associate Professor of Nursing at Adelphi University
After graduating from Adelphi’s School of Nursing in 1953, Barbara Rottkamp spent the summer working as a camp nurse in East Hampton, before joining Meadowbrook Hospital as a staff nurse, and then taking on the role of head nurse of the recovery room at Mid-Island Hospital in Bethpage, New York.
“In pursuit of more of a challenge, I took the head nurse position in the recovery room at Nassau Hospital, today Winthrop Hospital,” says Dr. Rottkamp. “Having a bachelor’s degree, the director of nursing promoted me to supervisor of medical surgical nursing.” Following this position, Dr. Rottkamp enrolled at St. John’s University to pursue her master’s degree in supervision and administration. “I came to understand that getting a master’s degree would enhance my abilities as a supervisor,” she says.
Upon completing this degree, Dr. Rottkamp accepted the position of director of staff education at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia. In this role, her primary responsibility was the development of team leaders for team nursing. “In order to more fully achieve that goal, I developed a new position in the department for a non-nurse ward manager,” says Dr. Rottkamp. She recruited, trained, and successfully implemented the position, relieving the team leader of clerical work, thereby increasing the clinical hours that that team leader could provide patients.
At Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Rottkamp was also responsible for teaching a program for nurses’ aides in practical nursing. “The program was created so that nurses’ aides working at the hospital could obtain a practical nurse license waiver,” explains Dr. Rottkamp. This teaching experience had a great impact on her career. “It influenced me to change my career from nursing service to nursing education,” she says.
Dr. Rottkamp returned to New York to pursue this dream, enrolling in the master’s degree program in education at Teachers College, Columbia University. After receiving her degree in 1965, she accepted a position as a lecturer at Hunter College, where she spent two years teaching in the classroom and clinical setting. She loved teaching, and especially enjoyed interacting with her wonderful and gifted students.
“In order to gain security and status in higher education, I realized it was necessary to pursue a doctoral degree,” recalls Dr. Rottkamp. She returned to Teachers College to build on her master’s in education by pursuing her doctorate. Following the completion of this degree in 1975, Dr. Rottkamp returned to Adelphi, as an assistant professor and later as an associate professor of nursing. “I taught primarily medical surgical nursing, almost exclusively in the graduate program,” she says.
“During my 17 years of teaching at Adelphi, I formed collegial relationships among the most committed and inspired practicing nurses in Long Island and New York City hospitals, as well as international students,” says Dr. Rottkamp. “It was most humbling, and always challenging.”
Upon retiring in 1992, Dr. Rottkamp bought a home on the North Fork of Long Island, or as she describes it: “in the land of vineyards and strawberry fields, country club living, golf, and lots of bridge.” Even in retirement, Dr. Rottkamp continued her career interests with part-time work in clinical nursing. She found several exciting opportunities in the nearby school districts.
While Dr. Rottkamp has been involved in numerous professional organizations throughout her career, an organization of particular interest to her was the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association; she was a member of their Taxonomy Committee. She has been widely published in the field of nursing; you can find her work in publications such as Nursing Outlook, American Journal of Nursing, Nursing Research, and Journal of Nursing Education. In 1991, Dr. Rottkamp was the recipient of the “Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nursing Scholarship and Research,” from the Nursing Education Alumni Association of Teachers College, Columbia University. She was inducted into the Teachers College Nursing Hall of Fame in 1999.
Today, Dr. Rottkamp’s love of education continues to thrive; she takes classes at Stony Brook University and is also a member of the ministry at the University’s Medical Center. Dr. Rottkamp also volunteers with the Long Island Blood Bank Center. Over the years she has traveled to Russia, Israel, China, the Greek Islands, South America, and Europe. A member of a big family, Dr. Rottkamp always enjoys their visits with each other.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
My older sister was a nurse and I admired her, and my mother also encouraged me to pursue nursing. Women only had so many options at the time – nursing, teaching, secretarial work – and nursing was an honorable profession. Adelphi had publicity at career day in my high school, and it caught my eye because it had a nursing program. I could go to college and become a nurse! I received an academic nursing half-scholarship and was able to enroll at Adelphi.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
There were 19 in my class, which was a pretty small group. We felt that we were rather privileged people, as Adelphi had one of the few baccalaureate programs in the country.
I enjoyed campus and I had really good friends, most of us lived locally. Even though we commuted our first year, we had the opportunity to live in dormitories, residing at Queens General Hospital, Meadowbrook Hospital, and Central Islip State Hospital during our clinical years. Pharmacology and the medical sciences were hard; one nice feature of dorm living was that we were able to study together. Also, during our clinical experiences, we were exposed to people that were ill, badly injured, and dying. We had each other to share experiences with and provide emotional support for each other.
I remember my anatomy and physiology instructors were great. Our nursing instructors, two of which were graduates of Adelphi’s Cadet Program, were wonderful people. I really felt privileged to have such great professors.
Margaret T. Shay was the dean of the School of Nursing when I was at Adelphi. She was quite a remarkable lady. My classmates and I were outspoken regarding what we felt we should have. I remember we wanted evening night shift experience (which I think we had a lot of insight for wanting to incorporate that into our learning), and Dean Shay worked it into our clinical experience. There was much to be admired about Dean Shay.
I remember being handed my diploma by University President Paul Dawson Eddy.
What are some changes you have seen in nursing throughout the years?
Aside from the technologies and electronics in acute care, I observe little changes in nursing practice today. I await the time when every person in society has a nurse who has the knowledge and expertise to understand his or her health needs, and will collaborate, at every turn, with other health care professionals.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
Realize the greatest satisfaction in nursing will derive from the enrichment you have brought to lives…to those whose health benefited from your ministrations. Know that you will experience recognition and appreciation from the institutions that support your services.