Registered Nurse Case Manager, North Shore-LIJ Health System at Long Island Jewish Medical Center
Diane Powell credits her Adelphi record and nursing degree with enabling her to obtain the position of her choice at Montefiore Hospital’s Loeb Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation when she started the workforce. In 1972, Adelphi was known for providing a quality education to its nursing students. “When I graduated, I was proud to wear my School of Nursing pin and be known as an Adelphi graduate,” says Ms. Powell.
As a staff nurse, Ms. Powell quickly found that “People open up to nurses in ways that are unimaginable; within minutes, you are right there participating in one of the most vulnerable periods in a person’s life. The opportunity presents itself to help bring the person and family through the crisis period,” she says.
While working in the intensive care unit at Montefiore Hospital, she remembers one of her friends asking her, “How can you do that job everyday?” Ms. Powell realized even though it was difficult to see people in such stressful situations each day, she felt that she was truly bringing something to help their situation. “I thought to myself, as bad off as that patient in the ICU and his family are, perhaps they are a little bit better because of something I did that day,” says Ms. Powell. “That allows you to go back the next day and try to help again.”
She remembers patients who had been severely burned or who had suffered a stroke, those who had a mastectomy, and those who had been in car accidents, and in particular, one woman who was in a coma in the ICU for months. “When she finally gained consciousness, her skin was beautifully intact, without a sore, because of the excellent nursing care we had provided in the ICU,” says Ms. Powell. “That’s when you are so proud to be a nurse; as a nurse you have the ability and knowledge to help people, to watch them get discharged safely back home to their families.”
Following her role in the ICU, Ms. Powell completed her master’s degree in nursing and education from New York University, after which she taught nursing at Adelphi full-time and Columbia University as an adjunct faculty member. After a stint as an assistant director of nursing in a nursing home, she consulted for the National League for Nursing in marketing, market research and education for Adelphi’s School of Nursing, including working on the 35thanniversary celebration for the School of Nursing.
During this time, Ms. Powell was involved in various professional nursing association committees in public relations and political action, so her next career move was a natural jump into full-time marketing and professional relations. After being presented with an appealing opportunity to work for Johnson & Johnson (New Jersey), she began her corporate career with this Fortune 100 corporation as manager of professional relations, participating with upper marketing and research management in many of the Johnson & Johnson companies, traveling extensively and presenting at many medical and nursing conferences and conventions around the country, and acting as a liaison for the company among research, marketing, and clinical corporate managers and healthcare professionals. She interacted with the media and interfaced with national professional associations for surgeons, specialty nurses, including infection control and wound care, and hospital administration.
“It was an exciting time in my life, and it brought me into the world of business and marketing for the first time. It felt natural to expand in this direction,” says Ms. Powell, who went to hold vice president/account supervisor positions in medical/pharmaceutical advertising agencies in New York City, and to complete her M.B.A. in 1989 from Adelphi’s School of Business. She received her Adult Nurse Practitioner Certificate in 1998 from Adelphi as well.
Since 2001, Ms. Powell has been back in a hospital setting, now working on Long Island as Registered Nurse Case Manager for the North Shore-LIJ Health System at Long Island Jewish Medical Center; she is nationally certified as a case manager, acting as an advocate for patients, mostly geriatrics, and their families while keeping an eye on the fiscal demands and needs of the institution. “I am utilizing my nursing education and experience, as well as much of what I learned in marketing management, professional and public relations in the business setting,” says Ms. Powell. “I hope to incorporate more of my business and marketing experience and ability into this evolving role in the future, in order to benefit patients, their families, and the NS-LIJ Health System.”
Ms. Powell feels fortunate to be married to her husband of nearly 37 years, Tom, who “has been a staunch supporter of my many career transitions, through clinical nursing, nursing education, marketing, advertising management, and consulting,” she says. Ms. Powell and her husband feel blessed to have two wonderful children, Kristen and Ryan.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
My mother was a registered nurse from Nebraska and Wyoming who served in the Army Nurse Corps in World War II; in England, she cared for the soldiers who were wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the fiercest battles of WWII. She was fascinated by the sciences, took her patient responsibilities seriously, working as a charge nurse in the operating room in an Army hospital, and had tremendous empathy for the young wounded soldiers. My dad was a neighborhood pharmacist; our family lived right above his drugstore in Brooklyn, so I spent a lot of time watching him greet and serve customers, as well as observing him accurately filling prescriptions and meticulously compounding medications. They called him “Doc,” and came to him for many of their common ailments, sometimes asking him to remove something from an eye, or to take a look at a sore foot. Looking back, I realize that I grew up with a living example of customer service with a capital “S.” There were times when my dad would open up the store on a Sunday morning to provide a vital prescription to a customer who needed an antibiotic or some other medication, or he would send one of my brothers out on a cold snowy morning to deliver a prescription to someone’s door. Once, my mom performed CPR on a customer in the store and saved a life.
Just like so many other young girls years ago, I had my “nurse kit,” with a plastic thermometer, stethoscope, and Band Aids, my white nurse’s outfit with a navy blue cape; I played nurse to my dolls regularly. In addition, I was surrounded by medical and nursing influences; my older brother became a pharmacist, my aunt was a registered nurse, and one of my uncles was also a pharmacist. I guess it was meant to be that I would become a nurse.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
Although I loved English and was initially planning to major in it at Queens College, I switched to nursing and transferred into Adelphi for the intellectual challenge of the sciences, and the opportunity to interact with people in situations when they are most in need of assistance and advocacy. When I first saw Adelphi, I knew it was for me. I thought it was a beautiful, green campus, and after growing up in Brooklyn and attending Queens College for one year, it was quite a contrast to be in what felt like a country club setting at Adelphi. The people I met were friendly; even as a transfer student I immediately felt at home. I remain friends with my fellow transfer nursing student, Claire Kraemer.
I felt fortunate that the faculty in the School of Nursing seemed to take a special interest in me and so many other students. I remember Juanita Wilson’s Psychological Coping Mechanisms course; besides being interesting, it was demanding, and she pulled the best out of us in that course, telling us “I think you can do better.” I don’t know how she knew, but she was right, and that small gesture of encouragement propelled me to continue to do my best in her course and throughout the rest of my nursing school years; I was honored to be awarded the Margaret T. Shay Award for Outstanding Sophomore Nursing Student my first year. I am so thankful for Professor Wilson’s encouragement when I was brand new at Adelphi, and for not accepting less than the best that she thought I could give; she made a difference in my life.
Dr. Madeline Schwaid made an impact as well; a nursing professor ahead of her time, she exposed the students to human/environmental issues that are being discussed even today in the “green” movement. This led me to help organize the first Earth Day at Adelphi in 1970, setting up recycling containers for bottles and cans at the entrance to the Student Union. This year, my daughter Kristen played a similar role on her law school campus; she has a special interest in environmental law. Dr. Schwaid would be pleased!
Other professors were mentors:
Dr. Jacqueline Hott encouraged me to apply for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Work Study program my junior year. As one of 32 students in New York State, I was exposed to an amazing educational clinical program at one of the world’s most renowned medical centers. Years later, Dr. Hott encouraged me to begin writing, and we collaborated as authors on two journal articles published in Nursing Outlook.
Dr. Terry Christy encouraged us to take responsibility for the future of our profession, exhorting us to get involved because, as she said, “If you don’t influence and direct your own profession, someone else will!” I believed she was right, and traveled with her and a busload of fellow students to Albany to lobby for the passage of the 1972 Nurse Practice Act, which updated a 1929 law so that the law governing nursing would match the reality of current nursing practice in 1972. The law passed that year, so I had the instant gratification of our lobbying efforts’ successes. Thanks to Dr. Christy, I was hooked on the power of the individual to make a difference in one’s profession and in society.
Dean June Rothberg was the Dean of the School of Nursing at the time; she served as an excellent role model for activism in effecting change in health care legislation and supporting political involvement among nurses to improve the healthcare system. She was involved with the first political action committee for the American Nurses Association, which was a template for NYSNA’s Nurses for Political Action. In 1975, only three years after graduating from Adelphi, I became the co-founder and first co-chairperson of NYS Nurses for Political Action, dedicating much of my time to communicating with nurses and the media about nursing’s impact on healthcare, and acting as a catalyst for improvements in the health care system.
Professors Eisenhauer, Pasquale, Wittmann, Kos, and Lamanno also remain fondly in my memory.
There was never a dull moment during my years at Adelphi; I was a member of Delta Gamma sorority, the Student Nurses Association, Adelphi Environmental Council/Zero Population Growth Club, Sigma Theta Tau and Delta Tau Alpha Honor Societies. I was selected for the Daisy Chain, elected Sophomore Class Secretary, and Senior Class Queen in the Homecoming parade. Besides the clinical job at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, I enjoyed being part of history with my position as a “Diamond Club Girl” at Shea Stadium when the Mets won the first World Series, and for three subsequent years afterwards.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
Do your personal best; keep your standards high in nursing. There will be many times when you will be tired or short-staffed, and the temptation might come to take a shortcut and skip some documentation, to leave a patient without saying the final word, or to not go back to see the patient at all, even if you promised. Remember to be thorough and do the right thing, and you will always leave at the end of the day with a good feeling that you have done the best that you can.
Remember the Adelphi motto: “The truth shall make us free.”
Try to be supportive of your colleagues, and to make your work situation as well as theirs a little better.
Take care of yourself. In a caring profession like nursing, if you don’t take care of yourself sometimes, there will be nothing left for you. Treat yourself to a little pampering once in awhile; get enough sleep and exercise.
Stay hopeful and be creative about your career, as there as so many choices within nursing; you will always find a career in nursing or a related field.
Remember, you can always make a change in your position, but try to think of your retirement plan from the very beginning of your career. Some public service positions and schools provide defined benefit pension plans, while some private and not-for-profit sector hospitals and facilities do not. Be aware of what you are signing up for when you take a position.
Don’t be afraid to take a risk if you see something else you want to try. It might turn out to be the best thing you ever do; it worked for me!