Her former Adelphi nursing professor, Jacqueline Brandwein, described her this way: “If you met Ms. Whalen, it wasn’t just that you’d remember her…she was the kind of person whose presence was so strong that you would never forget her.”
Before she came to Adelphi, Ms. Whalen worked at Elmhurst Hospital Center in the Office of Strategic Planning and Development. Among her many accomplishments was securing a significant grant that enabled the hospital to build a state-of-the-art comprehensive cancer treatment facility.
When a member of the hospital’s administration approached Ms. Whalen to inform her that the hospital would pay for her education if she was interested in returning to school, Ms. Whalen knew exactly what she wanted to pursue: nursing. She always felt that nursing was the only way she could make a real difference in the world.
She enrolled at Adelphi for its nursing program’s excellent reputation. She excelled in her studies, earning her place in Sigma Theta Tau International, the honor society in nursing. She also served as the first vice president for the Nursing Students’ Association of New York State for the 2008-2009 term.
After graduating summa cum laude from Adelphi in 2009, she took a position at Elmhurst as a nurse in the hospital’s emergency department. The busy, fast-paced environment was a perfect fit for an energetic Ms. Whalen.
Her family and colleagues described her as compassionate. She smiled for everyone and had a desire to do whatever it took to make sure each and every patient felt valued.
In addition to practicing nursing, she was interested in research and how that knowledge could contribute to the advancement of her profession. In 2009, she was part of the team that decided to perform a retrospective review of the initial implementation of Elmhurst Hospital Center’s multi-service induced hypothermia program. The review was presented at the hospital’s annual Nursing Research Conference highlighting nursing’s integral role in the implementation of such a program.
A leader in the ER, she was promoted to a nurse educator at Elmhurst Hospital Center Emergency Department. When she was given 12 new nurses (compared to the two to three trainees a preceptor typically takes on), she was thrilled. She dedicated herself to enhancing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of a new generation of nurses.
Ms. Whalen considered her co-workers to be family. She was proud to work with colleagues who developed mutual respect for each other and created strong bonds. It was through team work that they created a high-quality work environment. Together, they were committed to providing patients with the best care possible.
In June 2013, Ms. Whalen was shocked to learn she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The day after she was diagnosed, she returned to work—to what she always referred to as her “dream job.”
Two months later, on August 23, Ms. Whalen celebrated her 42nd birthday with a fundraiser to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCAN) at Citifield. Surrounded by family and friends, Ms. Whalen and her supporters raised more than $5,000.
A daughter to devoted parents, a sister to a loving brother, a mother to two beautiful daughters, and a nurse to thousands of patients throughout her career, Ms. Whalen lost her battle with cancer on December 21, 2013.
The impact she made in the lives of others—through her spirit and passion, her strength and her positive attitude—will never be forgotten. To honor their daughter’s memory at her alma mater, in 2014 Ms. Whalen’s parents, Thomas and Carol, decided to establish a scholarship in their daughter’s name.
With their meaningful generosity, Ms. Whalen’s love of nursing will live on through the lives of the students who are able to pursue their dreams of becoming nurses with the help of the Jennifer Whalen Leadership in Nursing Scholarship.
The Jennifer Whalen Leadership in Nursing Scholarship will be awarded to students who exemplify leadership, compassion, and collegiality, the values by which Ms. Whalen lived.