Dr. Karen Lorentzen (née Hansen) '54

Alumni


 

Published:

April 17, 2012
Tagged: College of Nursing and Public Health, Garden City
 

Dr. Karen Lorentzen (née Hansen) '54

Alumni


 

Former Registered Nurse, Nurse-Educator

Professional Career:

After graduating from Adelphi’s School of Nursing in 1954, Dr. Lorentzen became a clinical instructor for Adelphi, in the pediatric unit at Meadowbrook Hospital. From the start, she enjoyed her dual role, as a practicing nurse and a clinical educator. This position launched a career dedicated to education. “It’s where I started,” she recalls. “And I never looked back.”

One year after Dr. Lorentzen and her husband Carl, who she met at Adelphi, married, his career brought them to the Midwest. “With each promotion, was a move,” says Dr. Lorentzen, who relocated across the country for the next several years as her husband continued to be promoted.

“I always managed to keep my hand in nursing,” says Dr. Lorentzen. Whether in Ohio or Wisconsin, doing clinical work, or teaching in hospital schools of nursing, Dr. Lorentzen was able to find work wherever they moved; she attributes this to her previous work experience and having earned her bachelor’s degree. “Wherever I went, and I have been all over the country and in many different settings, my Adelphi degree was highly regarded by my employers,” says Dr. Lorentzen.

In 1960, while Dr. Lorentzen and her family were living in New York, she applied and was accepted to the professional nurse trainee program offered at St. John’s University. In 1961, she received her master’s degree in nursing education, with a specialty in teaching in schools of nursing.

“As a teacher, you can impact lives in ways you have never dreamed,” says Dr. Lorentzen. 

She taught in two hospital schools of nursing in New York before relocating to Wisconsin, and eventually moving to Massachusetts in the late 1960s. In 1972, Dr. Lorentzen accepted a faculty position at Burlington High School in Massachusetts, working while also raising five children.

“My mother would always tell me that I would go to school forever if I could,” says Dr. Lorentzen, who applied to the doctoral program at Boston University’s School of Education in 1974, graduating with her Ed.D. in health education and health promotion in 1978.

That same year, Dr. Lorentzen joined the faculty of the College of Health Professions, University of Massachusetts Lowell, as assistant professor. Over the years she ascended the ranks to full professor, and by 1982, she was promoted to chairperson of the University’s Department of Health. She held this position until her retirement in 1994, at which point she was named Professor Emerita.

“I love nursing. It has served me well,” says Dr. Lorentzen, who continues to stay involved in the field in retirement. “I like to keep my hand in nursing; it’s good to stay on top of your game,” she says. Dr. Lorentzen is still a licensed nurse in Massachusetts and continues to further her education, taking several courses each year.

This past June, Dr. Lorentzen’s husband passed away after 51 years of marriage. Dr. Lorentzen feels fortunate to have had such an encouraging husband, who was very supportive of her career; “He knew nursing was more than extremely important to me, it is part of who I am.”

Today Dr. Lorentzen lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and returns to Massachusetts to spend her summers. She has 11 grandchildren, and five children, “who are just as crazy about education as their mother!” says Dr. Lorentzen. In her free time, she loves to travel, and has been to nearly 40 countries!  Dr. Lorentzen plays a lot of golf and enjoys sailing when she is up in Maine. She is also an avid reader, and is interested in history, particularly the Elizabethan era.

When and why did you first want to become a nurse?

I grew up in Queens Village, New York, and went to Jamaica High School. I always had my sights on being a nurse. When I told my father I wanted to go into nursing he was not that happy, because he wanted me to be a teacher. Ironically, I ended up doing both nursing and teaching as my career path. I applied to a few nursing schools, but my guidance counselor strongly urged me to go to Adelphi to complete a baccalaureate program. It was great advice. I never regretted following it.

Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?

I loved the variety of Adelphi’s nursing program. I found it very stimulating to be off campus for our clinical experience, and to come back to campus for classes. I loved the clinical experience we received, and I particularly loved working with children. At that time, Meadowbrook had an extensive pediatric unit. I ultimately developed my specialty in pediatrics.

When I was a freshman at Adelphi, I met my husband Carl Lorentzen ’51, who was a senior. Adelphi served us both very well.

Two classes stand out in my mind. One was freshman English, taught by Dr. Murray, who was a nice and interesting professor. I really enjoyed that class; it cemented my love of literature and reading. I also have fond memories of my nursing arts instructor, Mrs. Capell. She was supportive, encouraging, and a great role model.

Ruth Harley and Dean Shay were strong, capable women who felt strongly about Adelphi’s Nursing Program. They had a forward vision of nursing and the role of women at that time. 

My Adelphi education taught me to always remember the human side in nursing. In pediatrics, I was dealing with sick children and their distraught families. I needed clinical competence to assure them, and compassion to comfort them. I still think about those children often; Adelphi prepared me well for those situations. 

Adelphi’s program was excellent, both academically and clinically; it prepared me very well for my career. I graduated feeling confident in my abilities as a college graduate and a professional nurse. I felt self-assured in not only my role as a professional nurse, but in my role as a professional woman. I have Adelphi to thank for that.

Wherever I went, and I have been all over the country and in many different settings, my Adelphi degree was highly regarded. You don’t know where life will take you; having the best preparation behind you is invaluable. 

What are some changes you have seen in nursing throughout the years?

Changes in technology have occurred since the time I was training to be a nurse. Today there is a high-tech approach in nursing and bedside care. You also see technology in teaching anatomy and physiology and other course work, which I experienced first-hand at the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Nursing.

What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?

Since you have chosen a great profession with endless opportunities, never limit your sights or desires professionally. While your basic degree is precious, also think of going beyond that…really consider the next degree. The increased opportunities that you will experience with additional degrees are worth the time, money, and effort you expend to obtain them.

 
Tagged: College of Nursing and Public Health, Garden City