Former Registered Nurse, Professor, Author
After graduating from Adelphi, Linda Tenenbaum went on to receive her master’s degree in nursing from Hunter College. Mrs. Tenenbaum worked as a staff nurse at the Veterans Administration Hospital and as a nurse clinician at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn before she moved to Florida in 1974. There she continued her work as a nurse at the Florida Medical Center.
“In the early 1980s I realized there was a need in Florida for knowledgeable nurses in the field of oncology, since the percentage of senior citizens was growing there,” recalls Mrs. Tenenbaum, who had always had a specific interest in cancer and chemotherapy. She applied for and received a National Cancer Institute Fellowship in Teaching Oncology Nursing, which she fulfilled with a year of study at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Upon returning to Florida, Mrs. Tenenbaum established oncology classes in the Associate Degree Nursing Program and Continuing Education Programs at Broward Community College. She assisted a neighboring vocational licensed practical nursing program in integrating oncology classes into its curriculum as well.
While teaching her oncology lectures at Broward Community College, Mrs. Tenenbaum remembers her students telling her: “You know so much, it would be great if you could put the information in a table format.” She began making such handouts for the students in her class, and before she knew it, students taking other people’s classes began requesting copies of her work. Seeing this, Mrs. Tenenbaum decided to write a book.
Early in her career, she had recognized a need for an educational piece targeted for nurses. While working in the clinical setting as a nurse, Mrs. Tenenbaum distinctly remembers going to the pharmacy to pick up drugs and seeing the pharmacists working under hoods, wearing protective gloves, gowns, and masks. When she saw the nurses administering the drugs upstairs on the patient floors, however, they were without such protective gear, and sometimes even had their coffee and snacks sitting next to the powerful medicine. “I knew it was not being treated correctly,” says Mrs. Tenenbaum, “At that point I saw a need for further education.”
By 1989, her book, Cancer Chemotherapy: A Reference Guide, was published. “The information in my book was designed to meet the needs of nurses employed in the hospital, clinic, or home health setting,” she says. While her book was geared toward nurses, many physicians bought the book for their fellows, residents, and personal libraries, because it contained a vast amount of information on cancer and chemotherapy valuable to all health care professionals. Just as her students originally requested, Mrs. Tenenbaum frequently included information in chart and table form for easy reference.
Nearly 30,000 copies of Mrs. Tenenbaum’s book were sold in the first five years. The American Journal of Nursing named her work the “Book of the Year,” marking the first time this had ever happened to a first time seller. In response to the obvious need for educational materials in this rapidly changing field, Mrs. Tenenbaum published the second edition of her book, Cancer Chemotherapy and Biotherapy: A Reference Guide, in 1994. Thoroughly updated and expanded, this comprehensive and practical guide continues to be used today by health care professionals in all oncology settings.
Graduating from Adelphi as an active member of the Student Nurses Association at the school, local, state, and national levels, Mrs. Tenenbaum continued her involvement through professional nursing associations. She participated in the American Nurses Association in New York and the Florida Nurses Association, and attended national conventions and served on area boards in both states. She played an instrumental role in forming chapters of the Oncology Nursing Society, first in Miami for Dade and Broward counties, and then a separate chapter in Broward County. She held office in the Dade/Broward chapter and was an active member of the Broward chapter until she retired.
Throughout her career and in retirement, Mrs. Tenenbaum has also been committed to cancer organizations, such as the American Cancer Society (ACS). As a volunteer for the ACS in the early 1980s she taught classes for the public on cancer prevention and early detection. She also formed a team in her community for “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer;” the team has been participating in the annual walk-a-thon every year since 1983! In 1988, she became a part of the ACS committee “Relay for Life,” in which she is still active; today she chairs the food committee. Three years ago, Mrs. Tenenbaum founded “Coupons4Cancer,” a project she created in which she sends coupons to people via online coupon trade groups for direct donations, an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society. In 2008 Mrs. Tenenbaum was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her commitment and volunteer service to the American Cancer Society, the community, and the nation.
Mrs. Tenenbaum has been retired since 2000. She and her husband Arthur still live in Florida; they have four children.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
At 16, I was hospitalized with anemia and that was when I decided I wanted to become a registered nurse. When I returned to the hospital to find out about their school of nursing, the nurses who I had gotten to know during my hospitalization did not allow me to see the school director; instead, they told me to go to college to get my degree.
My high school guidance counselor knew nothing about colleges for nursing. With the help of the head of the guidance department, my guidance counselor and I did research and found several schools that offered nursing programs. I chose Adelphi and am ever so glad that I made that decision. While attending Adelphi, and even several years after I graduated, I returned to my high school each year on career day to inform the students of the various avenues of education for nursing.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
Dean Eileen Jacobi was a wonderful inspiration to me. How could I ever forget her? In an interview at the end of my freshman year I remember she told me that I was an asset to the school and had a lot of potential. Those words were such a great encouragement for a young girl from Brooklyn entering the nursing profession. I really loved that Dean Jacobi took a personal interest in each student.
Dr. Justina Eisenhauer was my favorite nursing professor. She had a world of knowledge to impart on her students and always interjected personal stories about her own nursing experience that held my interest.
My fondest memories are of the friends I met in my nursing classes, who I lived with at the Meadowbrook Hospital’s nursing residence in my sophomore, junior, and senior years at Adelphi. They shared so many experiences with me. Many of my classmates are my lifelong friends, and we still see each other throughout the year.
Upon graduating from Adelphi, I felt that I had received an excellent balance of knowledge and clinical experience. One concept that was drilled into me at Adelphi was that I was being taught principles that I could carry forth and apply in a variety of situations. I found this to be very helpful throughout my career. I realized I did not need to learn how to do every single task and procedure to be able to perform it well when the time came; I found I could do the task at hand by applying the basic principles that I had learned at Adelphi.
I am grateful for my years at Adelphi, for the knowledge each professor imparted on me, for the friends I made there, and for the world it opened to me; a world of never-ending learning experiences.
What are some changes you have seen in nursing throughout the years?
While I was a nurse clinician at Maimonides Hospital, I developed a nursing care plan in which nurses learned about goals for nursing care, nursing interventions etc., and classes were held for all levels of nursing personnel from supervisors to nursing assistants. One of the changes I instituted was for there to be more bedside care and less paperwork for the nurse. The unit secretaries were trained to transcribe orders for X-rays and laboratory tests and to handprint the slips for these procedures and tests; it was 1967, a time before computers. I also instituted bedside rounds to be done by the charge nurse, and created more time on the floor for the nurse, instead of at the desk.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
I attribute my success over the years to one lesson I learned at Adelphi: always make a personal connection. This stayed with me throughout my nursing and publishing career. Remember, it should always be person over ailment.
Another thing I learned at Adelphi was that hearing is the last sense to go. I always taught this to my students and the people that I worked with. Regardless of what you think a person’s condition is, talk to them.
Nursing is an ever-changing profession. Get enough clinical experience before moving on to education and/or administration. Never stop learning. Be involved in professional and community activities; it is very rewarding. Enjoy life; stay healthy and happy.