Registered Nurse, Nurse Administrator
After graduation from Adelphi’s School of Nursing in 1961, Marylyn Bowman worked at Doctors Hospital, in Freeport and Flushing Hospital, while also taking time to start her family.
Following the birth of her third child, Mrs. Bowman joined Southside Hospital, Long Island’s oldest and largest community hospital. She spent eight years working as a staff nurse, after which she was promoted to evening supervisor. When the hospital underwent a shift in its nursing administration, Mrs. Bowman was chosen to be a director of the day shift. “In this capacity I was responsible for certain clinical areas,” says Mrs. Bowman, “primarily medical surgical.”
A number of years later, Mrs. Bowman was put in charge of Southside Hospital?s behavioral health services, which included psychiatry and detoxification services. Under her direction, the hospital opened a second psychiatric unit. The detoxification unit achieved a 100 percent score on their specialized Joint Commission survey. Mrs. Bowman cannot recall a single boring day during the eight years she managed these units.
In 1979, Mrs. Bowman was asked to open an oncology unit; the first in Suffolk County. Although her knowledge of oncology was not her strong point, she accepted the position, always ready to take on a challenge. In order to prepare for this new venture, Mrs. Bowman turned to her alma mater and she and members of her leadership team took advantage of the continuing education programs Adelphi offered in oncology. “We needed to gain the knowledge in order to teach our staff,” says Mrs. Bowman. “Adelphi’s continuing education program helped me to stay current throughout my career, not only in oncology but also in many other areas of nursing, including leadership.” She also served on the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society, and served as an officer in the local chapter as well.
Over the 38 years that she worked at Southside Hospital, Mrs. Bowman held a variety of positions, including patient representative and utilization review coordinator. She recalls that in such roles, she missed the personal caring aspect of nursing; “I always came back to nursing,” says Mrs. Bowman. “I had a wonderful career, and Adelphi started it out.” Mrs. Bowman retired in 2003.
In retirement, Mrs. Bowman continues her nursing education by reading journals, including Nursing Spectrum. She continues as a member of the Ethics Committee at Southside Hospital. She is on the Board of Directors of the Islip Breast Cancer Coalition, and belongs to District 19. When she retired a few years ago, she was named “Outstanding Nurse, District 19.” Among other awards, Mrs. Bowman has been named “New York State, Southside Nurse of Excellence” and “Volunteer of the Year” by the American Cancer Society.
Today, Mrs. Bowman lives with her husband, Ken, in Great River, Long Island. She has three children and five grandchildren. In her free time, Mrs. Bowman enjoys attending her exercise classes and reading; she belongs to two book clubs. She also loves to travel and spend time with her grandchildren.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
I always wanted to be a nurse. Since the age of three I said so; how I even knew what a nurse was that young I don’t know! My father was the one who found out you could go to college and be a nurse, which was unusual in the 1950s. Nobody in my family had gone to college before me. My father had always wanted to be a doctor and to go to college, but he didn’t have the money. I was accepted to Adelphi, and began in 1957.
I am so happy I became a nurse; I have absolutely no regrets about my career. I can’t think of another profession that would have allowed me to experience such pleasure and satisfaction.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
When I was at Adelphi, Mildred Montag was at Teachers College, Columbia University. She was a nursing innovator and leader.a pioneer in modern nursing.
Dean Shay was the dean of the School of Nursing when I started, and Professor Jacobi, who taught several of our classes, was promoted to dean before we graduated from Adelphi.
I remember one class that was very interesting. It was entitled Community Surveys. We took six or seven field trips into the city during which we would study different cultures. For example, one day would be Jewish day, and we would visit a Jewish temple, home, and restaurant. I remember that to be such a fun class.
We used to love snowy days. We would bundle up and go for a walk, usually to a diner on Hempstead Turnpike. It was a great bonding experience.
Adelphi was very different from other nursing programs. We were given our caps, uniforms, white stockings, and white shoes our first year. Unlike other schools, which dressed their nurses differently each year (starting with black stockings, no apron, only one stripe on their caps), at Adelphi, the freshmen were dressed the same as the senior nurses. My senior year, I was an officer for the New York State Nurses Association; when one of my classmates and I were sent to a convention with other nurses, we were the only ones in yellow uniforms. Everyone thought we were so unique.
I still have all my Adelphi yearbooks, I treasure them. I treasure them because I treasure my time at Adelphi. We all do. My favorite memory is always remembering the wonderful women who were my classmates. We were a very unique mixture of women and still to this day have exciting and fun reunions together on a regular basis.
What are some changes you have seen in nursing throughout the years?
When I first started as a nurse, disposable equipment did not exist. We had to wash and sterilize all of our equipment. Gradually disposable equipment was introduced including needles and syringes in 1957. There were different size needles for different uses; each size was a different color, in order to distinguish them from each other. I remember being told not to memorize the colors, because someday the colors could change, and then we would not know which to use. I retired in 2003; just before I did, the colors were changed!
When I graduated from Adelphi, there were no intensive care units or cardiac care units. In the nursery, babies weren’t on ventilators; ventilators didn’t even exist. Chemotherapy was just a dream for cancer patients, there were few psychiatric drugs, ether was the common anesthetic agent, rehabilitation was a brand new specialty, and medicine and antibiotics consisted primarily of penicillin and chloromycetin. Since then, there have been incredible advances made in nursing technology, equipment, and medications.
Now because of these advances, every area of nursing practice has become very highly specialized. In order to keep up, you need to constantly be reading, studying and updating your knowledge in your specialty. Adelphi’s continuing education programs made a significant contribution to helping me stay current throughout my career. As a manager, I had to know what my staff was doing, and if they were doing it right. I was on numerous committees to bring new technology into the hospital which required me to keep updated on new equipment and its usage.
Cost containment has become a very large responsibility for nurses, both staff and management. Nurses sit on this and all other hospital committees as they are seen as pivotal people in achieving financial balance.
Nurses now have to be very involved in the supervision of care given by ancillary personnel. I don’t think they are prepared for this role when they are coming out of nursing school where the focus has been largely direct patient care.
To achieve and maintain excellence in care, the nurse to patient ratio really needs to improve. I don’t know how this is going to be accomplished though, because of ongoing budgetary constraints.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
The largest success in achieving advancement in my career was my continuous pursuit of education. I would advise today’s students to do the same; pursue your education. Additionally, I would advise any new nurse to seek challenging experiences, embrace change, and never lose your sense of humor!
At the hospital, I used to tell newly graduated nurses this: you are going to be busy, it will be hard work, and you will care for many patients, but remember something. The patient does not remember the nurse who adjusts the machine, checks the IV, or takes your blood pressure. The patient remembers the nurse who says, “I remember your son wasn’t feeling well the other day. How is he today?” Interject something personal in your care; it doesn’t take extra time to do this while you go about your work.