Clinical Nurse, Administrator, Educator, Consultant
For Mildred Kahane, a career in nursing has included time as a clinical nurse, an administrator, an educator, and a consultant, as well as a myriad of health related positions across the country. Through all of these, she retained a passion for community health projects and issues. After graduating from Adelphi, Mildred spent eight years at Meadowbrook Hospital, gaining valuable experience in bedside care, what she terms “hands-on nursing.” At the end of her tenure at “the Brook,” she was head nurse of a male med-surgical ward with more than 60 beds. During this time, there was a one month per year vacation policy, which she took full advantage of, discovering a love for travel. She and her friends criss-crossed the country by car three times.
From 1957 to 1960 (the year she married Al, her physician husband), she worked at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital as an in-service supervisor, and at the Evangelical Deaconess Hospital as Director of Nursing (both in Brooklyn). This was followed by four years in Anchorage, Alaska where Al was assigned as a physician in the Air Force. The frontier state offered her many exciting opportunities, and she seized them all with her usual enthusiasm. She was one of the first school nurses in Anchorage, then the first Executive Officer of the newly created Alaska Board of Nursing, and lastly, the first Director of Nursing of the Alaska Presbyterian Hospital.
In 1964, she and her husband left Alaska (and the Air Force) and moved to Fairfield, California where Al went into fee-for-service practice, and Mildred received a Public Health Nursing Scholarship to the University of California, San Francisco. In 1965, she earned her master’s degree and a certificate in Public Health Nursing, and was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau. That same year, they moved to Sacramento where he joined the Permanente Medical Group in the newly opened Kaiser Foundation Hospital, and Mildred received an appointment as an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Sacramento State College.
In 1968, Mildred was appointed to the California Board of Registered Nursing by then Governor Ronald Reagan. She served two terms, including one year as president. As a Board member, she toured the state approving nursing curricula for colleges, and establishing and enforcing licensing policies and practices. It was at this time that the Board developed regulations to implement new legislation for advanced practice nursing, and mandatory CEU’s for re-licensure.
Mildred was integral to development of the hospice movement in Sacramento, and worked with Congressman Bob Matsui to ensure that Medicare would cover hospice care for patients. She was involved in the establishment of an accredited nurse practitioner program, a collaborative effort between Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, Davis.
In 1985, Mildred joined the Kaiser Permanente Regional offices in Oakland, California as a consultant in the department of accreditation and regulation. She served as a liaison to the Hospital Nursing Administration, as well as to hospice, and home health agencies.
In 1995, after more than 20 years in nursing administration, in two major health systems, she retired. However, she remains active in the field, volunteering at Kaiser Permanente’s research division.
Throughout her professional career, Mildred has been involved in nursing and healthcare organizations on state and local levels. She has always believed that such participation is a professional responsibility.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
I think that I was always interested in becoming a nurse, but I also knew that I wanted a college education. When I learned that Adelphi was going to institute a four-year baccalaureate program I jumped at the opportunity, and was admitted to the first class. During my career, I found that being a graduate of a liberal arts program helped set me apart from many of my contemporaries, and opened the door to many opportunities. It formed the basis for my further education and career choices.
What changes in nursing have you observed during my career?
Most have been a product of the extraordinary advances in healthcare and related technology, although some reflected change in societal norms and pressures.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
Miss Montag, for her invaluable assistance with entrance to Adelphi and securing a scholarship; working part-time in the library, also the lines of nursing students getting their immunizations at the library; living in the dorms; camaraderie, also affiliations off campus. I loved the fact that classmates were assigned to wait tables in the dining room so that each evening, the other students had a sit-down dinner served. I recall the transition of an all women’s college to a co-ed campus, the continuous bridge games, and most of all the philosophy of a liberal arts education along with the requirements for nursing licensure for a four-year bachelor’s program. This background opened doors for many varied opportunities in my 40-year nursing career.
In my senior year, I shared a position with another student nurse at Nassau Hospital on the evening shift of a med-surg ward. The two of us provided total coverage for seven days, by alternating the days that each of us worked. This went on for the whole semester.
Off-campus, I spent time in a nursery school in the Bowery for child development, six weeks at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Farmingdale, and completed psychiatric and mental health residencies in Central Islip State Hospital – 6000 beds, locked wards, EST (shock therapy). Of course, I also have strong memories of Meadowbrook Hospital, (now Nassau County Medical Center) 3 floors, men, women, and pediatrics, med-surgical wards of six beds to a room. Our daily ward census varied between 60-100 patients.
Advice to today’s nursing students
Be part of the team. Sit at the table with other health care professionals – not just as nurses, but as patient advocates. Know your patient as a person. Contribute to the profession, have fun and make time for yourself.