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Mary Ellen Williams M.S. '88




April 11, 2012

Mary Ellen Williams M.S. '88


Registered Nurse, Hospice Care Network

Professional Career:

After completing her master’s degree in 1988, Ms. Williams took several years off to raise her family. During this time she stayed abreast of new technologies and practices by reading nursing journals and volunteering with a local hospice program. In 1999, she began volunteering more earnestly, and was able to translate her experience in oncology into a position with the Hospice Care Network.

Her role includes counseling patients and families on their care options at the end of their illness. Although it is emotionally demanding (she admits that she cries nearly every day), Ms. Williams finds her work very rewarding.

“We will do whatever we can to make sure that a patient’s last wishes are honored,” she says. “This is the most difficult time of someone’s life, and we can make it a little more manageable.”

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

I volunteered in nursing homes during my college years, and I was really impressed by the nurses I saw. They were truly engaged in relationship-oriented work, not task-oriented work, and I found that very appealing. I realized then that I could have a professional job, with security, that would always be rewarding. So, in 1976, I went to New York University to earn a second bachelor’s degree in nursing and, in 1981, while working as assistant head nurse at North Shore Hospital, I enrolled at Adelphi for my master’s degree.

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

My master’s degree from Adelphi made me see nursing in a different light. I developed a deeper respect and passion for the nursing profession by watching how much the faculty cared about the students. I especially remember Barbara Rottkamp, who bridged the gap between clinical practice and research, and Christine Miaskowski, who had such excitement about what nurses can do. I don’t think I could have finished my thesis without her pushing me.

At Adelphi, my nursing career also moved into a specialty I never thought I’d be involved with. One of our requirements was to work with a clinical nurse specialist. Seeing what an advanced practice nurse did in the field of oncology really opened my eyes to the diverse needs of patients and how nurses could help meet those needs. I was never bored, and so I stayed.

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

Patients today are so much more involved in their own healthcare choices. When I began, doctors made many critical decisions, even “Do Not Resuscitate” orders, without consulting the patient or family. Today, most patients and families know their rights and can make sure that patients’ wishes are followed.

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

Understand the fact that you are going to grow in your career, and your role will change as you mature. Where you are now is not where you will be in one, five, or 10 years.

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