Journal of Gerontological Nursing

Spotlight 

Doris Schwartz: An Exemplar of Personal, Social, and Creative Courage

Cornelia K Beck, RN, PhD, FAAN

Abstract

In the writings and work of Florence Nightingale, twins were born. These twins were modern nursing and nursing research. Likewise, modern gerontological nursing and gerontological nursing research were born as twins in the work of the gerontological nurse pioneers of the 50s and 60s (Adams, 1986). What a wonderful occasion it is for us to be honoring one of these original pioneers of gerontological nursing - Doris Schwartz. The contributions of her 50 years of nursing truly make her a living legend, as recognized last year by the American Academy of Nursing.

And what an honor to be receiving the inaugural Doris Schwartz Award for gerontological nursing research. The joint sponsorship of this award by the Gerontological Society of America and the Hartford Foundation speaks to the stature which gerontological nursing research has reached by standing on the shoulders of great nurses like Doris Schwartz. For all of the gerontological nurse researchers in this country, I would like to thank the Hartford Foundation for the recognition of the importance of nursing care for older adults and their incredible support of gerontological nursing. Their generous support has provided the resources to help disseminate the knowledge generated from gerontological nursing research more broadly to nursing students and the nurses caring for the elderly. This generosity certainly attests to the foresight of the Hartford Foundation. It means a lot to have them advocating on our behalf.

I would like to thank my colleagues who nominated me for this award and to the gerontological nurse leaders at New York University for their efforts to assure that excellence in gerontological nursing practice, education, and research is acknowledged within our profession.

When one receives such an award, it is natural to reflect on those who have influenced one's work. So, I want to mention a couple of important women in my nursing career. First, a teacher, Dr. Jeanette Grosicki, a Teachers College graduate and I guess a missionary to the small town of Conway, Arkansas, pushed me in my master's program to appreciate nursing research. It was years later that I discovered that her research in operant conditioning and incontinence was seminal work in geropsychiatric nursing. Secondly, a very important mentor in my life, Dr. Beverly Baldwin, taught me to dream the impossible. She once gave me a ceramic jar that still sits on my desk. On it is written "Brazen proposals." I think of her many times since her untimely death and am grateful for her influence in my life. My long-time co-investigators, Drs. Patricia Heacock and Suzie Mercer also deserve mention because we have worked hand in hand for more than 15 years with the motto, "If we quit laughing and having a good time, we need to quit."

Although I am the person standing up here today receiving this award, it really goes to all of those who have stood behind, beside, and around me during my career. My heartfelt thanks to goes them.

It has been a real blessing for me over the past few months to learn more about the life of the woman in whose honor this award is given. As I began to read about her life, I felt proud of some of the similarities that the first 50 years of my life have had with hers. We are both from large families, both had our first nursing jobs with the Visiting Nurses Association, and both spent some time looking at nursing care of the elderly in Scotland. However, as I read more about this great woman and pondered her generosity, wisdom, and courage, I was greatly humbled. I…

In the writings and work of Florence Nightingale, twins were born. These twins were modern nursing and nursing research. Likewise, modern gerontological nursing and gerontological nursing research were born as twins in the work of the gerontological nurse pioneers of the 50s and 60s (Adams, 1986). What a wonderful occasion it is for us to be honoring one of these original pioneers of gerontological nursing - Doris Schwartz. The contributions of her 50 years of nursing truly make her a living legend, as recognized last year by the American Academy of Nursing.

And what an honor to be receiving the inaugural Doris Schwartz Award for gerontological nursing research. The joint sponsorship of this award by the Gerontological Society of America and the Hartford Foundation speaks to the stature which gerontological nursing research has reached by standing on the shoulders of great nurses like Doris Schwartz. For all of the gerontological nurse researchers in this country, I would like to thank the Hartford Foundation for the recognition of the importance of nursing care for older adults and their incredible support of gerontological nursing. Their generous support has provided the resources to help disseminate the knowledge generated from gerontological nursing research more broadly to nursing students and the nurses caring for the elderly. This generosity certainly attests to the foresight of the Hartford Foundation. It means a lot to have them advocating on our behalf.

I would like to thank my colleagues who nominated me for this award and to the gerontological nurse leaders at New York University for their efforts to assure that excellence in gerontological nursing practice, education, and research is acknowledged within our profession.

When one receives such an award, it is natural to reflect on those who have influenced one's work. So, I want to mention a couple of important women in my nursing career. First, a teacher, Dr. Jeanette Grosicki, a Teachers College graduate and I guess a missionary to the small town of Conway, Arkansas, pushed me in my master's program to appreciate nursing research. It was years later that I discovered that her research in operant conditioning and incontinence was seminal work in geropsychiatric nursing. Secondly, a very important mentor in my life, Dr. Beverly Baldwin, taught me to dream the impossible. She once gave me a ceramic jar that still sits on my desk. On it is written "Brazen proposals." I think of her many times since her untimely death and am grateful for her influence in my life. My long-time co-investigators, Drs. Patricia Heacock and Suzie Mercer also deserve mention because we have worked hand in hand for more than 15 years with the motto, "If we quit laughing and having a good time, we need to quit."

Cornelia K. Beck, RN, PhD, FAAN accepting the Doris Schwartz Award for Gerontological Nursing Research.

Cornelia K. Beck, RN, PhD, FAAN accepting the Doris Schwartz Award for Gerontological Nursing Research.

Although I am the person standing up here today receiving this award, it really goes to all of those who have stood behind, beside, and around me during my career. My heartfelt thanks to goes them.

It has been a real blessing for me over the past few months to learn more about the life of the woman in whose honor this award is given. As I began to read about her life, I felt proud of some of the similarities that the first 50 years of my life have had with hers. We are both from large families, both had our first nursing jobs with the Visiting Nurses Association, and both spent some time looking at nursing care of the elderly in Scotland. However, as I read more about this great woman and pondered her generosity, wisdom, and courage, I was greatly humbled. I realized that it would probably take the next 50 years of my life to emulate and develop the qualities that her life embodies.

Let me tell you a few of her many accomplishments. Early in her career she served as a public health nurse for the Indian Health Service in Arizona, spent several years during World War II on a hospital ship, co-authored one of the first geriatric nursing texts, and developed the first geriatric nurse practitioner program in the 1970s.

One of my favorite sayings is that the greatness of a person's life is not measured by what one does, but by who one is. So from my reflections on Doris Schwartz' life, I would like to share with you some of the qualities her example tells us we need to develop so that our nursing research can make the most significant contributions possible.

These qualities are personal, social, and creative courage.

First, we need personal courage, the courage to develop as individuals, to actualize our unique individual potential, and to know ourselves. While it is true that we need to obtain the educational credentials for conducting the work of scientists, unless we are willing to know ourselves first, to accept ourselves, and to always continue to grow, we will not be able to use what we have learned to effect real change in our profession and in our world.

To achieve this self-awareness we must make time for life-giving play. Eric Hoffer reminds us that man is shaped less by what he has to do, than by what he does in playful moments (Hoffer, 1973). We need these playful moments to shape ourselves. We must also plan time for leisurely thinking, creating a zone of silence within ourselves to mull over ideas quietly and peacefully. This sense of centeredness and quietness will allow us to select our research endeavors with a thoughtfulness about their potential to improve the quality of care to older persons.

In addition to personal courage, we need social courage. We grow not only by being ourselves, but also by participating in other selves. Social courage is the courage to relate to other human beings, to risk letting other persons know us in an authentic way, and to test our ideas and feelings with others.

In our endeavors to be professional and scholarly, it is tremendously important that we live in an authentically human way, respecting the unique individuality of each person, [being] open to others, [being] generous, and stimulating one another.

Scholarship derives its strength not only from honest self-criticism, but also from the testing of ideas in the arena of colleagues' perceptive, penetrating, and challenging questions. This demands social courage.

Doris Schwartz' personal and social courage is demonstrated in her willingness to question the status quo. While teaching undergraduates at Cornell, she took care of some of her students' Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) patients during the students' spring break. After this experience in 1966, she wrote a letter to the executive director of VNS detailing some of her concerns about patient care. This letter was published in Geriatric Nursing last year and I think embodies her social courage. She writes about a 62-yearold man who was a total paraplegic and lived alone in a one-room apartment. He had been labeled as uncooperative and his record contained much misinformation about the origin of his injury and his educational background. Doris recognized his personhood and his potential for re-engaging in life. She wrote:

each of us might work to support his personhood and develop a therapeutic plan of care. Needless to say, the patient's thinking ought to be as central to the plan as the judgment of any professional (Ebersole, 1997).

Doris Schwartz, in this instance and many others in her life, displayed personal and social courage.

Finally, we need creative courage. In Doris Schwartz' book about her life, there is a chapter entitled "The verb 'To Wonder'" (Schwartz, 1995). She writes that this verb, to wonder, has always seemed to her a special treasure of the English language. Doris observed patient care situations and perceived them in a way in which new relationships among variables were recognized. She looked closely and asked questions. She had a sense of wonder, a creative courage.

She also recognized that creativity is not a painless process. The birth of anything takes time and is accomplished by some pain. Those people who wish to avoid discomfort are not likely to be found creating anything.

Essentially, the call to creative courage is an invitation to personal growth, spontaneity, a sense of wonder, and openness to new experiences. But, creativity takes time and freedom from excessive pressure and trivial busy work. The hurried, pressured, tense lives of many would-be scholars explain their inability to do truly groundbreaking work.

Rollo May states that the need for creative courage in a profession corresponds with the degree of change the profession is experiencing (May, 1975). In the midst of our radical changes, we need courageous creative persons to appreciate and direct this change.

With personal, social, and creative courage, each of us can contribute to the synthesis of both humanistic and scientific knowledge. My challenge to you is to work toward understanding yourself and your emotions more fully, to be authentic and generous in stimulating and supporting one another, and to allow yourself the discomfort and the joy of creative courage.

In gerontological nursing, we have received a rich inheritance. We stand on the shoulders of great women like Doris Schwartz. They have given us a legacy that is rich with courage, generosity, integrity, and will. Their inquisitive minds, their undying concern for patients, and their wisdom about what really matters are the characteristics that we as the current generation of nurse researchers must strive to embody and to pass on to the next generation. The quality of our research and what we choose to research will be greatly influenced by who we are and who we become as persons. The personal, social, and creative courage which Doris Schwartz has exemplified, is a wonderful model for us to emulate and we thank her today for her courage and vision. What a wonderful inheritance we have been given!

REFERENCES

  • Adams, M. (1986). Aging: Gerontological nursing research. In H.H. Werley, JJ. Fitzpatrick, & R.L. Taunton (Eds.), Annual review of nursing research (pp. 77103). New York: Springer.
  • Ebersole, P. (1997). Doris Schwartz: A creative role for faculty in community health. Geriatric Nursing, 18(2), 83-84.
  • Hoff er, E. (1973). Reflections on the human condition. New York: Harper & Row.
  • May, R. (1975). Courage to create. New York: Norton.
  • Schwartz, D.R. (1995). My fifty years in nursing. New York: Springer.

10.3928/0098-9134-19991101-06

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