Each oncology nurse creates legacies of lasting impact on people who are living with cancer and its effects. The legacies can be created in a single or in multiple care interactions that are unforgettable for the ill person, family, and the nurse. Each issue of our journal includes legacies of oncology nurses. With this issue, we pay homage to the legacies of Dr Jeanne Quint Benoliel. There are infinite reasons to pay tribute to her legacies, including how she generated new knowledge from her research about transitions to living with terminal illness and to end of life, how she established graduate courses about caring for dying individuals, how she directly influenced the life course and personal development of healthcare professionals, how she profoundly affected clinicians and academics in professional organizations to improve dying, and how she created professional and personal collaborations that persisted across time and geography. Dr Benoliel’s personal and intellectual impact on others is beyond quantification. It is the words of close colleagues that represent the highest tributes to a life of legacies given to others. At Dr Benoliel’s memorial service, nurse colleagues fittingly paid tribute to her legacies, and with their permission, we offer portions of those tributes here:
Ruth McCorkle, PhD, RN, FAAN: “Philosophy has Plato, music has Mozart, art has Michelangelo, poetry has Dickinson, and nursing has Jeanne Quint Benoliel. I first met Jeanne over 40 years ago ‘in the stacks’ of the basement at the University of Iowa library. As I read her 1963 article, The Impact of Mastectomy (the first nursing research on the subject), she spoke directly to me. She had captured these women’s stories during firsthand interviews with them. I had never read a nurse who had used research to get into the hearts and minds and experiences of women. She opened a new world for me. I knew then that I had to meet this great woman…. I joined the faculty at the University of Washington in whatever position she would hire me. I knew from day one I was in the presence of greatness. Jeanne and I were a good team; she was the brains, and I was the clinical expert validating her every observation. With Jeanne’s brilliance, we brought her vision of personalized nursing care to life in a program called Oncology Transition Services. We built an oncology training and research team, and people came. They all came because they wanted to change the way dying patients were cared for in the United States. We knew there had to be a better way.”
Barbara McGrath, PhD, RN: “Her class on death and dying was infamous. The first day, she announced that we cannot help others deal with their impending deaths until we have examined our own feelings. We called it the ‘crying class’—tears flowed; we often were angry with her for pushing so hard, but insights emerged, and none of us came out of that class unchanged (or unscathed). She had a great intellect and wide ranging knowledge across many disciplines and so had deep understanding about death studies and human behavior, but her teaching style was nondirective. I recall she assigned a massive quantity of very eclectic readings, but in the classroom, she led discussions to get us to move beyond the published word. This nondirective style was particularly challenging as we all were sent out to work with cancer patients in their homes, often not sure of what we were doing, or why we were there. Being part of this program required emotional stamina.”
Marylin J. Dodd, PhD, RN, FAAN: “In the summer of 1973, there were 12 of us in the Death and Dying course—all of us having had considerable clinical experience before returning to graduate school. The manner in which Jeanne presented the content in that seminar gave us an opportunity to talk about our deepest experiences and unresolved grief and sadness that we had not often spoke about to anyone else. It was very clear that there were many wounds that had been internalized over the years that had haunted the graduate nursing students who were sharing their experiences. Jeanne wasn’t blown away by our candid sharing, rather she created a safe and trusting environment where the buried sorrow and grief could finally be spoken. These experiences in that seminar were only a part of the gift of Jeanne as a teacher. The other gift was quite existential; she challenged us to come to terms with our own mortality and its concomitant vulnerability. Finally, it was Jeanne’s contention that in order to provide care of patients and their families, nurses needed to be cared for. She asked, ‘how can we expect nurses to care for others, if nurses do not feel cared for themselves?’”
With thanks to Drs McCorkle, McGrath, and Dodd for their words of tribute to Dr Benoliel, I add my deep appreciation of a nurse heroine who championed research, clinical excellence, and discipline scholarship embedded in self-awareness. As the beneficiaries of Dr Benoliel’s legacies, we can all demonstrate our inheritance in our interactions with patients, families, and each other and with ideas.
My very best to you,
–Pamela S. Hinds, PhD, RN, FAAN