Dr Ruth McCorkle, a founding member of the Editorial Board for Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care, died on August 17, 2019, at her home. Tributes citing her well-deserved national and international awards have been distributed by a number of institutions and organizations, and we very much appreciate each tribute. Here, we speak of Ruth on a personal level. Ruth was a real force of personhood in oncology and oncology nursing. She fully recognized the essential role of oncology nurses at the point of care and spoke to the difference in outcomes for those patients and families who had such care. She was balanced in all of her initiatives between zeal and wisdom and was indefatigable in her efforts. When met with opposition, she would say with good humor, “They just don't get it,” and forward she went. She served as a program reviewer for many of us in our respective settings and would often be heard saying to an institutional leader, “You really have to get this about oncology nursing.” And there would be the careful bending of the leader to Ruth's slight figure to be certain to hear and have a chance of “getting it.” The “it” was what Ruth knew well—that oncology nurses made a positive difference in diminishing suffering—both the physical and existential suffering that can be part of the existence for seriously ill or dying persons. She knew this with complete certainty and advocated for our specialty with data and persuasive personhood.
Ruth was generous professionally and personally and always honest in that generosity. As part of her contributions to Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care, Ruth authored several editorials and INSIGHTS. In the latter, Ruth shared the experience of being accused and cleared of misconduct by a student (“Can Mentoring and Collaboration Lead to a Charge of Plagiarism?”), of experiencing cancer herself more than once (“Once a Nurse, Always a Nurse”), of caring for a nurse who was her oncology nurse and learning of the untimely death of that nurse (“When Staff Die Suddenly Before the Stage 4 Cancer Patient”), and, in her most recent INSIGHTS, of experiencing dying (“Trusting the GPS: Going Home”). Few others would consider being generous in such a way that was revealing to such an extent about self. However, Ruth chose to be generous and honest in the belief that such sharing might be of help to another in need.
Ruth provided mentorship, collegiality, and collaboration to those whom she worked with. She enjoyed making sure her mentees were successful, and she formed lasting and deep connections with many of them. Her passion to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families had an impact on everyone she worked with. It was our honor to be her colleague and friend and to write manuscripts, book chapters, and grants and undertake trials together. Ruth was the quintessential colleague; she was always open to others' work and was selfless in giving her time. Ruth was there to discuss the first spark of an idea, to question premises, to enrich those ideas, and to see them through to the last draft of an article or a grant application. You could talk to Ruth anytime, email her, and send your drafts; she always considered them carefully, and her feedback was generous, invaluable, and prompt. In difficult moments when you were filled with doubt and questioning, Ruth would critique your work and offer her support. It can be very difficult to find such collegiality that is honest, insightful, and enduring. Ruth will be very missed. We hope that her professional persona will be carried on by those who knew and recognized her as the consummate colleague.
Ruth's contributions to science, the nursing profession, and oncology changed lives of students, clinicians, faculty educators, researchers, and cancer patients and their families. We can honor her far-reaching legacy by taking cancer nursing research, education, and care to new heights for patients and their families living with cancer.
Our very best,
Pamela S. Hinds, PhD, RN, FAAN
Department of Nursing Research and Quality Outcomes
Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC
Barbara Given, PhD, RN, FAAN
Editorial Board Member, Cancer Nursing
College of Nursing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI