DEPARTMENTS: From the Editor
SANDRA LEE SCHAEFER
Losing a colleague in palliative nursing often feels like losing a family member. All of us lost a real treasure recently. Sandra Lee (“Sandy”) Schaefer, MN, RN, AOCN, died in December 2018, following a stellar nursing career of over 40 years. Sandy was known and loved by Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association members as the director of credentialing from 2004 through 2018, leading the certification efforts that have defined our palliative nursing specialty.
Sandy was unwavering in her support of nurses. Over the years, she was known for sending handwritten notes to her oncology and palliative care colleagues each time they published a paper, gave a presentation, or received an accolade for their professional work. She was a combination of the most dedicated professional nurse, patient and family advocate (Co-founder of Camp Raising Spirits), and ultimate cheerleader for all nurses.
I had known Sandy for over 30 years, beginning back in the day when we were both in oncology and before we each found our way into the emerging field of palliative nursing. Every memory I have of Sandy over the past 30 years was of her enormous energy, tirelessly working to support nurses, celebrating their achievements while always raising the bar of excellence.
My last communication with Sandy was about 6 weeks before her death. I received an email from her and opened it, fully expecting the usual congratulatory, positive, encouraging message. Instead, I found what some might consider a “hand slapping.” It was, in fact, a message from Sandy calling attention to a recent editorial I had written for the Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing. She referred to herself as the “credentialing czar” and said she was writing to correct the order of my credentials that were printed there. Sandy pointed out that my CHPN credential should appear in the proper order (after my PhD degree). She even attached a copy of the American Nurses Credentialing Center guidelines for the proper use of credentials!
Sandy was perhaps a “Mary Poppins” for nursing—practically perfect, very intent on our always getting it right. But be assured, her commitment to high standards was accompanied by warmth, love, and humor. Her laugh was as notorious as her note writing.
For the last 15 years of her life, Sandy devoted her professional career to certification and credentialing in palliative nursing. We all owe her tremendous thanks. In December, my own certification was due for renewal, and like others, I quite honestly considered all the reasons that I could opt to not renew. But, I did the right thing; I did what Sandy would expect of me, I renewed. In honor of Sandy and her lifetime devoted to supporting nurses and advancing nursing, I encourage you to do the same. If you have never been certified, do it now for Sandy. If it’s time to renew, do so.
We are very fortunate to have colleagues who put the interests of their colleagues and their profession above their own. Sandy represented the gold standard of nursing, and I will miss her notes and her laughter.
Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, CHPN, FAAN, FPCN