Nursing Alumni >>

Beyond the bedside: Nursing work outside the traditional health care setting

By Dana Goldman | Emory Nursing | Sep. 18, 2013

Emory nursing alumnae Dorothy Jordan (left center) and Sally Hale (right) with children at Camp Sunshine

Emory nursing alumnae Dorothy Jordan (left center) and Sally Hale (right) with children at Camp Sunshine. Click for full story.

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To date, the School of Nursing has 6,538 living alumni. Whether they work in Georgia, the Southeast, or beyond, all are bound by their Emory nursing education, which prepared them for careers in diverse settings. The following pages showcase alumni whose work takes them beyond the bedside.

Take Emory nursing alumnae Dorothy Jordan and Sally Hale. The story of how two Emory nurses founded a summer camp for kids with cancer began with an assignment.

"I have to give Emory credit for the fact we had to write a thesis," laughs Dorothy Jordan 82MN PMHCNS-BC, now a clinical instructor at the School of Nursing.

In the early 1980s, Jordan's thesis research led her to a summer camp for kids with cystic fibrosis. The camp provided medical care that ordinary camps did not, as well as a uniquely normal experience for kids whose lives were often anything but. Quickly she became convinced that the camp provided healing that medicine could not.

"Camp engendered a sense of community, the sense that they're not alone in what they're experiencing," she remembers. "I was just blown away." She began thinking about what it would take to create a camp for kids with cancer.

No matter that just a few similar camps existed around the nation. Soon, Jordan started meeting with doctors, fund-raisers, and other nurses, including pediatric oncology nurse Sally Hale 80MN RN. In 1983, Camp Sunshine opened near Atlanta to provide a normal childhood experience for children with cancer. Hale volunteered as camp nurse, and Jordan served as camp director.

"At the time, there were a lot of amputations and prosthetics," says Jordan. "A lot of kids wore wigs in an attempt to feel normal."

When Jordan walked down to the lakefront one day, she witnessed a remarkable sight. "Kids were getting in the lake, and there were wigs and prosthetics strung across the dock and kids laughing and screaming and not hesitating to whip off their wigs and play and not feel different. I can't tell you how powerful that was."

Five years later, Jordan asked Hale to become the executive director of the then-young nonprofit. "I believed in the camp, so I told her I'd do the job for a year until we found someone else," says Hale. "That was in 1987, and I haven't left yet."

As Camp Sunshine grew, Hale learned that her nursing education had prepared her well for running a nonprofit. "It teaches critical thinking and how to multitask and assess a complicated situation and come up with a plan. It teaches you to work on a multidisciplinary team and to be a leader of that team."

Hale also reassured parents worried about sending their medically fragile children to camp. "When they find out my background is nursing, it reassures them a lot that we understand what their child's treatment is all about," she says.

These days, Camp Sunshine runs not just summer camps for kids and teens with cancer, but also year-round programs for patients, parents, and siblings around the state. Its headquarters are located near the Emory campus. Many adult volunteers include past campers, including a recent School of Nursing graduate. Nursing students also volunteer throughout the year.

Jordan now serves on the board and, like Hale, keeps busy with behind-the-scenes work to keep the camp going. But come summer? Thirty years after its founding, Jordan and Hale wouldn't miss camp for the world.

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