Retired Nursing School Dean Embarks on Fundraising to Help Nurses at Hospice of CNY

At 92, Janice Nelson is raising money for nurses at Hospice of Central New York get further education

By Debra J. Groom

Janice Nelson believes education is the key to doing a great job and providing great care for patients.

Nelson, 92, of the Fayetteville area, is a retired registered nurse with master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing, education and nursing administration.

She founded and was the first dean of the College of Nursing at Upstate Medical University and she also expanded services at Upstate to include a separate bachelor’s in nursing and post master’s advanced master’s certificate nursing programs to train clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioners, according to an Upstate Medical University newsletter.

And even though she has been retired from nursing for about 20 years, she still wants to be sure nurses can obtain the education they need to do their jobs well.

Recently, she decided to help raise money for Hospice of Central New York and the Finger Lakes, a Liverpool-based organization that provides end-of-life care for individuals and their families.

She sent letters out to people she knows in the area asking for donations to hospice to help nurses and aides there get additional training.

“I talked with Cindy Gallagher [hospice chief executive officer] about helping build up the education benefit for nurses and LPNs and aides at hospice,” Nelson said. “I told her ‘you need a discretionary fund and I need a project.’”

The fund, Nelson said, would reimburse nurses, licensed practical nurses and aides who go back to school for more training. She said the fund works a lot like programs at other businesses — the person takes his or her class, pays for it and then is reimbursed by the company fund if he or she obtains a passing grade.

“Hospice often had to rely on fundraisers, but sometimes we don’t make enough or don’t have enough money for the education benefit,” Nelson said. “I took a chance and sent out 45 to 50 letters to people I knew.”

The move paid off, so to speak. She raised a little more than $8,000 for the education fund.

“I got $1,000 from two people, $750 from one and $500 from one,” she said. Her letter asked people to “please consider donating $100 or more.”

Here is a quote from her letter:

“Following review of policies and procedures of both agencies, the administrative team of the newly merged hospice has determined that a personnel policy addressing financial assistance for employees interested in educational advancement is in order.

“In order to establish a much-needed discretionary fund for this purpose, I have volunteered to seek donations from the greater nursing community. This money would be used to establish an educational fund which, in turn, would provide the necessary finances to enable this policy to become a reality.”

“I invite you to join me in this worthwhile project. After all, we all know that the more knowledgeable the staff, the higher the quality of care.”

“We hope to start small, sending two people per semester to school,” Nelson said.

“Janice Nelson has been a long-time support of hospice and she is always coming up with ways to help us out,” Hospice CEO Gallagher said. “It is always greatly appreciated.”

Gallagher said the money raised will help her nursing staff move on with their education and “provide them a chance to grow and be better” at their jobs. She said providing the education benefit also will help hospice attract nurses to the nonprofit and increase its nursing staff numbers.

Hospice of Central New York and the Finger Lakes serves Onondaga, Madison, Cayuga counties and parts of Oswego County and the Finger Lakes.

Nelson has long advocated education and has proven it through her own life.

A native of the Buffalo area, she studied in North Dakota and then went on to obtain a degree in education from Daemen College in Amherst, near Buffalo. She received her master’s with a concentration in nursing administration from Columbia University and her doctorate in nursing education also from Columbia.

She began her working career as a first-grade teacher. But then an accident landed her in the hospital for four months and she decided to make a career shift and go into nursing.

As a nursing administrator, she said she loved working with the nursing staff and helping them with their jobs. At Upstate, she helped increase the amount of scholarship money available for nurses to expand their training, much the same as she did at Hospice.

She also served for 20 years on the board of the Visiting Nurses Association in Syracuse and is past president of its Nurses Educational Fund.

Nelson said she is thrilled with the response of her hospice fundraiser and is thinking of trying the letter-writing campaign again.

“Maybe it is time to send out more letters, she said.

Want to Help?

Anyone who would like to donate to the Hospice of Central New York and the Finger Lakes education fund should send a check to Hospice Foundation of Central New York and the Finger Lakes, 990 Seventh North St., Liverpool, NY 13088. Be sure to put Education Fund in the memo line of the check.

Photo: Janice Nelson is the first dean of the College of Nursing at Upstate Medical University. At 92, she is raising money for additional training of nurses who work at Hospice of Central New York and the Finger Lakes.