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Lourdes nurse celebrates 50 years of nursing

Lourdes nurse celebrates 50 years of nursing

For as long as she can remember, Joan Kelly said she always wanted to be a nurse.

Now, decades later, the 72-year-old Cherry Hill resident is ready to close a storied 50-year career in the field.

She was inspired to become a nurse by her next-door neighbor at a young age. And since then, she hasn’t turned back.

“I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a nurse,” Kelly said. “I always liked helping people and I love kids. Nursing just seemed like the perfect fit.”

In 1962, she graduated from the Villanova University College of Nursing. Three years later, she received her master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Kelly started out as a nurse at West Jersey Hospital in Camden. Over her 50-year career, she said she’s seen a lot change. But there is one memory she holds on to from her first assignment.

“In my first job, I used to scrub the walls of the isolation rooms. There were no IV pumps, so we had to count each drop,” Kelly said. “We would never do that now.”

After serving as a nurse at West Jersey Hospital, she took a position at Cooper Hospital as a pediatric nurse.

After 13 years at Cooper, she decided to pursue her passion for teaching, and went on to teach nursing at the University of Delaware, Rutgers University and Newman College, eventually ending up at Lourdes Hospital, where she will finish her career.

Teaching, Kelly said, has been a rewarding experience for her, and something she won’t be able to ever leave. After she retires this fall, she said she’ll stay on as an adjunct professor at Lourdes and teach whenever she is needed.

“I love working with students. When you find someone to help and they really get it or get a new way of looking at something, you help them,” she said.

Kelly has taught pediatric nursing and summer medical-surgical nursing classes at Lourdes for the last 22 years. In her time there, she’s seen vast changes in technology use.

“The technological advances in nursing, along with medicine now being evidence-based instead of ‘just the way things were’ have been the most significant changes since I started 50 years ago,” Kelly said. “Nurses are also much more in partnership with physicians now and are given more responsibility as an important member of the medical team.”

Kelly said she is looking forward to retirement to be able to spend more time with her husband, five children and 12 grandchildren. Looking back on her career, Kelly said she’s glad she chose this path.

“It is hard and challenging work, and if you don’t like what you do, you are not going to be a good nurse,” Kelly said. “Nursing is more than a job — it is also the giving of yourself to the patients you serve.”

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