URI College of Nursing honors cancer nursing expert

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 26, 1999 — When Laura Hilderley decided to get married as an undergraduate nursing student at the University of Michigan, she was told by a dean that her nursing career would be a distant second to her husband and children. Forty years since her graduation, it would be hard to find evidence that her nursing career suffered because she also believed in a strong family life. For all her accomplishments, including earning a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Rhode Island in 1977, the East Greenwich resident was honored recently as the URI College of Nursing Outstanding Alumna for 1999. She was recognized during ceremonies for the College’s Fourth Annual Alumni Recognition Day. Hilderley is the first master’s graduate to receive the honor. Hilderley is a nationally known author and speaker who has contributed significantly to the field of oncology (cancer) nursing. In 1996, she received the Oncology Nursing Society Roche Distinguished Service Award. “Laura is a consummate professional,” said Ruth Waldman, assistant dean of the College of Nursing. A mother of two grown children, she stayed home to raise them during their early years, and then began working part-time as a nurse. Hilderley has served in medical-surgical units, and as a faculty member at Kent County Hospital. “I had a chance at a full-time teaching job at Community College of Rhode Island, but the word came down that I had to have a master’s degree. So I enrolled at URI. “It was a very challenging program. My major professor was Janet Hirsch. She knew what students were all about, and she helped us all pedal our way through. It was at URI that I learned what it was to be a professional,” she said. In 1975, Hilderley’s career took a major twist, when she was asked by Rhode Island Hospital to work in the new Radiation Therapy Department. The doctor heading the department said he wanted a teacher, someone who could work with patients and doctors. “It turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have made,” she said. At that time, she also helped launch the Oncology Nursing Society, which numbered about 200. Now there are 25,000 members. She traveled to international cancer conferences and made presentations and chaired panels. She was also the first non-physician elected to the presidency of the American Cancer Society in Rhode Island. In 1985, she joined a private practice established by Dr. Philip G. Maddock. “We shared many beliefs that patients and families come first. We found that care is often more important than cure.” Some asked her how she can work with cancer patients year after year. “I’ve never been depressed, but I’ve grieved and wept. As nurses, it’s not our job to cure patients, but we have the care in our hands.” In 1997, Hilderley retired to spend time with her husband, to travel and write. “I urge you (students) to consider going on for your master’s degree,” Hilderley said. “Get involved with your professional organizations. They need fresh, young people. Be proud of who you are, and finally, take care of yourself. Life is more than nursing.” -xxx- For Further Information: Dayle Joseph 874-2766 Dave Lavallee 874-2116