Dr. Bennett leaves nursing legacy at AU

Fri, 2012-07-20 10:55 -- univcomm

  Date:  6/1/2000

  Title:  Dr. Bennett leaves nursing legacy at AU

The field of nursing has enriched Patricia Bennett's life, as she has worked in hospital settings, and later found joy in sharing her love and knowledge with Anderson University nursing students. After 26 years at AU, guiding some 900 nursing students, Bennett is retiring as the director and professor of nursing and plans to slow down.

Her idea of "slowing down" includes spending time with her seven grandchildren, the chance to do more gardening, and travel. She also plans to work part-time as a parish nurse for her Muncie church, and do part-time work at AU as director of assessments.

"I think it's the flexibility that I am looking forward to having the most," Bennett said with a smile. "I can choose, and have more control over my time."

Her passion has, and always will be, for the field of nursing.

"You are there with them (the patients) in a time of the most need," said Bennett who has been in private practice as a childbirth educator and mental health counselor before coming to AU in 1974. She's also worked in hospitals, providing patient care at Ball Memorial Hospital and Drake Memorial Hospital in Cincinnati.

One of her most rewarding career assignments was initiating and developing AU's four-year School of Nursing program, and she admitted it has been wonderful seeing positive graduate outcomes.

"We tell prospective students, 'This is the best preparation for life that you can have,'" said Bennett of the nursing field. "You learn so much about living and how to care for people that it eventually folds into your own life."
Bennett finds the skills of nursing to be beneficial in caring for children and family members.

"And the way you 'think' in nursing, the way you have to problem solve, I really think I would hire a nurse, even for a job that had nothing to do with a hospital, just for the way a nurse has to problem solve and the communication skills one has to learn in nursing," she said.

She remembers her father was ill when she was a child, and he received care at a Catholic hospital.

"The nuns would take care of us while my mother visited my father," Bennett said, adding it was during those early years than may have first sparked her interest in nursing.

Through the years, Bennett has seen numerous changes in the nursing field, and finds more of today's nursing graduates are going into private practice or furthering their education to become nurse practitioners and midwives. As she reflected on her career at the university, Bennett said it has been the students who have made her job so rewarding. "Especially when they come back and tell you that you have made a difference."

Bennett has enjoyed being able to accompany her students on work study mission trips, including Chicago, where the nursing students worked in a inner-city woman's shelter, and twice to Calcutta, India, where Bennett and her students met Mother Teresa.

As a professor of nursing, Bennett said she always wanted her students to know that "it's more to 'be' than to 'know.'"

She stressed that it's the relationships her nursing students establish with the clients that is so vitally important. "I don't believe you leave the (nursing) program complete. I think all we can do is teach them how 'to know,' and really all we can do is motivate them to want to continue to learn."

Bennett practiced what she preached. She graduated in 1960 with a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Cincinnati, but has continued her own studies through the years at Ball State and Indiana University School of Nursing, before receiving her doctorate in nursing in 1992 from University of Alabama at Birmingham.

And while at AU, Bennett has led the university through successful accreditations of its nursing program. The last glowing accreditation report, where there was no recommendations for improvement, left Bennett feeling very pleased.

"I decided one should leave when everything is going good, just like when Michael Jordan made his last shot,'" Bennett said with a smile, "And I thought, 'There is no way I want to write another report."

--- Theresa Campbell is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.