Passion after a lifelong career in nursing

lillian-goodman What can nurses expect to take away from a long career—assuming they do avoid being eaten by their crustier superiors?

Lillian Goodman, 78-year-old nurse, health career educator and administrator gives one of her classic answers: “The idiotic saying, ‘a job well done.’”

Then seriously, she adds, “There should be a lot of satisfaction from a career in a field that has an impact on society. I would say that along with teaching, [nursing] is one of the few fields where you could say that.”

For Lillian, it seems her own expansive career in nursing has brought her decades of satisfaction and continues to do so. Her journey through life began in a small town in New Hampshire, where she was raised. “In the era I grew up in, there were three ways to go,” she recalls. “You got married, you became a teacher or you became a nurse. I had an incredible high school biology teacher, Mr. Flaherty, who was also the football coach. He inspired me tremendously to think about scientific questions. My mother’s stories about growing up amidst the Armenian Genocide, along with Mr. Flaherty, pushed me toward nursing.”

In 1949, Lillian enrolled at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, N.H. “We were what was in those days called ‘diploma school nurses.’ We trained, worked and lived there.” With self-deprecating humor, she shares an embarrassing memory from those formative days. “When I was a student nurse at Elliot, I was on evening shift. It was very busy—the charge nurse went to dinner and put me in charge. I was very excited and anxious, and we had a new admission, a very young, good-looking man. I was 18, he was 18 and I was so nervous! I said, ‘Excuse me, sir. I have to take your vital signs.’ I picked up his arm and started taking his pulse, and everyone started laughing. I asked, ‘What’s so funny?’ He said, “You took my brother’s pulse, not mine!’”

From those youthful misadventures, Lillian went on to earn her OB-GYN and RN licenses in 1952, and went to work at the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City. Three years later, she found herself in California working as an OB Supervisor at Kaiser Permanente Sunset. In 1957, she married a physician and started a family, taking nine years off to raise her two children. When she returned to the workforce, it was as an OB-GYN and med-surg nurse at Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills.

At a certain point, Lillian recalls, she became interested in teaching, and obtained a vocational credential and a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Redlands College. By the early 1970s, she had embarked on a new phase of her career, as the director of a private vocational nursing school, training LVNs. In 1978, she joined the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), supervising high school and adult education health career programs for LVN, CAN, EMT, MA, X-ray and dental assistants. Along the way, she picked up her M.A. in Education Administration and an administration credential. By the time she retired after 27 years of service, she held the position of Director of Vocational Nursing Program/Health Careers Specialist.

With more than 60 years of experience in the field of healthcare, Lillian is outspoken about changes that she has seen in the system over the years. “Hospitals are now owned by large corporations,” she laments. “It’s not [supposed to be] a product. Efficiency models shouldn’t be the criteria.” Of her many passions, nursing remains first, and Lillian expresses concern that the field is under threat. “We need to put more money into educating nurses. At the community college level, there are waiting lists so long that potential nurses give up. We also need the pay to be commensurate. Nursing needs to be a viable profession.” To this end, she feels that negative practices such as older nurses eating their young are anachronistic, and can be addressed and minimized through “professional development and education for the more experienced and seasoned nurses to interact with the new nurses.”

Next: How Lillian teaches…

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David Blumenkrantz

David Blumenkrantz’s professional experience includes an eight-year stint doing documentary work and freelancing in Africa, where he traveled extensively covering a wide variety of relief and development-related social issues. He ran a photography training course for Eritrean freedom fighters in Asmara, and spent more than two years running an information department for the Undugu Society of Kenya, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for street children and the urban poor. Upon his return to the United States in 1994, Blumenkrantz worked for the Los Angeles Times and various other publications as a freelance photojournalist. In 2004 he joined the journalism department faculty at California State University, Northridge, where he teaches documentary journalism and photojournalism.

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15 Responses to Passion after a lifelong career in nursing

  1. Ellen Grimmett

    Lillian, this is fabulous. Thank you so much for sending it. I think he got the story pretty close to correct. You deserve all of this praise and more. Love, Ellen

  2. Debbie Banaian

    Lillian Goodman is an amazing human, nurse, teacher, and famiy member.

  3. Jim Bunch

    lillian taught me the field of vocational ed. But more than anything she taught the class, she told me I was excellent. I believed her and accomplished great things in my life. I try to do that with my students. She has touched hundreds of thousands of lives.I just love her.

  4. This gal is very smart. I have known her for 78 years. She is not only bright, but very thorough in her work. She plans her lessons and the students who are lucky to have her as an instructor leave her class ready to face the many problems they face in nursing. She expects her students to put forth A+ effort and she gets it. No excuses are excepted! She turns out great students who are ready for action!

  5. Dr. Tori Canillas-Dufau

    Lillian Goodman is an icon! Mrs. Goodman, as I affectionately call her, was my Level I instructor at UCLA Extension in the late 80s. From there, she was my Director of Nursing in the Vocational Nursing Program for ten years where she became my mentor and friend. She is an AWESOME woman, a great role model and the epitome of a lifelong learner. Congratulations on having your story featured…..yet, there is so much more to this passionate and talented lady.

  6. Barbara Arney

    The article is a fitting tribute to an outstanding educator, nurse, and dear friend. I admire Lillian’s professionalism and integrity. I appreciate her generous assistance in developing and supervising nursing programs when we worked at LAUSD adult education sites. Years have passed and I am blessed to call her a constant friend.

  7. Suzanne Zemer

    Lillian was tough as nails as my Level I instructor at UCLA. She was a role model from the beginning, as she readily managed a very large class of adult learners from very diverse academic and professional backgrounds.Yet, at the end of the class, she not only offered me an opportunity to teach in LAUSD nursing program, we began our relationship as mentor and friend. As nursing professionals, I would like to see more mentoring relationships with lifelong learners, such as Lillian, with new graduate nurses entering practice.

  8. Jody Lucas

    Lillian Goodman Is an exceptional teacher and mentor. I was lucky to have her as my Vocational Education teacher, Level 1 at UCLA. Lillian’s example of a caring, yet firm teacher has made me into the teacher that I am today. I only wish she was still teaching level 2, the online class is not as personal and the human touch was missing. Thanks Lillian, You deserve the tribute and so much more!!

  9. Patricia V. Lewis

    Great article on a great person!!! Lillian Goodman is one of a kind intelligent, bright and wonderful. You deserve it all. Luv U

  10. Alva Lee

    On behalf of the health career teachers, THANK YOU for your passion and conviction. YOU were instrumental in creating the exemplary program at LAUSD, and we hope that your legacy will prevail as we continue to train students for pre-med and careers in healthcare!!! We certainly owe you a debt of gratitude. You are amazing, and I hope your voice never dims for a very, very long time!

  11. Robert LeBlanc

    You have been an inspiration to every life you have touched. Your dedication, commitment, and passion are evident in everything you do as was so beautifully shared in the article. I am eternally grateful to have had you as an instructor for Level 1 and 2. The conviction with which you shared your passion for teaching will live with me forever. The teacher I am today is all because of you and thank you for believing in me and sharing yourself with us all. You truly are amazing!!

  12. Jodi

    My mom – simply perfect in very way.

  13. Charlotte Oria

    Lillian is my friend, neighbor and one time “attempted” walking partner. I could never keep up with her. And that is how she is in all aspects of her life. I now of no one who can keep up with her on any level. A great well deserved tribute, and as some one else commented – there is so much more.

  14. Monica Giannino Rn BSN

    Lillian Goodman shows the true dedication of a Nurse, mentor and genuine caring person.
    Ellen Grimmit Rn. Please email me this is your student. Guess what? I am teaching now! THANK YOU

  15. Oygar Lindskog

    Every day I strive to be half the teacher she is. She was my level 1 and level 2 teacher and I remember her fondly, especially her great sense of humor. It will be ten years ago this fall, when I took her classes. Thank you Lillian.