Passion after a lifelong career in nursing


lillian-goodman-youngWhat about the potential generation gap between herself and her young charges? Lillian deflects the discussion in a manner that lets one know it’s not really an issue to her. “I don’t have any generational issues,” she insists. “Everyone I’m dealing with is younger than me. I find that I have an incredible amount of experience. When I’m talking to my students, I don’t want them to think they’re dealing with someone stuck in the old days.” I don’t come off with, ‘In my day and age….’

When asked what nurses can do to avoid burnout, Lillian’s answer is typically direct. “I’m one of those people who do not believe in such a thing as burnout. It’s a cliché that I think should be abolished. The only reason you burn out is if you’ve bored yourself. You haven’t taken the time to find other ways to make nursing as important to you as it was in the beginning. Look into professional development and other venues to keep things fresh. Find out what it was that brought you into it…. I’m 78 and I still have my license. I just renewed it. I look at it as gold in my hand.”

Lillian credits her own vivaciousness to a positive attitude, bolstered by a healthy combination of diet, exercise and mental activity. “More than anything, I walk every day,” she says. “I try to do 2½ miles a day. I wear an odometer. When I get up to 5,000 steps, it’s 2½ miles.” Even so, Lillian admits that she’s not obsessive, and reserves the right to slack off once in a while. “I’d like to say I do it seven days a week, but the reality is more like five. Some mornings I just want to drink coffee and do the crossword puzzle. I attempt the New York Times puzzle once a month, but I do the L.A. Times puzzle every day. I work at it. I’m good, but not superb. It keeps my mind sharp.” Lillian is also an avid reader of books on history and politics, and has a special interest in mystery novels, her favorite author being Barbara Kingsolver. Her semi-retirement also gives her time to pursue other passions such as gardening, traveling and attending live music and theater performances. Most of all, Lillian enjoys spending quality time with her granddaughter, Emma, whom she calls her “special partner.”

“I know it sounds corny, but you have to have passion,” says Lillian. “There’s no such thing as ‘I like nursing.’ You have to love it. You can like mashed potatoes. Nursing is not a science, it’s an art. You have to have a genuine passion to have compassion. It’s the same with teaching, which is probably why I’ve done both. I still feel the same way today that I felt when I was 17 and found I had been accepted into nursing school.”

David Blumenkrantz followed Lillian Goodman throughout her day. See her photo gallery.


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.

    Karen Ulmer

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