Who else knew Joyce?
I was/am sorry to hear about Joyce's passing, and send heartfelt sympathy to Joel and Gregory. Hers was clearly a life simply and beautifully lived. As a colleague at the U of Washington School of Nursing's Community Health Dept, she was a strong influence on our work and on me. She was an independent thinker, committed to exercising her value of social justice individuals, families and communities. While it was hard when she moved on, by doing so she made ever stronger contributions to nursing practice in palliative care and continued to do so in nursing education from various positions. Thank you Joyce!
I was the first OB clinical instructor hired by Dr. Z (as she was affectionately addressed) into Conordia University-Portland's new nursing program I still remember the interview to this day sitting in a room with Dr. Z and Dr. Bachand scared and nervous. But, Dr. Zerwekh was welcoming and gentle. I knew then that I really wanted to be involved in her vision for the best nursing school in the area. Whle she was at Concordia, Dr. Z. did not let anything get in her way and made do with what the university provided including leaking modulars for the lab! She was truly a pioneer and inspiration to students, staff, and faculty.
The nursing program is still going strong. Dr. Z's legacy is present in the newly designated College of Nursing at Concordia University-St. Paul. This is a huge accomplishment for a program not even 2 decades old and a tribute to Dr Z.
Joyce and I met at St. Olaf College’s Nursing program. We usually went on the same train from Chicago to Minneapolis. We spent about two years on campus and the other at Minneapolis hospitals for clinical training. We had excellent nursing instructors who inspired all of us.
Joyce talked me into attending our college class reunion. We both realized if we missed this one, we might be in our eighties at the next one and we couldn’t count on our health that far in the future! We had a great time together.
On a couple of occasions, when Joyce needed help before and after surgery and just after Thanksgiving last year, I was able to come and be there to help her awhile. She was always thoughtful and planned ahead. She had a poem she wanted me to read to help calm herself before surgery.
Last year, I learned that preparing food and sitting together to eat can be such an encouraging time. On both of these occasions I got to know Joel and Greg better also.
She always wanted to introduce me to people and places she liked. These were always good people that she had found. Similarly when she came to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit certain friends with some regularity, we would walk along Lake Merritt and try a not crowded restaurant so we could talk. I really enjoyed introducing you at Trinity as my friend, Joyce, and how you loved the service, singing and fellowship afterwards. The spirit was one of your delights.
She would tell me how much she liked teaching nursing students. The graduation and pinning ceremony held a special satisfaction to her, so I am glad that the poem she wrote for the 1996 Seattle University ceremony was posted by Barbara Sullivan. It expresses her passionate personal creed in which she invited her students to try as a way to engage in life.
Yet, I want to acknowledge that we are living in a changed world where her students who are working in hospitals, nursing homes and public health are going through the hardest of times! They are often risking their health in caring for others. What a personal dilemma! Please balance your ideals and your physical health and endurance. It seems to me that ultimately we are responsible for ourselves and others as we are able. Thank you for your caring service to others.
A Tribute to Joyce V. Zerwekh, RN, EdD
I always admired Joyce for her teaching expertise, student-centeredness, willingness to speak up and out, creativity, wit, hard work, and ability to write. Her scholarly writing provides the nursing profession and those cared for by nurses with practical wisdom about public health nursing, end-of-life care, qualitative research, and teaching.
I first met Joyce in the late 1980’s when we taught undergraduate community health nursing at the University of Washington. As both an expert nurse and teacher, Joyce shared her wisdom and inspired our teaching team and students with her passion for social justice and the empowerment of nurses and the people they work with. It was during this time that I think Joyce’s interest in public health nursing was sparked. Her dissertation research addressed the core competencies of public health nursing, a different focus than her previous work in other areas of community health, particularly hospice and palliative care.
In her professional life, Joyce linked two areas of community health nursing by developing and publishing practice models of family caregiving for both hospice nursing and public health nursing. Her scholarly writing about end-of-life care included provocative titles including “The Truth-Tellers: How Hospice Nurses Help Patients Confront Death,” “Fearing to Comfort: A Grounded Theory of Constraints to Opioid Use in Hospice Care,” and “End of life hydration - benefit or burden?” At the core of her writing, she was always an advocate for dying patients and families. She encouraged nurses to teach clients and families the pros and cons of various care decisions so they could make informed decisions. She wrote eloquently about developing mutual and trusting relationships with clients and families by partnering with them, recognizing and building on their strengths through joint participation and decision-making, helping them help themselves and believe in their own capacity.
Joyce was very well-regarded locally, statewide, and nationally for her scholarly contributions to public health nursing. She received the prestigious American Public Health Association’s Public Health Nursing Creative Achievement award in 1992. Some of her publications from this period included an impressive commentary in the American Journal of Public Health titled “Going to the people-public health nursing today and tomorrow;” “Laying the Groundwork for Family Self-Help: Locating Families, Building Trust, and Building Strength” and “Community Health Nurses-A Population at Risk” in Public Health Nursing; and “Tales from Public Health Nursing: True Detectives” in the American Journal of Nursing.
In 1992-1993, Joyce and I worked together closely with colleague Barbara Young on the Centennial Celebration of Public Health Nursing. We published two editions of Opening Doors: Stories of Public Health Nursing. We also helped create the Robert Woods Johnson funded documentary, Opening Doors: Public Health Nursing in its 100th Year. The classic video documented the legacy and contributions of nurses in rural and urban communities who are often not recognized yet who have met the public health needs of their communities. Both the video and Joyce’s Opening Doors to Public Health Nursing: A Guidebook have been used in academic and practice settings for decades.
One of Joyce’s many publications represents her compassion, true regard for human beings, passion to share her knowledge with nurses and improve nursing practice, and her creativity. She interviewed nurses who work with clients separated from society and used “the metaphor of going around the wall of fear separating clients and community.” In the 2000 publication, “Caring on the Ragged Edge: Nursing Persons Who Are Disenfranchised” in Advances in Nursing Science, Joyce’s expressed her deepest beliefs.
“…Fear and silencing keep us from "rising up" at all levels of organization and community; truth is rarely spoken to power for fear of repercussions. Although vulnerable people seldom rise up against those who oppress them, that certainly should not stop wise nurses from understanding the nature of power structures that deprive human beings from sustenance, rights, and dignity. As nurses, I believe we must challenge those oppressive structures through civic involvement at every personal and professional level. Likewise, by strengthening individual clients, we enhance the possibility of their acting as empowered communities.
We have much to learn from nurse colleagues courageously practicing on the ragged edge. We can validate, explain, teach, and replicate fearless caring with clients subject to innumerable societal injustices and fears. As the gap between rich and poor widens, a unique group of outstanding nurse colleagues persistently struggle to affirm humanity and build individual capacity of the most disadvantaged. They go around walls where others fear to tread in order to stand beside the fearful and the feared. They draw them into community where there is strength in numbers. They see human possibilities where others see no hope. Thus, power is born when caring others value another and believe in human potential.” (Page 61)
Joyce, you left an impressive legacy. Thank you.
- Joyce used her medical expertise to help whomever needed guidance. She gave me and my family a lot of sound advice when I was ill. She was a lovely person! ShaSha