Lienhard alumnus Jeffrey Hewitt ‘81 died of a cardiac arrest on December 23, 2010 in Massachusetts at age 59. A double Pace alumnus, Hewitt was President of the Lienhard Advisory Board and a generous donor and advocate for the Lienhard School of Nursing. In June, Lienhard held a memorial service and tree planting ceremony, which was attended by many members of the Hewitt family.
Sharon Lewis, the College of Health Professions' communication director, was fortunate enough to interview Hewitt for this newsletter before his sudden death.
Hewitt wore a variety of hats -- artist, philanthropist, lawyer, and nurse. His interest in nursing started when his daughter was born, and his passion for the field did not wane, despite exploring other professions.
While his wife went through a long labor, according to Hewitt, “There was a nurse that came and took over and enabled me as a coach, and enabled my wife as a mother giving birth to get the job done. The doctor was pretty understanding, but he mostly wasn’t there. And yet this nurse was there - as I remember - the entire time. She must have pulled a triple [shift]. That’s just how it is in my mind... It was the way she subordinated herself and her needs to our needs that made me want to become a nurse.”
Hewitt served on the advisory board for Lienhard and supported the school through both philanthropic gifts as well as his time and expertise. In late 2010, he sponsored a conference at Pace that focused on palliative care - a field that he became interested in after working in the nursing cardiac ICU and later the neurological ICU.
According to Hewitt, in the nursing cardiac ICU, “We did everything we could to keep people from dying.” When he worked in the neurological ICU, he observed that “death is often the outcome.”
He said, “I did a complete turnaround in terms of what I needed to be able to do - as a surgical cardiac ICU nurse, I was very proud of the fact that I kept my patients alive. But then when I went to the neurological/neurosurgical unit, the whole problem was different. I went from the one side of trying to do everything you can to save everybody to the other side of learning how to let go, and that death is not the enemy. And that lateral lesson led me eventually into bereavement work and hospice work, and up to the Palliative Care Conference.” Hewitt started support groups for families of patients in the neurological ICU, working with a chaplain and a social worker.
He said, “The end-of-life was my interest because I also saw that as something where nursing care is paramount. Hospice is not about the doctors; it’s not about medical care - it’s about nursing care. Beginning of life issues could also focus on certified nurse mid-wives. I’d be very interested in establishing not only the efficacy but the superiority of the certified nurse midwife to the OB-GYN.”
Hewitt said he supported nursing school events partly because nursing was a professional path he did not continue to pursue. “I believe in nursing power and in the power of nursing - very much so. And in its power to reform the way people look at the world. We should be integrating some of the aspects of nursing into the high school curriculum, so that people come out as human beings able to take care of themselves and others on a day-to-day basis. I’m not talking about how you start an IV. I’m talking about a way of looking at the world which nursing provides, and the principles -- simple values like compassion, social justice, and peace.”