Spotlight Fall 2012

Kathy Kettles (BS, 1974; JD, 1987)

Although Kathy Kettles didn’t dream of becoming a nurse, her nursing education taught her powerful lessons about what’s important in life.

Kathy Kettles grew up in an Irish American neighborhood in the 50s and 60s and says her options were limited to several fields. “The thing you would become: nurse, teacher, secretary, nun, or the avant-garde choice -- social worker -- in my mind, those were the only possibilities.” Furthermore, her mother was a child of the depression. “She impressed upon me that I needed to always be able to support myself.”  Kettles’ desire to help others while being able to support herself led her to the field of nursing.

While at Pace University, Kettles established relationships with professors that would shape her thinking for years to come.  “You had real relationships with your professors at Pace. I knew my professors; I could talk to them. It was a personal education. For me, that was the very best.  You had personal relationships that made a difference in your life.”

Nursing Professor Alice Reilly was one of many inspiring professors.  “She was a wonderful educator.” Reilly encouraged her students to use independent judgment as nurses to determine the right course of action for their patients, to anticipate problems and to be advocates for patients.  Nursing Professor Dolores Gariepy was another person who had a major impact on Kettles’ education and practice. “She was a wonderful teacher. She was tough, fair, and very smart. She really influenced me as a nurse.”

Kettles recalls a particularly fulfilling project: “I studied a lot in nursing about leadership, and different styles of leadership - it was one of the things I enjoyed most about the nursing program at Pace.  Each of us had to develop a seminar for the class, and I did mine on facilitative leadership, which is also connected now to why I love mediation.”

Kettles discovered after several years in nursing that she was a natural advocate.  She decided law was a better fit for her and a field where she could be more independent and feel more empowered.  She returned to Pace to obtain her law degree, and went on to a very successful career in litigation, representing both patients and those in the health professions.  She has started a mediation practice and looks forward to eventually devoting all of her time to mediation.

She says she has many good friends who are also nurse attorneys, and those who combine the two fields, “really bring a different dimension to the practice of law.”

Kettles says nursing taught her how to deal with life and death and the meaning and importance of care. 

“Although I didn’t dream of becoming a nurse, I am very glad that I became one because I think it made me a better person, and certainly I know it’s made me a much better lawyer.  I had no idea how much nursing was ultimately going to give me.”