Notes from the Dean's Desk
'Chief Compassion Officer' Brightens a Challenging Year
This Thanksgiving, more than any in recent memory, challenges us to reflect deeply on the true blessings we have encountered over the past year – even amidst the trials many of us are facing.
For the faculty, staff, and students at Jefferson College of Nursing – and for the patients looking to us for comfort and inspiration – Maggie has to be near the top of our list.
Maggie, for those who have not yet been privileged to meet her, is the College of Nursing’s “Chief Compassion Officer.” On campus now barely a year, she has been an inspiration – always ready for the challenges of a new day, always enthusiastic, always loving.
Maggie is a two-year-old golden retriever, brought to Jefferson College of Nursing through our partnership with Leashes of Valor, a non-profit organization that provides service dogs to support veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or military sexual trauma (MST). Leashes of Valor also is cooperating with our faculty members Jennifer Shiroff, PhD, and Jacquelyn O’Rourke-Fulford, MSN, RN, as they study use of service dogs as a therapeutic intervention for such veterans.
Maggie first came to Jefferson in November 2019 to participate in a panel discussion of the role of service dogs in veterans’ care and rehabilitation. (As a former Navy Nurse Corp Reservist myself, I know that many injuries sustained by our service members are not visible ones and cannot be healed by surgery or medications.)
We all fell in love with Maggie. And it was quickly decided that she should become part of the Jefferson College of Nursing team. She immediately went to work getting acclimated to new surroundings, establishing a presence across Jefferson, and promoting feelings of calmness and security for all.
Little did we realize how critical Maggie’s work would become in a matter of weeks, as the COVID-19 pandemic struck and everyone’s stress levels skyrocketed. Our students found her not only a key to dealing with the pressures of academic life, but also a valued partner in learning how to care for others by teaching them empathy, especially for patients suffering from PTSD and other disorders.
With the long-running restriction of access to Jefferson’s physical campus, Maggie had to find quarters away from the college and hospital. And so, she became a valued member of my own family. Since April, Maggie has helped my own family deal with the loss of three loved ones. Always at the ready, with a smile (as only labs can), a paw laid gently on your foot, or head rested on your lap, Maggie never fails to notice when you need a compassionate touch. I cannot wait until she brings her full assets and talents to bear on those that need her the most.
And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, we all will say a special thank you to Jefferson College of Nursing’s Chief Compassion Officer. (It will be interesting to see if she has any favorite holiday dishes!)