Suzanne Smith’s gone

Bob Hess, RN, and Suzanne Smith, RN, at her retirement party

Bob Hess, RN, and Suzanne Smith, RN, at her retirement party

By Robert G. Hess, RN, PhD, FAAN
Executive Vice President, Global Programming, Gannett Education

Suzanne’s gone. I used to call her when I had an idea for an article. During the last serious phone conversation we had, she promised to reserve space for a lengthy research article I was struggling with — six months in advance and manuscript unseen.

But in 1992, I was a young director of nursing, hot to get published in the prestigious professional periodical The Journal of Nursing Administration. While in graduate school, I pelted the editor, who was to become my friend, with mediocre manuscripts full of orgobabble, convinced that my brilliant words would bedazzle her. They did, but not the words in the manuscripts.

Suzanne called me at work one day. “Bob, I wanted to tell you that you’re missing the mark with those manuscripts, but I know you can write. You send beautifully written cover letters. Why don’t you have a board member, who can focus your thinking, look at the piece you just sent in.”

Dorothy DelBueno, who was on JONA’s board at the time and traveling, agreed to a “plane” edit and sent me her suggestions. My revised manuscript was accepted a month later — my first published peer-reviewed article. I went on to publish a hundred more, largely due to the confidence Suzanne gave me at the start.

A few years later, I turned in a more controversial piece, “Shared Governance: Nursing’s 21st Century Tower of Babel.” (Suzanne was a mighty disseminator of literature on this topic. She gave a tremendous boost to shared governance, empowering nurses all over the world.) The content was quite controversial. Suzanne called me and said, “I’m not sending this out for review. I already know what THEY will say about it.” She published it without changing a comma. How could I possibly find a relationship with another editor like that?

When Karen Hill, the current editor-in-chief of JONA, sent out notice of Suzanne’s death Friday, I was astounded at how many recipients acknowledged her role in publishing their first articles. I don’t know whose email list this was, but it comprised a Who’s Who is nursing. Suzanne was there for all of these leaders, encouraging and schooling them.

Suzanne was the perfect nurse editor: nurturing and feisty.

She’s leaving a huge hole in the nursing world but an eternal flow of memories amongst us, I’m sure. Suzanne’s gone. Whom do I call now?

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3 Responses to Suzanne Smith’s gone

  1. Thank you, Bob, for this wonderful tribute to a truly gifted person. I only had the privilege of meeting Suzanne a few times but was more impressed with each meeting. Her elegance, humor, and genuiness were ever present. She encouraged me when I asked her almost in passing about the first shared govenance book I was writing while researching Tim Porter-O’Grady’s work. It was only a few minutes during a conference break. So many people were calling for her attention but she never turned away, not until she knew she had gently pushed me forward in what has become a very real passion for me professionally and personally. She told me that shared governance was a touchstone for professional nursing practice (paraphrased) and an important, growing work. She then asked if I had ever spoken to Dr. Robert Hess or seen a website called the Forum for Shared Governance. In only a few minutes, she completely shifted my career… and never knew it. Though she may not have remembered me, I’ve never forgotten her. My thoughts and prayers go out to her loved ones and to all those among us who will feel her loss ever more deeply as we stumble over the countless pearls she leaves behind in untold lives and careers and remember the kind and generous heart of the woman who dropped them.

  2. Jessica says:

    A beautiful tribute.

  3. Thanks Bob for a great tribute. Yes, the void Suzanne’s passing leaves you thinking, Who do I call now? Luckily, someone like Suzanne leaves us inspired to help one another, while maintainingstandards and doing good work. She was a gifted, savied leader! I will miss that mischievous smile!

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