Judy Dillon is the community outreach coordinator for the Department of Nursing at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Dillon has been a nurse for more than 30 years and with the Medical Center for 15 years. She was awarded the 2011 Nightingale Award of Pennsylvania for Clinical Practice R.N. This prestigious award recognizes Dillon for her outstanding quality of patient care, superior nursing clinical skills, and extraordinary compassion. She exemplifies the attributes that the Nightingale Awards represents, as well as the outstanding qualities of Penn State Hershey’s more than 1,400 nurses.
Q: As a longtime nurse, what do you wish people knew about their bodies and their health? If you could change one thing about healthcare or the way people view healthcare, what would it be?
JD: I would like people to take care of their bodies with a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits. To me the most important health priority is physical activity as part of an exercise routine and portion control in one’s diet. Walking is a great way to get started. One should remember that “calories in” needs to balance “calories out” so that on days that one has an extra treat one should plan to exercise a bit more.
What I would like to change with healthcare is a greater focus on wellness as well as access to affordable healthcare for all. For Central PA, over 1/3 of our children are overweight or obese and they are expected to have a shorter life span than their parents. Our children’s BMIs are continuing to increase while most regions the average BMI has plateaued or are beginning to decrease. Behavior is very difficult to modify but with education and promotion of good healthy habits starting at an early age we can have a positive impact on population health.
I work with the homeless and other families in underserved areas of our community. It breaks my heart when I hear their stories of their challenges in obtaining even primary healthcare services let alone any type of specialty, mental or dental care. Our health care systems need to continue to identify the barriers and implement changes to provide better access and better prevention.
Q: You won the Nightingale Award for outstanding quality of patient care, superior nursing clinical skills and extraordinary compassion. How do you develop outstanding care and extraordinary compassion? Are those things that can be taught? What influenced you to become such an incredible nurse?
JD: I feel that most people who select nursing as a profession have innate potential for delivering quality care, developing outstanding clinical skills, and showing compassion. I was lucky that my mother was a nurse and a role model for me growing up. In nursing school I had stimulating professors as mentor, and in my professional life my coworkers, managers, and nurse leaders have always set good examples for me to follow. I also love school and am always looking for opportunities for new academic challenges that can serve to improve my knowledge and skills. Finally, I have been very fortunate in opportunities that have come my way to work with many different people in unique settings and different countries. These opportunities have certainly given me an appreciation for health and happiness. Over the years I have done mission work in Haiti, Honduras, and India and have held nursing jobs in acute care settings, research programs, schools of nursing, and community health.
I do not think these attributes can always be taught, but they certainly can be encouraged and fostered. I am a preceptor for nursing students for their community clinical hours, and as part of their time with me I focus on values, diversity, and compassion, especially for underserved populations and minorities.
Q: What brings you balance? How do you deal with pressure and stress?
JD: Keeping a balance in my life is a constant struggle for me! My family always comes first and then I prioritize. I am a list maker and start each morning with some quiet time while making a plan for the day. I also always have a trip planned! My favorite sport is backpacking with my husband for 8- 10 days in remote places where we cannot be reached by phone, text or e-mail!
For me exercise is the best way to handle pressure and stress. I try to exercise every day for an hour. I also find communication is most important to resolve issues along with the ability to be a good listener with a positive attitude. When all else fails, then I spend time on our small farm with my family, friends, 3 dogs, 4 cats, llama, and donkey!
Q: What advice do you have for a younger version of yourself?
JD: My advice to young nurses is that they have selected a great profession with many wonderful opportunities, and their future is theirs to shape. Education is the key for advancement and a successful future. As nurses, we need to work well together, respect one another, be team players, and always be advocates for our patients.
Since I live in Hershey I can sum up my advice in a pneumonic I recently saw for CHOCOLATE:
C – compassion,
H – heal with humor,
O – open to relationships,
C -cope with elegance,
O – outlast the creeps!
L –l earn something new every day,
A – accept responsibility,
T – take time,
E – engage in life, don’t just show up!
Q: What question did I miss? What else should I know about you?
JD: Another important part of my life is my firm belief in giving back to the community. Over the years, I have volunteered many hours in a variety of capacities to many different organizations – from Boy Scouts to Meals on Wheels to my church. Not only do I truly enjoy these activities; but I feel so fortunate for what I have and what I can give back. I always gain much more from these opportunities than I give.