Maybe it wasn’t so much that Sharon Aronovitch decided to become a nurse as she heeded a calling to dedicate herself to caring for the sick and soothing the injured. It is one of the noblest of life’s paths, and no less an authority than William Osler, the Father of Modern Medicine, said so when he decreed that nurses are “one of the greatest blessings of humanity.”
Since earning her Associate of Applied Science Degree from Middlesex County College in 1975, Mrs. Aronovitch has stood shoulder to shoulder with these compassionate caregivers, whether they are serving in emergency rooms, neonatal intensive care units, cancer wards or somewhere else that someone needs a helping hand and a sympathetic soul.
For the past 38 years, she has served as a WOC nurse, as it is known in medical parlance. Having a specialty in wound, ostomy and continence care, she has treated thousands of patients who are not only fighting for their health, but also battling to retain their dignity in the face of terrible diseases and medical conditions.
Her nursing training has taught her how to dress an amputation or care for an artificial opening in an organ created by an operation, such as a colostomy or ileostomy. It has been experience, however, that has taught her how to treat the wounds that aren’t visible.
“They sometimes have personal baggage as I sometimes call it,” Mrs. Aronovitch said. Maybe they just lost a spouse or they just lost their job or something happened to a child.
“When I’m with these patients I’m not only doing the care that I’m there for, whether it’s wound care, ostomy care or continence care … sometimes I’m just listening to the patient. Sometimes it seems most of what I do in a day is listen and provide that comforting ear. Sometimes people just have to talk.”
Mrs. Aronovitch’s introduction to WOC care came while she was training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She decided she need to know more, so she found a WOC program at Harrisburg Hospital, gathered some grant money she had received and headed out to Pennsylvania.
Some 10 years down the road, she felt the tug to share her knowledge with others. The idea seemed implausible in the days before Skype and the Internet. Undaunted, she became a pioneer in distance-based education and created an accredited program for registered nurses who wanted to be WOC nurses. She wrote the curriculum, devised the tests, picked the textbooks and made it possible for nurses from the rolling hills of Scranton to the palm tree-lined streets of San Diego to learn to become WOC nurses. They would work closely with a preceptor and come away ready to treat WOC patients.
“To this day when I go to a conference, there will always be at least one student who discovers I’m at a conference and approach me and say, ‘Thank you very much for having that program,’ ” she said. “It feels wonderful. Some of the students are doing fantastic. One of my students is now program director of the WOC education program at Rutgers-Camden.
Sharon Aronovitch ’75
“I am very proud of that accomplishment. I did something that others thought could not be done – in a sense doing something people didn’t think was going to work, but going ahead and trying it. To then be able to practice as a WOC nurse does create a really good feeling for me. I guess it is my legacy.”
Mrs. Aronovitch has relocated to Tallahassee, Fla., with her husband, Chuck. She is, however, as busy as ever. Not only is she the program director for graduate nursing at Excelsior College, a distanced-based college in Albany,
N.Y., she maintains two clinical positions.
“I work one evening a week at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Center, which is a level 2 trauma center,” she said. “And I do consults there as a WOC nurse. I do consults as needed at Capital Regional Medical Center for just ostomy patients. So I could have a long, busy day. When my full-time day job starts, I can be seeing one or two
patients at Capital Regional, work my day from 8:30 to 5, then be at the (Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Center) trauma center from 5:30 till 9:30, 10 o’clock at night.”
Today, she is Dr. Aronovitch. After earning her BSN at the University of the State of New York in 1984 and her Master’s from Russell Sage College in 1987, she earned her Ph.D. in Nursing from Adelphi University in Garden City.
It was the realization of a dream that dated to her time at MCC.
“Probably the thing that perpetuated on is a need to know more,” she said. “A lifelong love of learning came out. I can recall very vividly at the end of the program, there was some sort of survey to fill out. One of the questions was what do you want to do in however many years. I do recall writing, ‘I want my Ph.D. in nursing.’ I can just recall instructors instilling in me curiosity, poking me so that curiosity was there to want to know more.”