At what age did you first realize you wanted to be a nurse? The American Nurses Foundation’s Honor a Nurse 2017 Nurse of the Year, Linda J. Hassler, DNP, RN, GCNS-BC, FNGNA, said she was only 16 years old.
Hassler was honored by Joanne Alderman, MS-N, APRN-CNS(c), RN-BC, FNGNA, geriatric nursing practice educator consultant at Geriatric Collaborative Care Nursing Services–PLLC, through the Foundation’s Honor a Nurse Program, which provides a platform to recognize extraordinary nurses while giving back to the profession. In the nomination, Alderman shared that she is “proud of Linda and the professional nursing accomplishments she has attained and her commitment to nursing, our older adults, and their caregivers. She is a vibrant, learned, and dedicated gerontological nurse.”
Both American Nurses Association (ANA) members for more than 35 years, Hassler, a New Jersey State Nurses Association member, and Alderman, an Oklahoma Nurses Association member, met in 2006 through the National Gerontological Association’s Special Interest Group of Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses.
But it was back when Hassler was 16, and her father, then a camp director in upstate New York, needed a health lodge secretary/nursing assistant that she first rose to the challenge and found out how complex, compassionate, and exciting nursing could be. She later went into gerontology because of a personal experience as well; when her great aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and entered a nursing home, Hassler saw firsthand the wonderful care being provided and wanted to help make that difference for others.
Since July 2017, Hassler has served as nursing excellence director at Hackensack Meridian Nursing and Rehabilitation, where she manages the nurse residency and professional growth ladder programs. At age 53, Hassler went back to school and recently completed her doctor of nursing practice degree at Rutgers University, where she is now an instructor in the entry to baccalaureate practice division, second-degree program, in the school of nursing.
Hassler has been recognized with various awards throughout her career. In 2016, she was the Distinguished Educator, National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners and received the 2009 New Jersey State Nurses Association CARES (Clinical, Administration, Research, Education, Support) Award for Excellence in Nursing Education.
Today, Hassler’s greatest joy is when she sees a student’s or new nurse’s mind click and understand why they are doing what they do—the science behind nursing. When she reads her teaching or presentation evaluations and sees comments like, “This was eyeopening” or “I thought I knew how to care for an older adult, but today I learned so much more,” Hassler knows she chose the right career path.
“The American Nurses Foundation receives so many beautiful tributes every year, but this particular tribute highlighted the importance of colleague support and caring for one another,” said American Nurses Foundation Chair Tim Porter O’Grady, DM, EdD, APRN, FAAN. “We are thrilled to recognize Linda.”