Remembering a GAPNA Leader, Colleague, Mentor, and Friend
by Kathleen Fletcher
Everything Norma Small accomplished in her three careers in nursing was done with passion, commitment, and a desire to shape future nursing leaders. GAPNA is very fortunate that gerontological nursing was one of her chosen careers.
GAPNA was saddened by the loss of our leader, colleague, mentor, and friend Norma Small, APRN, PhD, RN, when she passed away in 2015.
What we remember most about Norma was her constant smile and her small but formidable stature. She was fearless and committed but also outspoken, stubborn, and protective.
Her first career with the Army Nurse Corp (ANC) spanned 22 years (1956-1978). Her first clinical site was in Washington, DC through the University of Maryland and the Walter Reed Institute. Norma noted “I was a medical-surgical nurse with a focus on nursing administration. I became disappointed that my skills were not being used to their fullest.
I soon learned that geriatric nursing was where the ‘real action’ was and I retired from the ANC and began to build my professional development around the care of older adults.” She continued to be a faculty member and received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) faculty fellowship in primary care.
She was recruited to Georgetown University and was Project Director for the RWJF Teaching Nursing Home (TNH) grant. TNH faculty are also considered staff with responsibilities in the nursing home. Here she learned about the National Conference of Gerontological Nurse Practitioners (NCGNP) and attended her first conference in 1985.
View the Past Board of Directors And Founding Members of GAPNA.
Her second career in gerontological nursing spanned 30 years. Never content to be just a member, Norma became involved to make change happen as a NCGNP/GAPNA member (1985), NCGNP President (1991), GAPNA political activist (1991), and GAPNA Archivist (1992).
She received the GAPNA Pioneer Award in the TNH in 2007. Upon receipt of this prestigious award she said “NCGNP will only be there for future challenges if each member takes responsibility to be active as a leader in NCGNP.” Norma was very protective of our history, having seen a series of management companies lose parts of our documented history.
She kept our documents in a flood-prone basement in Johnstown, PA. As incoming History Chair and member of her Archivist Committee, she trusted me. I arranged to meet her at a restaurant in Johnstown where I was en route from my home in Virginia to visit my family in Pittsburgh, PA, and she gave me the archives. I was honored.
She remained active and engaged with GAPNA and continued attending every conference even as her health was failing. The last GAPNA Conference she attended was the 25th Annual Conference in 2006.
Her third career launched in 1989, overlapping with GAPNA and spanning 26 years. She was a charter member of Health Ministries Association. As Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, she developed the first graduate program in parish nursing and was instrumental in the American Nurses Association designating parish nursing as a specialty in 1998.
Following her retirement from all three careers, she returned to the family homestead in Johnstown with her faithful pets, Buddy and Rosebud, her beautiful Labrador retrievers. She continued to be a national consultant and speaker, remained involved with GAPNA and parish nursing, and provided leadership through mentorship, knowing the gifts she was given were meant to be shared.
Lost but never forgotten: an obituary in the Johnstown paper written by Sharon Stanton of Health Ministries Association said, “Sadly we lost this pioneering visionary and faithful servant to God to Cancer in July 2015.”
Kathleen Fletcher, MSN, RN, APRN-BC, GNP, FAAN
Norma Small (left) incoming NCGNP (GAPNA President) with outgoing President Linda Grissom (1990)
10th Annual Conference, “Celebrating 10 Years of Progress,” is held at the Kahler Plaza, Rochester, MN. Past presidents from 1981-1991 (l to r): Norma Small, Linda Grissom, C. Ruth Broderick, Bernie Gorek, Sally Nail, Ruth Lueck (not pictured: Della Park and Carol Gustafson)
Officers (l to r); Normal Small, president; Joe Caraway, president-elect; Phyllis Freeman, vice-president; Norma Richards, secretary; Carol Wooden, treasurer