Empathy, critical thinking, confidence – these qualities are vital to a nurse treating patients with challenging medical conditions. Cultivating these characteristics as an undergraduate nursing student helped launch Janet Ely’s successful career at the University of Vermont Medical Center and the Larner College of Medicine.
A nurse practitioner in oncology and palliative care at the UVM Cancer Center, Ely cares for high-acuity patients with advanced cancer. She also serves as an adjunct professor in the Larner College of Medicine. She frequently presents at national nursing conferences and is collaborating on a book chapter on palliative care and oncology. Ely credits her career success to her coursework and academic support at CNHS.
“My undergraduate experience at UVM was particularly meaningful in that it emphasized the importance of empathy and compassion. It taught me to listen to my patients, be present and critically think and problem solve. The instructors were also powerful role models in that they not only taught but practiced, so fully understood the challenges of patient care,” Ely said. “I continue to be a life-long learner, a quality that I can clearly trace back to my years at CNHS.”
Nursing was a second career for Ely, who had previously earned a B.S. in Environmental Sciences more than 20 years prior. Her mother was a nurse, but she did not see herself in that role.
“Something changed in me after 9/11,” she recalls of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. “It was a personal thing, an epiphany for me, to do something more meaningful in my life. Nursing was a good fit.”
While her three children experienced their own college educations, Ely enrolled at UVM. She found encouragement and fellowship among her co-students and faculty.
“I was one of a group of older students, most of whom had at least one or two previous careers, multiple degrees and growing families,” she explained. “The UVM nursing faculty rose to the occasion on so many levels to meet our needs, accommodate our life styles and provide the education that we needed at that point in our lives. They instilled confidence, critical thinking and perspective to health care that has proved invaluable over the years.”
Upon graduating from UVM, Ely went directly to completion of a Master of Science in Nursing at George Washington University, and into practice as a nurse practitioner, achieving advanced certifications in oncology and palliative care.
During graduate school, she traveled to Indonesia to volunteer at a women’s health clinic, delivering babies, providing pre-natal and post-natal care to local women. The inspiration to study abroad came from her younger colleagues at CNHS.
“I watched them be encouraged and motivated by our professors to reach out and experience different cultures and environments through study-abroad program,” she recalled. “My experience at UVM prepared me well for pursuing and excelling at opportunities such as this.”
Ely worked as a registered nurse in oncology and hospice while in graduate school and as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse at the UVMMC Cancer Center for the last decade. In 2017, the medical center honored Ely with the Excellence in Clinical Practice award for her significant contributions and commitment to patient care.
“I have been lucky enough to get to do exactly what I love every day -- caring for patients, teaching and mentoring and working with amazing people,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have landed at UVM. I received an excellent education and preparation for my career in health care.”
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the UVM Nursing program. The first students to achieve a bachelor's degree in nursing from UVM began their studies in 1942 and graduated in 1947. Alumni and friends are invited to attend an anniversary celebration on June 8 at the UVM Alumni House.