In 2022, nursing giant Dr. Marlene Kramer passed away at the age of 90. A fellow and “Living Legend” of the American Academy of Nursing, she was best known for her seminal work on reality shock (Kramer, 1974). Dr. Kramer continued her work well into her 80s. She described multiple patient-simultaneity complexity (MP/SC) that results from being assigned several patients with competing needs (Kramer et al., 2013) and suggested that it’s a common cause of reality shock. Other health care professionals care for one patient at a time and then move to the next patient. Dr. Kramer recognized that nurses juggle the competing demands of many patients during their shifts.
In 2016, Dr. Kramer, who often chided me for calling her that, was a keynote speaker for ANPD’s annual convention. At the age of 83, she flew alone from Lake Tahoe to Pittsburgh to speak. Dr. Kramer presented, driven with a passion to share her knowledge and insight with the ANPD community. She met the ANPD Board of Directors at the President’s Reception and regaled the group with stories about her bicycle travels across what was then a divided Ireland.
But the most poignant story she told was about being a nursing supervisor in a segregated hospital in the 1950s. The segregated nursery for Black infants frequently used all of their assigned incubators, and staff were not allowed to pull resources from other areas of the hospital. She recalled an instance of a night when all of the incubators were in use and a new Black neonate arrived in the segregated nursery. Knowing that the White nursery had available resources, she left her house supervisor’s keys at the nurses’ station and told the nurses in the segregated nursery that she’d return in 15 minutes. As she hoped, when she returned, the neonate was in an incubator and safely cared for. She maintained that while nurses have challenging jobs, we always manage to find a way.
Her presentation to the ANPD audience was irreverent, entertaining, and educational—one of my all-time favorite speakers. Pursuant to her presentation, Dr. Joan Warren, ANPD president at the time, presented Dr. Kramer with the inaugural Marlene Kramer Award for Lifetime Achievement in Nursing Professional Development. This award is periodically bestowed by the ANPD Board of Directors in recognition of outstanding contributions to our specialty.
Meeting Marlene was the highlight of my professional career. We have truly lost a legend.
Kramer, M. (1974). Reality shock: Why nurses leave nursing. Mosby.
Kramer, M., Brewer, B. B., Halfer, D., Maguire, P., Beausoleil, S., Claman, K., Macphee, M., & Duchscher, J. B. (2013). Changing our lens: Seeing the chaos of professional nursing as complexity. Journal of Nursing Management, 21, 690–704. https://doi.org/10.1111/jonm.12082