Since the beginning of her career, Maureen Niland has shown a deep commitment to providing excellent patient care and fighting against discrimination, particularly in health care systems and the provision of care.
Maureen attended the De Paul Hospital School of Nursing in Norfolk, Virginia. An experience in school would go on to spur her passion for social justice and deepen her belief that all people deserve to be treated equally. When she and a group of classmates were travelling to Florida for the Student Nurses Convention in 1960, several restaurants along the way refused to serve Maureen’s African American classmates in the dining room and would only let them eat in the kitchen. All of the students on the bus refused to let this happen and they ended up not eating during the entire trip down to Florida.
Later, Maureen was employed as the head nurse of a Coronary Care Unit (CCU) that had segregated floors for white and African American patients. Faced one day with a patient care emergency, Maureen made the decision to move an African American patient into a semi-private room on the white floor. Despite being reprimanded by her boss, she continued to make decisions based on patient needs and the administration soon stopped caring about her integration of the floors. During this integration, she always took care to introduce the two patients sharing the room, knowing that the way patients were approached and introduced would have a huge impact on their experience and satisfaction. No patients ever complained.
Maureen’s ability to bring different groups of people closer together served her well throughout her career, including her work building partnerships between physicians and ARNPs in clinics, improving the educational experience for Hopi Indian students and finding grant funding from the Seattle Housing Authority for Community Health Nursing at Holly Garden Community Neighborhood in Seattle.
Maureen brought the same tenacity to her work as a nurse in the Air Force Reserve. She retired at the rank of Colonel after over 25 years of service including flight nurse, assistant chief nurse, and Commander of the 40th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. She also spent time both working with veterans in direct patient care and working for the Veteran’s Administration as a nursing education instructor.
Maureen spent much of her career in teaching and education, working in many different parts of the country. At both the University of Washington and Seattle University, she developed and administered nursing undergraduate curricula that increased the focus on prevention and on community health across the life span. She pioneered and designed the use of learning modules and learning contracts. At Seattle University, she developed and started the Master’s of Science in Nursing degree program which focuses on community health for vulnerable populations.
Throughout a busy career, Maureen has maintained membership in WSNA since 1970 and has held leadership positions in the Washington State Nurses Foundation and the King County Nurses Association. She has also been active in Sigma Theta Tau and Broadway House, an organization supporting low-income housing for homeless women.
Maureen retired from Seattle University in 2005 and was named Professor Emerita before returning to serve as Acting Dean in 2009 and Special Assistant to the Dean in 2010. She has now re-retired, but remains active in St. Patrick’s Parish in Seattle and the Public Health Reserve Corps. Throughout her life, she has been a champion for those who are vulnerable or without a voice, and continues to lead by example today.