by Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

Marian Kaplan believes it is never too late to achieve your dream. Kaplan earned her nursing degree later in life, but she had a dream and a promise to keep.

“Age should not be a barrier to your dreams,” Kaplan, RN, BSN, said. “You should still do it.”

Kaplan’s husband battled cancer for eight years before he passed away in 1988. A rare form of brain cancer sent Kaplan and her husband to an Oregon hospital for treatment, making numerous trips from Kansas City through the years. Kaplan’s family was touched by the kindness of others during the process of treating her husband’s cancer, Kaplan said. Her son asked what they could do to give back. She told him they may not be able to give back to the same people who helped them along the way, but they could give back in other ways.

“So many people helped us,” she said. “I decided to become a registered nurse.”

Kaplan was 54 years old when she started her prerequisite courses at Johnson County Community College. She was 57 when she graduated with honors from Research College of Nursing. A back injury prevented her from working on the geropsych unit

at Overland Park Regional Medical Center (OPPMC) where she frst began her career, so Kaplan switched gears. She applied for a position in the hospital’s medical library instead and became the medical education coordinator in the hospital’s medical library. She said she combines her skills as a former teacher with her nursing skills to help physicians and allied health professionals in their research.

“It’s really a perfect niche for me,” Kaplan said. “I found my strength was in the academic part of nursing, as opposed to the hands-on skills.”

Kaplan had another goal, however. She also dreamed of reviving the Kansas City Hadassah Nurses Council. She wanted to reach out to Jewish nurses and non-Jewish nurses in the community through the organization, an arm of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, the largest fund-raising organization in the nation, Kaplan said. Kaplan revived the Hadassah Nurses Council in 2002 with a charter membership of 25. The organization, open to all nurses, has grown to 40 members including nursing students, active nurses and retired nurses, she said. The Hadassah Nurses Council focuses on nursing programming, community education, fundraising and networking opportunities. Kaplan said she has made some of her best friends through the council.

“We are here on earth to be a light unto the other nations of the world,” Kaplan said. “I do have a passion for Hadassah and nursing.”

Kaplan said entering the nursing feld later in life has proven to be advantageous for her in several ways. “You have a different perspective,” she said.

“You have wisdom you didn’t have when you were younger. I wanted to give back.”

Kaplan shares her wisdom in a chapter she wrote for a new book, “Thin Threads: Real Stories of Hadassah Life Changing Moments,” commemorating Hadassah’s 100th anniversary. The story about her journey into nursing is among 101 inspirational stories published. Kaplan gathered confdence to pursue her nursing degree after reading an article by Elsie Roth in the Hadassah Magazine. Roth stated in the article that she enrolled in nursing school when she was 54 years old. If Elsie could do it, so could she, Kaplan thought. The two have since become good friends, Kaplan said. She hopes her story will make an impact on others.

“I’m very honored it was selected,” Kaplan said. “The whole point of the story is to inspire others. Elsie Roth and I hope that it will inspire others.”

After launching the Hadassah Nurs- es Council, Kaplan recently moved into another leadership role. She was inducted as president of the Greater Kansas City Hadassah Chapter this summer. Kaplan said she is the frst nurse to serve as president of the Greater Kansas City Hadassah Chapter’s 99-year history. Hadassah fund-raises for nurses, scholarships, and hospitals in Israel as well as for local and national initiatives, most of which are related to healthcare, she said. Kaplan said as president of the local chapter, her impact will reach nursing and more.

“I feel like I’m also a role model for registered nurses in addition to leading this organization with more than a thousand members,” she said.

Lynda Youngblade, RN, BSN, co-chair of the Kansas City Hadassah Nurses Council, said Kaplan reached out to her through the Hadassah Nurses Council when she frst moved to Kansas City from Texas seven years ago.

“She’s very heart warming,” Youngblade said. “She makes me feel at home. She makes me feel comfortable.”

Youngblade said is amazed at Kaplan’s tenacity pursuing nursing as a second career, especially as she raised her two sons. She said Kaplan is very dedicated to nursing and to Hadassah.

“When she puts her mind to something, she goes all out,” Youngblade said. “She’s always striving to do the best she can.”

Karen Schwartz, RN, co-chair of the Kansas City Hadassah Nurses Council, said Kaplan laid the foundation for Schwartz’s role as co-chair 10 years later. “She was very infuential, doing what I do now,” Schwartz said.

“She was quite instrumental in looking at the need. She saw a need and continued to nurture that need.” Swartz said the Hadassah Nurses Council strives to be a good community resource in addition to fundraising internationally as well as locally. Every year the organization sponsors a walk to promote good health and raises funds for the Hadassah Medical Association, she said.

“It means a lot,” Swartz said. “It’s not just another nursing organization.”

Schwartz said in Judaism people are expected to do good deeds as a group, a mitzvoth, and as an individual, or a mitzvah.

“You are obligated to healing the world,” she said.

Nurses double-dip as they help to heal the world through their vocation, she said.

“It makes it doubly special,” she said. “They are fulflling a commandment.”

Schwartz said she is excited that Kaplan’s chapter was published in the Hadassah’s 100th anniversary book. She said the book is flled with examples of what you can do if you put your mind to it. She said Kaplan sets that kind of example.

“You can reach for the stars,” Schwartz said. “It doesn’t matter if you fall. You are still going to be there in the heavens. Reach for something. Don’t give up.”

Schwartz said when you support Hadassah in general, you are supporting the world. Hadassah fund-raising benefts nursing, technology and facilities in Israel.

“They go global,” she said. “Israel shares them. Everyone benefts. That’s the beautiful thing about Hadassah. It’s beautiful that people see how the work done locally begins to beneft globally.”