Four children. Work. Nursing degree after nursing degree. Eva Williamson keeps on juggling, to applause from her peers.
In 2008, Montefiore Medical Center promoted Williamson, 40, to nursing director.
“She’s bright and an excellent leader,” said nurse Marlene Thompson, who works with Williamson at Montefiore. “Compassionate, too.”
Williamson moved to the Bronx from Jamaica at age 11 and saw herself through high school. She earned an associates degree from Orange County Community College.
In 1991, Williamson’s mother moved to the Bronx, developed cancer and obtained treatment at Albert Einstein Medical Center. There, Williamson, a veteran “candy striper” caught the nursing bug.
“I saw how my mother trusted the nurses on her floor,” Williamson said.
An Einstein nurse spoke the magic words.
“You’re doing such a good job taking care of your mother,” the nurse said. “You should think about a career in nursing.”
At first, Williamson wasn’t sure.
“Two children, no funds,” she said.
But Williamson’s vision – to guide immigrant Bronxites like her mother through a perplexing hospital system – won out. She earned a bachelor’s in nursing from SUNY New Paultz and a floor slot at New Rochelle’s Sound Shore Medical Center.
“Ultimately, having children in the mix didn’t deter me,” said Williamson. “If I had to stay up all night making dinner, I was still going to get good grades.”
Williamson remembers one patient in particular – a young man near death.
“His family came in,” Williamson said. “A priest came into read his last rights.”
Miraculously, the patient’s vital signs reversed. He grew stronger. He and Williamson took respirator-aided strolls around the hospital.
“I went to a wedding a few years later,” Williamson said. “And there he was. To see him walking and talking, that’s what nursing is all about.”
In 2003, Williamson joined Montefiore. A year later, she finished degree number three, a Master’s in public health from New York Medical College.
At Montefiore, Williamson mentored nurse Sophia Hewitt. “Getting into the profession, you can fail if you don’t have a leader like Eva to protect you,” Hewitt said. “She knows her stuff. She always has time for you.”
In 2008, Williamson completed Mercy College’s graduate nursing program. Williamson is passionate about aiding all Bronxites, regardless of nationality or documentation. At Mercy, she dove into healthcare policy.
“Ms. Williamson is full of energy and enthusiasm,” said Mercy College nursing program director Miriam Ford. “As President Obama seeks to reform healthcare, it’s the voices of nurses that need to be heard.”
Williamson now supervises 450 beds and 350 staff at Montefiore. She’s inspiring a new generation of Bronxites to pursue nursing. Thompson, for example.
“Six years ago, I lost a son,” Thompson said. “A Master’s was the last thing on my mind. I had no intention of going back to school. But Eva pushed me. She said, ‘Let’s do this together.’ Eva helped me move on.”
Williamson plans to stay at Montefiore.
“Ms. Williamson’s support of nurses to continue in their education is vital to both the nursing community and the community at large,” said Ford. “We look forward to following her exciting career.”