Eunice Cole, BSN, RN’s career of more than forty years in nursing is filled with numerous honors and recognition. She’s well-known for her calm, steady and skillful leadership under pressure, both as a nurse administrator in acute and long term care settings and as an association leader and political activist in WSNA and ANA. Over the years, She has held numerous nursing roles in a variety of settings.
Eunice received her Nursing Diploma from St. Joseph School of Nursing in Bellingham, Washington and later received a BSN from the University of Washington. After graduation she worked as a staff nurse and clinical instructor until 1965 when she became the Director of Nursing Services at St Luke’s General Hospital, a position she held until 1976. An early nurse entrepreneur, Eunice opened her nurse-owned surgical supply and home care center in Bellingham, which she ran for twelve years before becoming a Director of Nursing in long term care.
Eunice was also active in her Bellingham community serving on the Whatcom County Emergency Medical Services Council for five years, the Whatcom County Health Advisory Board for ten years, as an advisor to the Western Washington University Nursing program for ten years and advisor to the Bellingham Practical Nursing Program for nearly 25 years.
Eunice held a number of District and WSNA positions before being elected as WSNA First Vice-President from 1972 – 1974 and as WSNA President from 1974 – 1976 – a tumultuous period in WSNA history during which the Taft Hartley amendments assuring collective bargaining rights to nurses were implemented. As president of WSNA, Eunice faced great pressure from nurse administrator colleagues and her own hospital administration.
However, even at the risk of her own job, Eunice calmly stood her ground and continued to advocate for staff nurse involvement in decision-making and their right to bargain for wages, hours and working conditions. She provided an exemplary role model for other managers and directors of nursing, continuing her active role in WSNA and refusing to be intimidated by this pressure. This won her great respect and admiration of nurses in all roles. In 1976, WSNA awarded Eunice the ANA Honorary Recognition award for her outstanding leadership and contributions to WSNA..
Eunice was elected to a four-year term on the ANA Board of Directors in 1978 and served as Chairperson of the ANA-PAC. Eunice was elected President of the American Nurses Association in 1982. Eunice’s leadership contributions as ANA president are perhaps best described by Dr. Judith Ryan who was the ANA Executive Director during the four years Eunice was president.
Dr. Ryan writes, “I don’t know if anyone but the ANA Exec will ever know the scope of the work that Eunice did as President of ANA for those four years. The framing of the ANA Federation, the introduction of the Reference Committee Process, the development of the national Tri-Council, the orchestration of the National Commission on Nursing Implementation Project, the retention of New York State as a member of ANA, the enactment of Community Nursing Organizations, building of the foundation for the National Institute of Nursing, the maturation of the ANA PAC and political action network, creation of a superb model for the ANA Speaker role, reestablishing the working relationships with National Federation of Specialty Nursing Organizations, and her solid international leadership.” These were all accomplished in typical Eunice style – calm, focused, steady and always with the right amount of humor.
Even while fulfilling the enormous demands of the ANA presidency, Eunice continued to be involved in Washington State and WSNA and her contributions were frequently recognized. In 1981, she was appointed to a two-year term on the Washington State Board of Health. In 1982, the mayor of Bellingham and the Whatcom County Executive proclaimed “Eunice Cole Day” in her honor. In 1983 she received Honorary Recognition by the Washington State Legislature and later that year, she was proclaimed Business Woman of the Year by the Whatcom Women in Business organization.
Now in semi-retirement, Eunice enjoys gardening and being a grandmother and continues an active role in nursing association activities, serving as an honorary trustee of the American Nurses Foundation, the ANA advisor and honorary member of the National Student Nurses Association and honorary member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.