Rita Callahan

As a nursing professor, Dr. Callahan loves helping others.

While some people might shy away from working with those who are seriously ill or dying, for PLNU associate professor of nursing Dr. Rita Callahan, nothing could be more fulfilling.

Callahan’s dissertation research was inspired by the fact that African American women have higher breast cancer mortality rates than women of other races. Her findings indicated a need for greater patient education about the genetic aspect of breast cancer and about the importance of open communication with family members. This research helped make communication and education especially important to Callahan as she continued her career.

After earning her Ph.D., Callahan went on to work at Scripps Mercy Hospital on the medical/surgical oncology unit. She then spent eight years serving as a home health care nurse, working with oncology patients to provide symptom management as well as spiritual and psychosocial care.

“When you’re caring for someone who has cancer, it requires holistic caring,” she said. “And it’s not just the patient, but it’s also the family that needs care. You need open communication when you’re trying to meet all the needs. That’s why we work to orient students to this side of nursing.”

“I would never say that it’s too hard,” she said about her job. “It’s not exhausting – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I oftentimes tell students that I thank God every day for Him choosing me to be one of His helpers; I could very easily be the patient. It is humbling to put oneself in the role of the patient, in appreciating how the person might feel. I tell them it could be any of us. We need to put ourselves in the place of the patient and care for them the best we can.”