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Her Life's Mission

It was almost as if Janice Mabry was destined to become a nurse.

While other children followed the adventures of superheroes and Nancy Drew, Janice read about the saving powers of Florence Nightingale and Sue Barton: Student Nurse. As a teenager, she volunteered as a candy striper and cared for ailing seamen in the U.S. Marine Hospital in Louisville.

In high school, Janice was intensely focused on her chosen career and contemplated becoming a missionary or joining the military to serve as a nurse, but instead decided to devote herself to community nursing.

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Nurse in Training

She enrolled in the Norton Memorial Infirmary School of Nursing in Louisville in the fall of 1956. It was a highly competitive three-year program that was in session year round.The students took nursing classes at the hospital and general studies courses at the University of Louisville.

In addition to the academic and clinical course work, the students were required to work in the hospital as student nurses. Students were not allowed to marry during their first two years of nurses training. So, when Janice became a senior in 1958, she married her high school sweetheart, Gene Cantrall, who was a junior at the University of Louisville.

Nursing school was a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding experience. Students lived in a residence at the hospital and were governed by very strict rules and regulations involving most aspects of their life. As a result, Janice’s class had over a 50 percent attrition rate, but Janice graduated as the top student in her class in 1959.

Giving Back

After graduation, Janice worked for more than a decade at Norton Memorial Infirmary and Baptist East Hospital in Louisville on medical surgical floors, emergency room, recovery room, and the orthopedic unit. But she was ready for a new challenge. Janice wanted to pursue nursing education. She believed that her experience and nursing philosophy would help her teach aspiring nurses how to make a positive impact on the lives of those they served.

Now a mother of four, Janice enrolled in Spalding College's RN to BSN program in 1974. She earned her bachelor's degree and graduated magna cum laude in 1976, having developed a better understanding of herself and the world around her from the wide variety of classes she took on campus. She furthered her education, pursuing her master's degree at the University of Kentucky. She graduated in 1977 and was inducted as a charter member of Delta Psi Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the National Honor Society of Nursing.

Janice taught for three years at the College of Mount St. Joseph and then, in 1980, joined the faculty in the nursing department at Northern Kentucky University, where she taught in the RN to BSN program. Some of the courses she taught were nursing leadership, nursing assessment and nursing ethics. She also co-authored the textbook, “Ethics in Nursing.” In addition to teaching, she directed a continuing education program for nurses and taught some of those courses.

While at NKU, Janice served on the board of directors at the Woodspoint Nursing Home in Florence. The facility was experiencing serious difficulties in providing services to its residents. Realizing the need for new leadership, the facility’s administration and board approached Janice about assuming the position of director of nursing at this 151-bed facility in 1988.

A New Challenge

The director position was the greatest challenge of Janice’s career, and she met it with the same determination, conscientiousness and professionalism that had been the hallmark of all her years in nursing. During the next seven years she, with the cooperation of Woodspoint’s administrator, restructured staffing patterns to add significantly to the RNs on staff; raised compensation and benefit packages to attract high quality nursing and nursing assistant staff; established a staff evaluation and merit pay system; organized nursing teams around accountability standards; established ongoing staff training programs; conducted leadership training for nursing staff; initiated computerized charting; developed a medication system with a central pharmacy; wrote a policy and procedure handbook for nursing service; and established professional networking and collaborative relationships with community physicians, Hospice and university nursing departments.

Hanging Up Her Cap

In 1995, after 39 years as a nurse, Janice decided to retire and leave her position at Woodspoint. She was able to adopt a more relaxed lifestyle and spend more time with her four children and 14 grandchildren, but she maintained her nursing license by taking continuing education courses. She also continued to use her nursing background to care for her aging mother and chronically ill mother-in-law.  In addition, she assisted in the care of an infant grandson who had a critical health problem at birth.   

Janice was highly respected by her colleagues, patients, residents, students and families of those she served. They admired her caring attitude, empathy, sensitivity, ability to listen, fairness and resourcefulness. They were also impressed by her tireless commitment to carry out her life mission as a professional nurse. Years after she retired, people whose lives were touched by Janice throughout her career continued to greet her warmly and express their gratitude.

She continues to help young nurses achieve their dreams by supporting them through the Janice Mabry Cantrall Endowed Nursing Scholarship and the Janice Mabry Cantrall Excellence in Leadership Award.