After graduating from PCC’s nursing program in 1985, Nancy (Hurley) Pontes went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. In her lifelong career, she has been published in nine nursing journals and reviews and has presented her findings in eighteen speaking engagements across the United States and internationally in places like Hong Kong, Barcelona, and South Africa.
But through all of her experiences over the past three decades, one thing has remained—her passion for nursing. “Since I was four, I had a passion to become a nurse—and it still burns strong in my being,” she said. “God instilled a tender heart in me for those who are most vulnerable, marginalized, victimized, and underserved. Because of the love I have experienced from God and His unconditional mercy, I can pour that out to others.”
That outpouring of love has brought Nancy national acclaim from the National Academies of Practice (NAP), a government organization that advises the United States on health care delivery within the States and internationally.
During the NAP’s annual conference, Nancy was honored as a Distinguished Fellow and Practitioner of the National Academies of Practice, a fellowship she received for her outstanding contributions and achievements as a health care leader, educator, researcher, and practitioner.
Nancy believes her strong ethics as a nurse have come from her background and training. Growing up in a remote area of Peru, Nancy watched as nurses administered measles vaccinations and provided basic health care services to the indigenous people in the jungle region of Amazonas. Her multicultural upbringing and marriage to an Indo-Portuguese husband have encouraged her international adventures.
After her sophomore year in PCC’s nursing program, she started working internationally with a variety of mission, health, and university organizations doing short-term nursing work. “Now, nothing is more rewarding than taking students on these same types of learning abroad experiences,” said Nancy.
Her training at PCC helped prepare her for her current work as both an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden and a family nurse practitioner with a satellite clinic called Project Hope, a federally qualified health center.
“PCC taught me how to study and discipline myself; it fed my deep curiosity for things related to nursing and health,” said Nancy. “At times, my training was stressful because they had a high standard. I remember the thrill and relief of finishing a day of clinical in the hospital. I also remember having to write a thesis proposal as an undergraduate that really prepared me for my master’s thesis at University of Florida and my Ph.D. work at Columbia University.”
Since completing her degrees, Nancy has served on the executive board of the New Jersey College Health Association and as a certified disaster response crisis counselor for New Jersey Disaster Mental Health Services. She has also worked and conducted research internationally in places like Colombia, India, and Peru.
Currently, she is doing research as the primary investigator on a $550,000 Department of Education grant intended to increase Spanish language education for Rutgers’ nursing students and faculty to study abroad in Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cuba.
“I don’t really see myself as having accomplished that many impressive things, but I have been blessed to have had so many educational, practice, teaching, and research opportunities,” said Nancy. “That is a miracle only God can do!”
At the end of the day, Nancy couldn’t imagine spending her time any other way. As she works one on one with patients or their family, she invests her time in what she calls a “Love Presence.”
“I can sit with them as they tell their story of what has happened,” she said. “I can silently pray for them as they open up to me. It is a sacred responsibility and an honor to experience that deep connection.”