If the pictures are "as real as real can get",  a story like this one on the role of a Head  Nurse in a major city hospital,  tells itself.  Judy Strickland, bending over an unconscious patient in the unposed image that opened this essay, is the iconic figure of a merciful nurse. But hers was a job that asked as the title implies for “more than compassion.” At the pivot point in the daily flux of a 42 bed medical ward, she was responsible  for checking on orders that came in from rotating  teams of doctors on a variety of acutely ill patients, 
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Top: Head nurse Judy Stickland works a 42 bed ward in a busy 1970's NYC hospital. Bottom: LIFE Magazine* opening, nurse Strickland checks on a sick patient.

(continued from above left) overseeing  their implementation by her nurses and tracking every treatment program  for effectiveness.  But beyond those duties, her job also made her an emotional anchor in moments of crises.

  One such crises  came when  a  woman, ravaged by years of in congestive heart failure (right) whom Judy had befriended, told the nurse she would refuse any further treatment. In a fractured moment, standing at her bedside Grey captured both  the pain of caring in Judy's face(above left) and the patients  harrowed expression  as in effect, she signed her own death warrant.

"When you have to tell the family--that's when you see death and understand it, written in the faces of the living.  That's where you feel the pain of failure.  All you can do is offer to hold and hand and help them leave. There's a great emptiness in such moments; I try very hard to forget them..." Judy Strickland.

Above right: A 1970's NYC hosptial patient with congestive heart failure decides to refuse future treatments. Above left: Judy Strickland comforts Mrs. Michael Connato who has just learned her husband is terminally ill.
*LIFE is a registered trademark of TIME Inc. Essay spreads are copyright to LIFE magazine/TIME Inc./Getty Images.
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