Monday, September 04, 2006


Today while taking it easy ~ no holiday shift for me ~ I have spent time thinking about where I am and how I got here. Who I am and what I want to be. I'd like to spend some time reflecting on how I became a nurse, first an LPN and then an RN and all that has led to where I am now. I know that it will take way more than one post so I hope you will perservere while I offer my spin on life and nursing.

I always wanted to be a nurse. There was something about it that spoke to my need to nurture and help people. I continued to want to be a nurse even while women burned their bra's and said "you don't have to be JUST a nurse or JUST a schoolteacher." Wow is THAT ever dating me! I never ever felt like JUST a nurse.

I remember always wanting to be like Mother Teresa, wanting to do something so big that it would save the world. It took years and years to be okay with just making a difference each day in someone's life. I'm good at that. I love nursing. That is what I do.

I was devastated when I thought last year that I would never do that again. I let stress and an inability to see my own needs get in my way...I had COPD and could just not go on in my position as a director of nursing in a LTC facility, no matter how much I loved it.

I went to nursing school straight out of high school. I went to an LPN program that ran 15 months straight, which is not being done today. I was totally unprepared. The hospital school of nursing that I went to began as a TB sanitarium. They still had a ward for patients with TB who had no place to go.

TB had been conquered and the hospital had moved on to cancer. Radical surgery and radical cases. My first patient was an elderly man and he was both OLD and CRANKY. When I found out that I had to wash his privates, I said this is not for me and quit. I had been thinking about it for a while because I had heard whispers that there was another man there with no arms and no legs and I finally SAW him. Oh no, not for me at all! That ended my parents hope for the first generation to advance in school; I just left.

The next couple of years were spent working as a receptionist, a donut maker and short order cook. Nothing made me feel like it could be my life work. I went back to the nursing school and made it this time. I found that I loved the challenge of making people feel and smell better. I say smell because cancer has a particular smell. In my early days of nursing we used to place oil of wintergreen in the rooms. That only made it worse. I can still "picture" the smell in my mind!

For the better part of 10 years I lived in a dormatory and worked in the "old san". It was a big "campus" with lots of outbuildings. We even had a seamstress who made us turn- of- the- century nursing uniforms for a celebration of Nurses Day.

The dorm life always invokes a smile when I think of it. My friends and I who worked the night shift would take off in the morning after work to go to the beach for the day; my evening shift friends and I would go to an all-night diner after they got out of work at 11pm. The laughs, the meals, the boys, the dates, the philosophical conversations! It was a memorable time for me.

I learned so many skills there. We autoclaved everything and I learned how to do treatments using a package of sterile products wrapped in a sterile (cloth) field. The instruments were not disposable and were returned each time to Central Supply for sterilizing. I learned how to talk with patients, be at ease with them, and make them at ease with me. The basics of what I would use in my future career were learned as an LPN.

In the middle of my years at the "sanitarium" as it was called in the community, I took 2 years and went to Phoenix to work and live. I worked at Good Samaritan Hospital and my future of working with patients who were dying was sealed. I will share that in my next post.


Melisa said...

Eileen, what a story so far of your working life. Isn't it wonderful to be able to sit back, write and reflect in our thoughts. Thanks for wanting to share yourself in this way with your family and friends.
Hugs to you, Melisa

LJG aka Pennsylvania Independent said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LJG aka Pennsylvania Independent said...

I know what it is like to have a pulmonary disorder. I have chronic bronchitis, which according to my doctor, I could be in the early stages of emphysema. In the fall of 2004 I developed a hacking cough that lasted for a few months. Eventually I developed a high fever of 105 and my wife and mother in law dragged me into the ER at 2:30am.(uninsured at the time) I was diagnosed with pneumonia and found to have chronic bronchitis, which according to the doctor is an early sign of emphysema. I was 25 years old at the time and never imagined when I started smoking at 14 that I would be up against such an ordeal in my mid-twenties. I was finally able to stop smoking eariler this year and I do see the benefits of stopping

RX850 said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, PP. Have you been tested for the alpha one gene? It's great that you quit smoking because that alone will slow or stop the progression of lung disease. Also, there are so many environmental toxins too that effect our lungs.

Best of luck to you and good luck with your blog. I'll be sure to check it out and see how it's progressing...

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