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Remembering When I was a Student Nurse

Updated on January 14, 2016

One of my favorite memories

Remembering When

I got permission at the age of fourteen to become a candy striper at Children's Hospital, Birmingham, Alabama. That permission had to come from

1) My parents

2) My School Principal

3) My Pastor

As a candy striper at Children's I was "allowed to"

· carry labs to the upstairs lab,

· pass out ice and water as well as help with feeding patients who could not feed themselves

· Changing beds with a nurse. I had to carry my own stepstool, I was short and the beds and cribs were tall

· Wash out linen and clean the bedpans in the hopper (no, you do not want to know what a hopper is, trust me, you're blessed)

· And hold the patient's hands during procedures. That was the first of many fainting spells I had there. I was holding a girl’s hand (same age as myself) who had a broken leg, up in weighted traction with pins in her thigh and the residents adjusted the pins at the bedside. (No, that is not done at bedside now thank you very much) By which I mean the existing pins came out of her thigh and new ones went into her thigh, no pain meds, no local, nada, zip, nothing. Whew, that poor, brave girl.

The bedpans were metal, heavy and extremely difficult to keep clean and sweet smelling which was an absolute MUST according to my mentor, the head nurse on the third floor.

When I graduated from high school I entered the school of nursing at the University of Alabama in Birmingham where I obtained my Bachelors in Nursing. I was informed that very first quarter by my guidance counselor that I would now be "allowed to"

· Work thirty-two hours a week at the University Hospital for $0.75/hour as a student nurse on any section of my choosing

· These hours could not be during any of my school hours if those school hours were over ten hours in one day. Because my weekdays were all long days, Monday through Friday, as a student nurse job I worked from Friday night after class to 1500 hours on Saturday(16-18 hours), then 2300 hours Saturday night to 0700 hours Sunday (8 hours). I loved Sundays. Slept until 1500 hours, momma would wake me up, I would study at the table while Momma cooked, had supper with everybody, study a little more, go back to the hospital by 2300 hours Sunday night and when I got off at 0700 Monday morning (8 hours) I went back to class and the week started all over again.

· As a student nurse my choice was high risk labor and delivery, women's oncology, well baby nursery, postpartum and high risk nursery. I gave baths, passed trays, fed, changed and repositioned the adult patients, held women’s hands during childbirth, played in the well baby nursery (yes that is all it was, just playing), assisted the nurse on oncology with med surg cancer patients, held patients during wound care, held hands during deaths, cried and prayed with the families at deaths.

· But it was high risk nursery I really loved. No one knew if you were a student except the nurses and they were our teachers and watching us like hawks to boot! But that was some wonderful learning! It was also the first time I was ever called on the carpet.

· OK Peanut Gallery I hear you guys! No, it was not the last time! There! Satisfied? :( See now you've gone and made the ole nurse cry! Don't you feel BAD?

OK here goes: It's the early 1970's, University Hospital in Birmingham is the number one high risk OB-GYN hospital in the Southeast, I am just a student nurse but in the nursery we all wear scrubs. Because I have been OK'D by the head nurse to actually touch one of their preemies I have one, just one little head, to care for and the head nurse has me sandwiched in between two very sharp nurses with their preemies. In essence, both of those nurses were responsible for all of my actions. Gracious they were hard on me too! And rightly so! As any NICU nurse will tell you, they get extremely attached to their babies and do not tolerate fools. I was even worse. I wasn't even a nurse yet and I was so possessive! I was also very smart! All you had to do was ask me, I’d tell you I knew everything! Remember Samuel Clements talking about his Father? Poor thing was clueless when Samuel started college but it was amazing how smart his Father was when Samuel graduated from college!

One night this resident was trying to obtain an ABG (arterial blood gas) on my preemie and he couldn't hit the artery; he kept poking and turning the little wrist and pulling on his baby arm and leaning all over the baby and finally I lost it! After about the sixth stick I said, "Let me do it!" I guess my attitude was all over my face and tone of voice plus the resident had probably only slept thirty minutes in the last thirty hours or so and he said "Go Ahead!"

It would have been fine if I had just missed the blood draw. It may have been fine if I hadn't smiled and yelled Ta-Da when I held up the syringe full of bright red blood on the first stick without any probing! I know it wouldn't have landed me in the director of nurse’s office for the OB-GYN department if the other nurses hadn't laughed and rubbed that resident’s nose in the fact that he was shown up by a student nurse. It really would have been fine if I had just taken my lecture and been done with it but NO! I had to try and convince the DON (Director of Nursing) that I knew what I was doing more than that resident did!

It was not a pretty sight, let me tell you. cry, cry, sob, sob, tears, tears

Still makes me grin with conceit whenever I think about it!

This is just one of many fond memories I have of my days as a student nurse. What are some of you memories of your own college days?


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    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

      Good Morning NurseArtist! I put in more than a few yrs in geriatrics here in Az, Mt and Al and oh my yes the stories! I am alsogetting close to retirement although its just for pennies but thats all right long as I can write a bit! Lucky you to be able to draw! You go! And kiss the little old people for me!


    • profile image

      NurseArtist 6 years ago from Clyde, Ks

      I really enjoyed reading your hub. I'm an RN in a nursing home, and we really get some humorous stories there, believe me. But sometimes, we get the really sad ones too. I'm looking forward to retirement in a few years, and then hope to spend my time writing and illustrating books. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • NurseNatashaRN profile image

      NurseNatashaRN 6 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, FL

      One of my missions in life has become the quest to recruit, train and educate as many qualified and willing into the nursing field as possible. We all deserve the best care possible and our healthcare system needs drastic improvement.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

      lol!!!!!!!!!! shall I tell her now or later gail about how many trays we all dropped and how many times we got off the wrong floor

      oh Lordy want to hear bout the time I got the hopper backed UP?

      guess that'd mean i would have to explain what a hopper was eh?

      but yes, we learned.. trial and error and many many wonderful older nurses with TONS of patience and HUGE amounts of humor!!!

      oh as I live and breathe/what a funny story that would make..14-18yr my dys as a candy striper :)

      much love to you Kim, you made me smile, just what I needed fore I go to bed! Bless you and thank you!

      barbara b

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      I remember candy stripers! You were very responsible at a young age....and apparently very skilled. Thanks for sharing memories, RNMSN.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      love to you!! barbara b

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Ah, you do make me laugh!

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      Hello Tara and Happyboomer nurse! thank you for the comments/well Tara you hang in there and stick with it/you will definitelt get to hear more war/uh/nursing tales :)

      Ours was the white one happyboomernurse wasnt it terrible?/never stayed ironed/wrinkled the moment I put it on and so uncomfortable! man was I ever glad NOT to wear stylish/Ive been in scrubs ever since! ha best part of being a nurse/get to work in PJ's!!!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      I LOVED this hub and almost stood up out of my chair to cheer when you sucked the blood out in the first try! Sweet success...and the best part was you spared that poor baby more suffering. Too bad you were called on the carpet for having natural aptitude and skills (smile). Seriously though, I enjoy your hubs cause you hit just the right notes between pathos, humor, love and triumph. Just one question- did you wear a white version of the pink vintage uniform? I know I had one that looked EXACTLY like it. I'd just graduated from nursing school and was happy to get out of the mid calf length student nurse uniform and into something stylish, knee length, and a tiny bit more flattering.

    • profile image

      Tara Harkins 7 years ago

      I love this hub RNMSN. I am currently in nursing school and love hearing about the experiences of nurses during their time completing their degrees.

    • profile image

      Cherie 8 years ago

      Hello, I'm searching for nursing related blogs like mine and I stumbled your site, nice blog!. I hope you could also include me in your blogroll.

      By the way, you have a very good writing skills here. Keep up the good work.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 8 years ago from Tucson, Az


    • MagicStarER profile image

      MagicStarER 8 years ago from Western Kentucky

      Very interesting and took me back to older days... Yep, I sure know what hoppers are, and the old days when we had to rinse the linens. Also, my least favorite, cleaning suction bottles. Blecch!

      Like you, I was required to work at various hospitals, in the OR, birthing, psych, and on many other different specialty units, but we did not get paid - they called this "clinicals". We were pretty much turned loose and put to work. We could not perform any skilled procedures before having tested out and passed them. The first time or 2 an instructor would observe you doing it. Boy, you better get those nurse's corners right on those beds!

      I felt sorry for my classmates in the clinicals, because for most of them it was the first time they had ever handled bodies of patients. :) I on the other hand, had been working as a CNA for many years. Fortunately I was able to help one girl, who had lifted a tall, heavy man in a hoyer lift, without knowing how to use it. She had him hanging over the toilet by one foot and both arms gripping the top of the hoyer lift. LOL! Not funny at the time, he was real tall & heavy! Maneuvered a wheelchair around and somehow got him in it without banging him up or breaking anything - and without having to call the instructor and get the poor girl in trouble and flunked out of clinicals - poor old man, his eyes were rolling around, he was scared to death! A very recent bypass patient, to boot! Man! Lucky he didn't code on us!

      Yep I was always in trouble, too, for one thing or another... Once for a bird in a doughnut box in the conference room that got out and flew all over - another time I got poor old 350 lb Fred out of his whirlpool bath, going to transfer him into his W/C - they told me he was a 1A, but he really needed 2 or 3! He wobbled over & fell on top of me lengthwise, couldn't get him off me! The door to the tiny whirlpool room opened inwards, and he was in front of it, couldn't call anyone to help! Somehow or other I got old Fred off of me and into his chair, can't remember how I managed it... (Did I tell you Fred was a very naughty old man who used to offer to give us 50 cents for a BJ? He really enjoyed this fiasco! Dirty old man! Me? I was in a hell of a fix and sweating like crazy, trying to figure out how to get myself out of THAT mess...)

      Thanks for a good read! Hey! Remember the capes? And the white stockings? :)