Miss Tander Teaches
Even though I graduated from nursing school in 1975, I still remember every one of my nursing instructors. I can't say I remember every last bit of information they tried to teach, but I do remember something about each one of them. Allow me to share what I remember about Miss Tander.
Miss Tander. The very mention of her name stirred butterflies and raised pulse and blood pressure in us.
Miss Tander. Tough and no-nonsense scourge of us student nurses.
As the Med-Surg nursing instructor, she knew her stuff, alright. I still recall her delivery of the same information we'd learned in A&P. Somehow when Miss Tander presented it, the words and facts became a real patient, a system with its many solitary workings joined for a common purpose. I learned about how breakdown in one small part of the whole system affects the other parts. She tied the dry details together so I understood them and could relate them to good patient care.
Miss Tander (yes it was MISS Tander) was short and probably almost forty (too old to be "hip"), with closely-cropped dark hair. She wore no makeup, no jewelry and in those days (forty-some years ago) she wore a blouse and below-the-knee skirt over her ample frame, nylons and simple black flats completing the outfit.
As impressed as I was with her lecturing skills, it was common whispered knowledge among the students that she became a sort of dragon during clinicals. She tolerated no nonsense, expected perfection.
"Don't EVER pick up anything you drop!" one of my classmates hissed.
"I was pulling up meds in the medroom and when I picked up something I'd just dropped, Miss Tander firmly told me to leave it THERE on the floor. Then I dropped something else and tried to pick it up with a kleenex, not just my hand, she still yelled at me NOT to pick up anything from the floor!"
"Oh," another classmate nodded. "and hope that you NEVER have to place a Foley catheter during her clinicals!"
Others chimed in agreement. "She is SO TOUGH!!"
As a quiet, almost shy person, I silently hoped I'd slip through clinicals without much time under her individual scrutiny.
Our first clinical day with Miss Tander finally arrived. We huddled together like a flock of birds in light blue uniforms, white hose, polished and shined white , hair off the collar and white nursing caps pinned in place.
As Miss Tander rounded the corner, clipboard in hand and a starched white lab coat over her usual attire, we all fell silent. She wasted no time consulting her clipboard and assigning patients. Early in clinicals, our patient care tasks were simple: vital signs and bed baths followed by charting. Except my assigned patient - and only mine --needed to be catheterized.
Upon hearing the news, my stomach churned. A catheterization under Miss Tander's eagle eyes!
What if I hurt the patient?
What if Miss Tander yelled at me?
What if I failed clinicals?
I struggled to bring my emotions under check and concentrate on gathering the supplies. Upon entering the patient's room my anxiety mounted when Miss Tander brought all the other students in to observe.
Then I had a moment of clarity, a calm moment in a stormy sea of fears: Just do what Miss Tanner tells you. That's all.
Somehow that calm resolve saw me through, for I did follow Miss Tander's instructions, even with the other students staring wide-eyed and silent (probably thanking their lucky stars THEY were not in my shoes!).
Opened everything in the proper order.
Performed the catheterization.
Didn't hurt the patient (who was very kind and, well, patient).
Survived Miss Tanner's scrutiny.
Learned about good technique.
Surmounted one clinical milestone, learned about doing what needs to be done in spite of one's fears.
Fast forward to the next semester, in Miss Tander's Med-Surg II class.
I had heard rumors that during semester break she was briefly hospitalized. When she stood up to teach, she looked the same: short dark hair, blouse, skirt, nylons and black flats. She began, though, not with an anatomy and physiology lecture.
"Over the semester break I was in the hospital for a few days. I had a lump removed from my breast."
The room was quiet, no one stirred or whispered.
"Thankfully the lump was benign," she continued. "But do you know, when I was lying in that bed and people were taking me for tests and nurses were caring for me and doctors were talking with me, I didn't care, didn't notice ONE BIT about the nurses' technique or if they were doing things the proper way."
"I just wanted them to be GOOD to me.
That's all. I was scared and I wanted them to be good to me."
Thank you, Miss Tander, for teaching me.Last edit by Joe V on May 7, '12
May 7, '12We can have all the clinical expertise in the world, but the moment we forget that nursing is a human art, we have failed.
Thank you for reminding me, dianah - and Miss Tander.May 7, '12I had a wonderful instructor for our surgical rotation. The one who taught us all about sterile technique. A few years later, she was in intensive care and needed acute hemodialysis - my job at the time! When I was at her bedside I was so extra careful to be mindful of my technique.....Two weeks later she was well enough to come to our unit for her treatment. And she told me how good it was to see a familiar face, one she knew was taught well! Turns out I could have dragged everything through the mud - she was just so thrilled to see someone she knew!
Patients care more about compassion than technique, more about care than knowledge. This has been evident in the rate of malpractice cases against 'that sweet doctor who sat on my bed and held my hand' and 'that doctor who never looks me in the eye'.
If we maintain good practice along with care and compassion - what more can a patient ask for?
Good writing!May 7, '12Lovely.
In the end, more powerful than medicine, more meaningful than "proper" technique.
And universal.. isn't that what we ALL want? Just be good to me.
CARE.. and you'll do everything perfectly.May 7, '12The ending was totally unexpected.
It actually made me tear up and I honestly don't know why?
Thank you, dianah.May 8, '12Good Message. And it took me down memory lane. This made me think of one of my clinical instructors, she was tough and scary. I joined her group one quarter and eveyone in the class had her the prior quarter, except one girl who had changed classes. So everyone else knew what to expect and what she wanted. I didn't know we needed to bring a certain paper or something (I can't remember now). The first thing she ever said to me was "You know I could send you home right now." This of course is something every student wants to hear from their instructor. My good friend, who was in her fifties when we were in the program was not shy and called our instructor "Gunny" short for Gunnery Master Sargeant. And no, we were not in the military. Our instructor was tough with. I was a total nerd in school and wanted good grades. It was a hard quarter for me but I never had problems with care plans after having her as an instructor.May 8, '12ditto! completely unexpected and it gave me a lump in the throat!
Quote from sirIThe ending was totally unexpected.
It actually made me tear up and I honestly don't know why?
Thank you, dianah.May 9, '12And...sometimes the teacher teaches the best, by not teaching at all.
Thank you, Dianah - and Miss Tander, wherever you may be.
----- DaveJul 31, '13Thank you for sharing your story, and telling it so well. It is the best article about nursing that I have seen in a while.
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