I've been blessed with many fine nurses to encourage and inspire me.
1960's Alice Hoffman RN, my family doctors nurse. She always had a white starched unifrom and spotless white shoes; she comforted me when I needed a shot or was sick; after telling her I was thinking of nursing, described her job, showed me the autoclave for sterilizing instruments, how to deburr a needle ( glass syringe in those days), and how to take a BP and listen to hearbeat....my first introduction to nursing.
1973 Mrs. Dorothy Law RN: Night shift nurse at the 100 bed nursing home in my town where I took a job as a nurses aide to help pay for college. She was a former Army nurse, 'Drill sargent' and stickler for detail..was always checking up on the aides that we properly cared for our patients...taught me how to reuse only slightly solied linens as draw sheet under red rubber pad and cloth diapers in times of flu and excessive wetting....boy, your patient better be dry after 2AM rounds or she'd strip the bed and make you redo the ENTIRE bed on the client.
The night the flu epidemic hit, (before we were quarantened), she was exhausted from calling so many doctors due to illness, jokingly threatened to fire me if I checked one more patient and found an elevated temp--also told me cause she trusted me since I was in nursing school, was placing tylenol in cups at patients bedside for me to give to my clients as she was the ONLY nurse for the entire 100 patients and couldn't get to everybody with 6 AM meds. Taught me total patient care, give enemas, wound care and loads of TLC for clients.
1976 Nancy O'Hara LPN: my mother-in-law who became my best friend. Convinced her son to allow me to attend LPN school since I'd dropped out of college as car died and decided to marry then return to school. 2 years after becomming an LPN, husband begging me to go to college cause of all the things I was doing and so I'd get PAID for doing it all as night charge LPN.
Nancy taught me about living while dying. In 1979, she developed Ovarian CA. After surgery, Dr told us she had 3 months to live. Traveled with her to University of PA for many a chemo visit with Oncologist. She attended 2 Catholic healing masses and told us after the second mass she felt a hand on her shoulder and that she would live to see a grandchild. Two years later she would watch her sister die of same illness. In 1985 she was alive to see my first born and spoiled him. She continued to work full time until 1987. Nancy was involved in clinical trial for Neupogen.
Over the next few years had numerous surgery's: had kidney removed due to kidney stone and wound up on a ventilator after telling all the Doctors and nurses in ICU she didn't want a vent and if she wound up on one she'd come back to haunt them....all the ICU staff was distraught over this and worked hard to get her off the vent. Next day she's in private room with only Oxygen prongs on, sitting up in bed telling me wan't it nice that her nurse friends hung the newspaper from the ceiling for her to read while she smoked a cigarette...only no newspaper, hallucinating from the demerol; I quickly extingueshed cigarette.
Later hospitalization , she had a stent in the remaining kidney and nephrostomy tube; I specialing her from 3p-7AM. She was in terrible pain upon me walking in room-Rn's said she'd been medicated 30 min ago. Well they always said check the tubes from insertion site to drainage bag: checked IV, foley and nephrostomy tube to discover staff had rolled clamp shut to empty drainage bag and forgot to unclamp rollar---immediate relief. Later that night she slept unusaully soundly and was lethargic when repositioning. Went to RN several times re concerns...at 7AM went out to update dayshift -overheard her night nurse admit to day staff that she inadvertantly given Nancy 2 doses of 10 mg Morphine instead of the 2 mg Dilaudid-------I WENT THROUGH THE ROOF! Tubex are different size, why didn't she inform ME of the problem. Got narcan ordered and immediately Nancy alert. Learned it's better to admit honest mistake than to deny to family a problem.
Few days later visited, she was black and blue from fingers to upper arm---unable to get IV acess and had numerous labs. Why don't you ask for a port a cath--no one thought of it!! I learned to be a patient advocate and think prophylactically to prevent problems cause of these experiences.
In 1989, Nancy admitted to me , she had hoped to see oldest child graduate from college, but adjusted sights to seeing my second childs first bithday in August. Knew then she didn't have much time to live. Brought her home from hospital on younger sons 1st birthday and party held at her house. Two weeks later, she's unconscious in hospital with all the doctors not able to diagnosis problem infection. Getting blood transfusions every day dure to severe anemia. Had the oldest son, now 3 1/2 brought to the hospital to say goodby...half hour later Nancy's sitting up on the side of the bed drinking milkshake with grandson. "That's act three, don't know if I have 9 lives like cat's."
One week later, friday evening, we brought her home on a Dilaudid drip, new fangled Clinitron air bed cause of severe pain and breaking bones when she moved, DNR status, with my homecare agency's staff doing 24 hour care. Stated "First time I'm pain free in over 10 years." She let the kids climb on her chest and said it was like heaven to be with them. I was severely exhausted when the night shift nurse woke me up at 2 AM Monday morning to say that her respirations were low...should she stop the dilaudid cause she didn't want it to cause her death. Crossly, I told her Nancy was dying either way and wanted her to be comfortable--if she wanted to decrease the rate by half ok, but don't turn it off. 10 AM her favorite niece visited who helped with AM care. She smiled at her and then closed her eyes and died peacefully.
Later in talking to my nurse colleagues, they admitted they had never taken care of anyone on such high dose of Dilaudid, accepted my appolgy for being brusque and realized to die in pain was worse. I regret to this day that I didn't help bathe my mother-in-law when the RN asked me as a final way of saying goodby. The niece thanked me for allowing her to help as it helped her deal with her grief.
I now have greater insight into how family dynamics work when working with seriously ill and demanding families, cause I was one of them! I encourage family to participate in care as much as they are willing as it helped me knwing I was able to help my mother-in-law.
Lastly, 1982: Rosalie Mirenda RN OB-GYN instucter---now DR Mirenda and President of Neumann College. She taught me professionalism and nursing advocacy; encougaged and convinced the Dean of the nursing school to send me to the NSNA Annual convention in Minneapolis. There, I learned the importance of networking. Learned a global perspecive of nursing which lead me to become involved in ANA to improve the nursing profession.