Steel Magnolias and Sweet Memories

by VivaLasViejas VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN (Guide)

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.

A morning spent in a beauty parlor with other 'women of a certain age' reminds an AL community nurse that a stethoscope and a BP cuff are often the *least* important components of a good nursing assessment.

Steel Magnolias and Sweet Memories

I may not be the shiniest bead on the strand, but in those moments when I'm totally plugged in to what's really going on with the people in my care, I realize how truly fortunate I am to work with such an astonishing array of personalities and situations.

One of the coolest features of an unconventional nursing job like mine is the abundance of unstructured time, when there are no deadlines to meet or wound rounds to make or phone calls to answer. I do have to confess that it's been quite an adjustment for me to have so much freedom and so little real accountability for the way I spend my time; when I worked in hospitals and nursing homes, I, like every other nurse, lived and died by the tightly-regimented schedule of med passes, treatments, charting and so on. But now that I work for a company that treats me like an actual adult who doesn't need a lot of supervision, I wonder if there's some major component of my job that I know nothing about and will cause me to be fired when TPTB find out I'm not doing it.

In the meantime, I find myself doing some of the most creative work of my career. Who knew that I had a talent for inventing systems that streamline our paperwork to the point where those same powers call me "computer brilliant" and ask for my expertise when they need new forms developed? And who knew that a comprehensive psychosocial assessment could be accomplished simply by joining a hen party in the facility salon a`la "Steel Magnolias"?

Of course, it's no secret that for ladies of a certain age (especially those of us who were raised by Southern women!) the 'beauty shop' was once the focal point of female bonding. Women of all ages would sit primly under noisy hair dryers, smoking cigarettes and perusing dog-eared Photoplay magazines, while teenagers and tomboys alike thumbed through ancient issues of Hair Today and dreamed about putting up their own tresses like the glamorous women in the glossy pages. And while we Baby Boomers, alas, didn't carry on our mothers' tradition of weekly gossip sessions---er, appointments---sweet memories of a more innocent time came flooding back as Kathryn and Lettie beckoned to me from the quaintly retro 'parlor' this morning.

The health topics they wanted to discuss with me were quickly pushed aside, however, as spontaneous chitchat arose about the things so universally dear to female hearts....the experiences that make us all kin. Like our children and pets. Family members who have gone on before us. The loves and losses we've been through. And......funny memory tricks.

Lettie, in particular, has been driven to distraction by her forgetfulness lately. "I used to be highly intelligent," she sighed. "I used to know the phone numbers of every one of my friends AND my clients. Now I can barely remember my own cell phone."

I couldn't help chuckling at her plight....especially since I have the same problem. "How often do you call your own cell phone?" I asked her. "You're still highly intelligent. You organized the library here and you run the resident council meetings like a pro. There's a big difference between intelligence and memory."

Lettie looked at me as though I'd just revealed the key to the universe, which was funny because I hadn't the slightest idea that I even KNEW that until I opened my mouth. But I couldn't honestly take credit for a thought that had just that minute popped into my brain, and I continued: "Hey, I like to think I'm no dummy myself, but there are days that I swear I'm gonna forget my head if I don't thumbtack it to my shoulders. I do things like walk into a room without a clue as to why I'm there. I lose things in plain sight. I put things in a special safe place and then can't find them two days later. Heck, I'm only 52 and sometimes my memory's so bad that I could hide my own Easter eggs."

This broke everyone up, including my boss, who had come upstairs to see what all the laughter was about. "You can say THAT again," he teased, prompting me to (briefly) consider throwing a handful of rollers at him and the others to snort and giggle like schoolgirls. Instead, I reminded the group that it's not really dementia if you only forget your's when you forget what the keys are for that you're in deep Bandini.

We talked about movies and found out we all have many of the same favorites in common. We talked about pets and learned that we all have owned smart dogs and really, really dumb dogs. We talked about hairstyles, politics, food, even sex.....and in so doing, I discovered that Lettie has really been depressed because she thinks she's got Alzheimer's and no one will tell her. I also found out that Kathryn is brewing a UTI, Marcie's only daughter is moving to Arizona, and Zoe's male friend (a fellow resident) finally "popped the question" last night, so we're going to be hearing wedding bells soon.

I really do love this job. And as the residents and I stumble into this "third age" of life together, I'm reminded of something that someone much wiser than I once said: "Do what you love, and you'll never work another day in your life."

I just wish I hadn't forgotten his name.......I might want to use that quote again someday and it's nice to give credit where credit is due.

I'm a Registered Nurse and writer who, in better times, has enjoyed a busy and varied career which includes stints as a Med/Surg floor nurse, a director of nursing, a nurse consultant, and an assistant administrator. And when I'm not working as a nurse, I'm writing about nursing right here at and putting together the chapters for a future book about---what else?---nursing.

142 Articles   9,969 Posts

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6 Comment(s)



151 Posts

nice :) thanks for posting! I gotta watch Steel Magnolias again now!



Specializes in long term care Alzheimers Patients. 439 Posts

nice :) thanks for posting! I gotta watch Steel Magnolias again now!

Yes me too one of my favorite movies

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience. 142 Articles; 9,969 Posts

My sister and I briefly considered auditioning when there was a casting call for the play at our local theater about 15 years back. I could've done M'Lynn blindfolded then, and she would have had a blast with the part of Ouiser "I'm not as sweet as I used to be" Boudreaux. :lol2:

Oddly enough, that's one of the few regrets of my life---missing the opportunity to go for that part and play the hell out of it, simply because I was too afraid to put myself out there and risk falling on my face. Nursing was what cured me of that nonsense......and today, I wouldn't hesitate to try out for the play for so much as a second. And I'm thinking.......I just might do pretty well with that Ouiser role myself. :D



825 Posts

I always love your posts VivaLasViejas! You are so wise!

As for me, "Pink is my signature color"!


Wishinonastar, BSN

Has 37 years experience. 3 Articles; 1,000 Posts

Nice! I want a job like that!



2 Posts

Thank you for posting this. It brought me to tears. It is amazing what people will share when they feel secure and un-rushed. So often interactions with clients are on a time schedule and they feel oblilgated to only discuss the reason they are there and not share other valuable information. This is a lesson that I wish more jobs were able to incorporate into the structure. You are fortunate and wise!