I Remember

The nursing profession ~ past and present

by Gerry Parker Morrison

I came to Pocahontas County in 1956 as a new bride to Herb Morrison, Jr.

Before I could unpack our suitcases, Dr. Kermit Dilley was knocking on our door.

An emergency surgery patient needed to be transferred from Marlinton, across the mountain to Elkins.

Guess what?

No ambulances.
We transferred the patient in VanReenan Funeral Home’s hearse.

Coming from a large hospital to Pocahontas Memorial was a challenge.

We were taught all areas of nursing, so I was prepared. Yet, here, we did it all  – no special units. A day’s work could include delivering babies, surgery, tending to emergency room patients and floor duty.

Back in those days, we did not have pre-packaged sterile gloves, suture trays and disposable bed pans, urinals and wash basins. We washed them by hand and autoclaved them in a large monstrosity Autoclave Machine.  It clanged and banged and hissed. We feared it would explode at any minute and take us with it!

Sterilizing gloves was a labor intensive process, as well. The gloves had to be washed, dried, checked for holes, powdered inside, packaged in cloth wrappers and, yes, autoclaved.

Charting was done by hand, printed – no hand script. Black ink for the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift,  green for 3 to 11, and red for 11 to 7.

Dr. Hite, a former school teacher, read our notes and circled any spelling errors with red ink.

Now, computers have replaced the past charting procedures. It took me a while, but I mastered the new method of charting. You can even use spell check!

Colorful scrubs have replaced the starched white uniforms and caps.

Still, I hear patients say they miss “that nurse.” You could recognize them at a glance.

HIPPA did not need to become a law. We were taught Professional Ethics as one of our first classes.

Professional appearance was strict.

No gum and certainly no smacking chewing gum, thank you very much!

Jewelry was limited to wedding bands.

Ear rings were a real no-no. Look out, gals and guys, if a confused or violent patient gets a hold of one of those “hoops,” you will wish you had left them at home.

New educational methods have replaced the three year hospital programs. Those three years, living in a dormitory, formed bonds for a lifetime. Lots of studying, yet, time for fun. House mothers were a mixed variety – dragon lady to kind and helpful friend.

Doctors usually treated nurses with respect and treated them as co-workers. But I’ve seen my share of childish tantrums, and “I’m God” behavior, too.

Machines are wonderful, new improvements are a blessing, yet, they cannot replace compassion and loving care for our patients.

In the past, all doctors were “specialists.” They specialized in people.

To this day, I appreciate the words of thanks that I received from the people I’ve cared for over the years.

A few names from the past that come to mind – names “old-timers” will remember and have memories of: Catherine Moore, RN; Beryl Thomas, RN; Bunny Hill, RN; Pokey Waugh, LPN; Eula Gibson, RN; Phil Gladwell, LP; Liz Gay, RN; Frances Dilley, LPN; Dr. Dilley, Dr. McClure, Dr. Pittman and Dr. Rexrode.

Thank you to each of you who have traveled this journey with me over the years.

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