July, 2006 Archive

July 6, 2006, 4:29 am

Convent Capers and More Greetings From Ireland!


Yep, I’m still here in Ireland!

This time I’m writing from Cahersiveen, County Kerry, only 2.5 kilometers and a ferry ride from where I am staying.

There is a new Internet Cafe next door to where I am sitting (which is like the Chamber of Commmerce) but as it was not open, the kind women working here today gave me a desk!

The two hospitals I saw are actually small clinics and are”nursing home” facilities. To see a large Emergency department I must travel to Tralee, a bit of a ride.

I have lost all track of date and time here. It is amazing. I am up at 0430 every morning, bright as day. I would definitely be a day nurse here. I’m not rushing about the country, but enjoying the “down time” and being a part of the local scene.

Man, I needed this vacation!


Hey! I made into the Carnival of the Vanities this week, hosted at The Business of America is Business. The Carnival hosts many varied subjects, you just have to be vain enough to send a post! NO problem with that here! The topics are varied, the blogs may be new to you – always a good way to discover even more of the blogosphere!


Over dinner (I’m here with 16 in-laws – my hubby, all his siblings and their spouses), my brother-in-law, the Priest (yes, I married into a huge IRISH, Catholic family) regaled us with tales of the old nuns who taught in grammar school.

I immediately remembered my job as a student nurse in a Convent infirmary.

The stories that follow are true.

All of the lovely Sisters I had the honor to work with are now deceased, but I shall refrain from naming their convent and I shall change their names so as to protect their privacy and dignity in death.


It really was quite a bit of responsibility. As a student nurse (second year of a two-year program), I was responsible for administering the medications to approximately 12 elderly nuns and assessing their status, assisting the CNA with their care and reporting any problems to the Mother Superior.

An RN and an aide ran the day shift, covering doctor’s orders and doing rounds with the doctors who would come to visit the sisters at the convent.

“Infirmary” is not exactly a correct term. While we did have sisters with health issues, some bedridden and some requiring meds, it was actually the area of the convent that was their “home”.


My first day on the job, I asked what the policy was regarding bed sores. How did we handle them, how did we treat them? I had worked with the elderly in nursing homes and had seen horrendous pressure sores in the hosptials.

The RN looked over her glasses at me and quietly said, “We don’t have them here.”


And they didn’t!

The care these women received was the best I’ve ever seen. Anywhere.


There was Sister Mimi, who would never in her life take Valium, but she sure appreciated her diazepam!

Then there was Sister Alice who, although perfectly able to give her own Insulin, would always watch the students and make them give it. Until you earned her trust and then she’d give it to herself. My first experience with passive-aggressiveness.


Poor Sister Belinda. She went to bed one night in 1977 oriented and woke up in 1906 in the middle of the San Francisco earthquake and fire.

She ran about the infirmary screaming that she must save the babies, all the babies…oh where were the babies?

Nothing we could say or do could reoriented her to the present.

Medication didn’t work. Nothing could ease her torment. She never realized that it wasn’t 1906, no matter what we did or tried.

So I thought bringing in a baby doll would help. Forget reality orientation.

But I brought in a small doll.

“Oh dear!”, she cried. “This child is undernourished, who will feed it, how will we save it?”

I brought in a bigger doll. That helped a little.

And then began the “discussions” with Sister Agatha.


Sister Agatha was five feet high and five feet wide and not quite all together oriented herself.

One day Sister Belinda decided she had a husband and a child.

Sister Agatha was appalled!

“You are a Sister, Sister!”, she cried. “You’ve no husband!”

While the details of the argument following are lost to me now, suffice it to say that Sister Belinda’s response was that Sister Agatha was so ugly she could never get a man!

We were rolling in the halls with laughter!


Halloween was a fun time. All the younger sisters were dressed in their costumes and would come to visit their fellow sisters.

The infirmary sisters dressed in the old fashioned long, black habits and veils. Their idea of dressing in costume was to don a “Lone Ranger” type mask with their habits and figure no one would know who they were!

Sister Agatha was easy to spot.


The elderly sisters were never allowed to speak of their lives prior to entering the convent. It was an old rule that was no longer enforced by the Order, so the Mother Superior of the Infirmary would tell the stories of the Sisters. Those who came from Europe, how old they were when the entered the convent.

The best story was of Sister Letitia, who had been on her way to become a prima ballerina when her “calling” was revealed to her.

These stories made these women so much more than just a “nun in a habit”.


And then there was Sister Rochelle. Bedridden and incapacitated by strokes, unable to speak except for “Thank you, dear”, she would reach out and hold the hand of anyone who walked past her room.

The hand was rarely empty.

Her family of Sisters, young and old, made sure of that.

She was old and frail and unable to care for herself.

But her life was still lived in dignity.

One day I received a call from the RN. Sister Rochelle had passed away during the night.

She had died, with dignity, her Sisters by her side.

Now she was holding the hand of the God she had pledged her life to over seventy years before.

She was buried, as was the custom, in a plain pine box.

Her Mass card is in my scrapbook, along with a Christmas card signed by all the infirmary Sisters.


I soon went onto working as a CNA at an acute hospital.

But I never forgot the Sisters and their devotion and sense of family.

Over the years, I would see their obituaries in the local paper, one-by-one, including Sisters Belinda and Agatha.

They sacrificed their lives to a “calling” from God.

And while not living a life of poverty, chastity or obedience, I was also following what I thought was a “calling” from God, the “calling” to be a nurse.

And while there were times I would have given anything to just be home with my children full-time……

……..the “calling” is still there after all these years.

Read »

July 3, 2006, 8:51 am

Questions and Suggestions!


How on earth did she work in those shoes?

Those look like street-walker shoes if I ever saw them!

Not that I’ve seen them.

They just seem so incongruent with the rest of her dress and demeanor.

Oh well, I guess girls just wanted to have fun even then!


The Answer Nurse would like you all to know that although she is out of the country at the moment, she is eagerly awaiting more questions.

She hopes that you will not neglect your blogospheric duties simply because you are setting off fireworks whist The Answer Nurse is setting off Guinness.

She hopes to return to intelligent, coherent requests for her infinite wisdom of all things medical.


Hey guys, don’t forget to send in your submissions for the next Change of Shift.

It is only ten days away, so write those posts or find one in your archives that is all that and a bag o’ chips, too!

And you patients and doctors, don’t think you get off easy, either. I want to hear from you!

Certainly, you have stories of nurses you have known and loved or known and did not feel kindly to.

Well, tell us why!

What can we do better? What did we do right?

Here’s your chance! Let it all hang out here at “Change of Shift”!

After all, it’s just us!

Read »

8:09 am

Healthy Tips For Those Traveling (or) How I Spent My Summer Vacation

white dress

Greetings from the Emerald Isle, the land of 1/5 of my ancestors, the land of fifty shades of green and more importantly, the land of Guinness!

As you can tell, this ad has nothing to do with nursing, but it is for a feminine protection product so…it counts.

I am writing from an internet cafe in Kilarney, Ireland. There is very little in the way of internet access west of Shannon, which is where we are staying.

But, I have learned a great deal while here!

As a guide to those of you who may wish to travel to the land where Gaelic is as common as English, I present to you the following advice and observations.


2. You can take a bar and dress it up and call it a Pub, but it is still a “bar” and each pub has their own “Norm” character (a la Cheers). I know. I saw the same guy in the same chair everyday at various times. Not that I spent all my time in the pub, of course. That would not be healthy.

3. Guinness works just as well as Ativan. This is especially advantageous when you discover that you have to walk five miles (round trip) to the nearest town (Caharsiveen) for internet access only to discover that everything except the Eurospar (store) is closed because it is Sunday.

I suggest that for your first “dose” you ask for this “blackberry” additive that cuts the bitterness a bit.

Guinness has a white substance on the top. This is called “foam” and you can write your initials in it and still see them as the fluid slowiy sinks in the glass.

At least that’s what they told me

I drank my pint so fast that mine lasted approximately 4.37 seconds.

4. I’m pretty sure that Bono Hewson of “U2” wrote “Vertigo” as an ode to what is called a “roundabout”.

It’s a complete circle in the road from which there are anywhere from four to five million off-shoots.

It takes the average American approximately 10.5 turns in the roundabout to realize they are supposed to exit it at some point.

Fifty feet down the road, you get to do it again.

(Speaking of Bono Hewson, he introduced himself to my nieces in as they flew to Europe via LA. Rock stars don’t introduce themselves to me. Time for another Guinness….)

5. Vertigo was not really an issue for me even though I suffer from horrendous motion sickness.

I was happily medicated on Valium and Meclizine for the flight (white-knuckle flier, I am).

I DID suffer from extreme fright as I could not shake the feeling that we were going to have a head-on collision as we were on, at least in our minds, the wrong side of the road. Roads with lanes that are only six feet across.

The only cure for this is a Guinness, but you have to get where you are going first.

6. Oh, and by-the-way here is a public service announcement:

Valium + Meclizine = sedation.

Valium + Meclizine + Guinness = coma.

Don’t mix.

End of public service announcement.

7. You can take the citizen out of the USA but you can’t take the nurse out of the citizen. All I could think as our Aer Lingus air bus flew us over the Atlantic was I was sitting with approximately 300 DVTs waiting to happen.

8. Do NOT ask for an overhead page for a “doctor on board” when you throw up.

You strike fear into the heart of every ER nurse on board because some of us might feel obligated to help.

Someone who looked too young for high school ran by me with a stethoscope. Now, who the hell carries a stethoscope in their carry-on luggage?

She was so young I wanted to see if it was made by Fisher-Price.

Okay, I felt obligated to offer my services, to but only because I wanted an excuse to get up and decrease my DVT chances.

Apparently the emesis was completed and the “patient” required no further assistance in emptying her GI tract.

9. A toddler kicking the back of your seat for four hours can be strangely comfortable if you have lower back pain. Who knew?

The mom thanked me for not complaining.

I was willing to fly her back to San Francisco with me!

10. You are not mentally on vacation when your family is going to visit a 12th century monastery and you want a tour of the Island hospital’s ER.

11. Every family should travel with a pseudo-pharmacist. In our case that was me. I was ready should anyone in my family suffer: pain , irregularity, vertigo, sinus congestion, muscle spasms, anxiety, allergic reactions, hypoglycemia (Snickers Bar), or sore throats.

I was carrying so many drugs I thought the dogs would sniff me out at the airport.

12. If you think you are becoming color blind, forget the optometrist and fly over to Ireland, if you can see the green, you are okay!

Sometimes it feels like I’m not even in a foreign country.

I may be the first person ever to get excited about her first Euro!

Things are expensive here, but it is so much like San Francisco, I feel as though I am at home.

You will never find a more hospitable people than the Irish!

On Wednesday, I will be climbing those six hundred stairs to the monastery, so I may get to see the inside of an A&E after all….

Now where is that other pub….

Read »

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

Continue reading »

Find Me On...
Twitter     Technorati

Subscribe to Emergiblog

Office of the National Nurse

Zippy Was Here

Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics

  • Perspective
  • Confidentiality
  • Disclosure
  • Reliability
  • Courtesy