I swear I was born thirty years too late.
I was meant to wear this uniform.
This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!
Navy nurses had the best nursing caps, too! Perfect shape with your rank in stripes across the top!
I rue the day padded shoulders went out of style.
Everything I wore had padded shoulders in the ’80s.
It is sort of ironic.
By the time I was in a position to join the military, they told me I was too old.
Cherry Ames never aged, we don’t have that luxury in real life.
How my inner hippie manages to co-exist peacefully with my inner military officer persona is something I will never understand!
Not quite end-stage, but the patient couldn’t talk.
Couldn’t cooperate with any procedures.
Needed three people to hold her arm down for a blood draw.
Definitely felt discomfort when straight cathed for a urine specimen.
Just another elderly patient with advanced alzheimers and a fever who required a full septic workup.
Could do it with my eyes closed.
Except she looked me in the eye. She didn’t flinch when I told her I was going to put a tube for oxygen in her nose and gee, wasn’t that mask uncomfortable.
Dorothy was in there.
Dorothy was a nurse.
Oh, she had been retired for years.
She had served in the United States Navy Nurse Corp in World War II.
In the Pacific, and in Japan after the war.
Following her service with the Navy, she was a staff nurse in the midwest.
After taking a few years off to have children she returned to the profession as a school nurse for a decade, followed by community nursing for another decade.
I asked her son if she had gone to school through the Nursing Cadet program.
He didn’t know.
I asked him if she had ever told him any stories of her work in the navy.
He couldn’t remember any.
I would have given anything to have her tell me some of those stories.
I would have remembered them.
Dorothy had lived through an amazing era.
She had experiences and experience now lost to history. Stories she could no longer relate.
Dorothy is a member of what has been termed “the greatest generation”.
And we are losing them daily.
So many times I have sat at the bedside of a veteran of World War II who will regale me with stories of their time in the Pacific theater or in Europe.
“I was a fighter pilot, you know.” (Translation: please see me as a productive human being and not just this elderly shell of a person in a gurney).
So many times I have sat vigil as my patient was dying, hearing stories from their family about how proud the patient was to have served during the war.
But they’ve never been nurses.
Now I had in front of me a real “Cherry Ames”.
How I would have loved to sit with a cup of coffee and talk about her life.
I like to think she would have been willing to tell me her story.
That patient with advanced alzheimers, Dorothy, came alive for me that night.
She was a human being, not just a febrile elderly body.
She is a nurse.
For you see, although Dorothy had been retired for many years, once you are a nurse you are always a nurse.
I am proud to consider myself her colleague.
She is a veteran.
For that she has my respect.
If you know an elderly nurse, talk to her. Write the stories down. Tape the conversations.
The pioneers of our profession are getting older and someday their stories will be lost to us forever.
Before we are resigned to reading their stories in history books, let’s take advantage of their vast experiences while we still have the opportunity.
Nursing practice has changed dramatically in just the 29 years that I’ve been privileged to be a part of the profession.
But the basics of nursing, the heart of the profession has not changed.
It lives on in nurses like Dorothy.
Let’s find them and learn from them.
Before they are gone forever.