Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tough Week and a look at Nurses and aprons through history!

( These top two photos are traditional British nurse aprons the one on the left is from the 40's. The one on the right is from the 60's.)

Really tough week. First full week on the nursing unit. Crazy....I am so used to calm solitude. Working at my own quiet and steady pace. Now I have thrust myself back on to a super heavy duty Med/Surg floor.....I love it. Hadn't really realized how much I missed it. Very tired though. I've had to shake my girls out of their warm beds at 5:45 every morning. My youngest said to me Thursday: "Mom, I want to just skip today." Oh, how I felt the same way. But it was gratifying work this week. Even if I was the orientee. I ended up "in charge" at the desk every day. I started 6 IV's...all complex starts that nobody else could manage to start. Facilitated positive changes in treatment for three patients, diagnosed a mysterious finger disease that nobody else had ever seen....I've seen it only once in over 20 years of nursing. Managed to get the bed board has been broken for over six weeks and is a vital link for admissions, discharges and transfers to our nursing unit. I also ticked off only one nurse...a young LPN, with whom I worked three years ago...and she is just as lazy as ever. Everyone else was so glad to see me, I received lots and lots of warm tight, welcoming hugs. It felt good. Found some nursing aprons that you might like to see. These are wonderful images of nurses of the past. You will probably never see a nurse dress like this anymore. Too bad....I kind of like the look, well all except the dress part! LOL Don't ya just love their starched aprons and caps! I still have my nursing cap. Don't wear it much anymore. My cap looks very similar to the cap at the bottom left of the blue photo. Except mine as a 1/2" starched flat ruffle across the top. I also earned my black velvet stripe that I am allowed to wear as a graduate nurse about 1/4" from the top rim of the cap below the ruffle. I miss wearing caps. I think they envoke such respect from the public when worn. Although I feel like a relic when I wear it. Now for your reading en-boremet, following is something I wrote about an experiment I did a few years ago.

A Return to Whites
by Georgann P. Schultz, RN

I was one of the students in the early 80's who was forced to wear a cap through nursing school. I could hardly wait to remove it soon after graduation. Not because of the "stereotypical subservient" image it conveyed, but because it felt bulky and always became tangled in tubings, etc. So as soon as I graduated in 1984, it was shoved into the dark recesses of my closet and after about ten moves, was no longer in this world.
I also spearheaded the assault on whites in my hospital reasoning that nurses should be able to wear anything they want as long as it imitated a scrub of some kind. Ah hah, we were victorious and I marvel at all of the wild prints and slouchy appearance of we professionals in this new better era; comfort and individuality above the image of professionalism.
Recently, after twenty years of hospital nursing this whole issue was inadvertently thrown right in my face in two ways. I was taking off orders at the desk when a new, fresh faced nursing technician showed up for work dressed all in white. I was stunned. I was outraged I was humbled. I wanted to verbally lash out at her and say: "You have not earned the right to wear white. You are not a nurse. It is inappropriate attire for a nursing technician to wear one of the symbols of a nurse." Then I looked down at my colorful scrubs and shook my head and came to a realization. I did not have the right to say anything to her. I gave up my image. I betrayed my profession. I realized that my patients were hungering for that visage of hope that the whites portrayed. Secondly, I was saddened that one of our new grads said that her school of nursing no longer issued caps to their nurses. She didn't even have a cap to scoff at and throw in the back of her closet. She said that she felt a wee bit cheated out of that touchstone to the nursing profession.
Well, I decided right then to "clean up my act."
In this era of understaffing and increased use of unlicensed assistive personnel, I made the personal choice of wearing all white.
My first week of all white brought amazing results. Patients loved it. They were pleased that they could tell who their nurse was instantly. So I didn't stop there. Dread of all dreads, I reordered my cap from Kay's Caps in New York. Yes, they keep files on every school of nursing they have serviced and amazingly, they were able to tell me which cap my school used. I ordered it, and when it came beautiful packaged, starched and folded to perfection, I felt like an archeologist discovering an ancient treasure gasping at its beauty. I felt an almost reverence when I held it in my hands. I felt pride in my chosen profession once again. Dare I take this one step further and wear it to work? After all, I work on a very busy Med/Surg unit...lots of IV lines...lots of gaping wounds...lots of opportunity to rip it off of my head and thrust it back in its box. Yes, I dare.
I was stunned by the uproar it caused. All of my co-workers were floored to see it perched upon the crown of my head. A beacon of servitude on the head of the tiger! Patients and family members, without exception expressed their sincere appreciation of my whites and especially my cap. I had one young woman say: "I'm so glad you are my nurse, I feel I'm in good hands." Her mother said: "It is refreshing to see a nurse in whites and a cap. Thank you for honoring your profession." The elderly wife of another patient stated, "You make me feel proud, I was a nurse too." This lead into a detailed discussion between her and her retired nurse friend in the room about their caps and starching and pinning them to the wall...I realized then that the cap is not a symbol of servitude, but a light of hope. It ties us to our nursing sisters and brothers through the ages. It instills confidence in our patients. It distinguishes our profession and sets us apart from the myriad of bare headed, exotic scrub wearing generic "health care assistants."
Now I may not wear my cap every day, but the experience was refreshment for my burned out, hard working nursing soul. Oh, and my co-workers are digging out their caps to give it an occasional try. Well, all except one, she said: "Oh, please don't start something like that!” Sorry, the something is already started!"

Thanks for blogging with me tonight. At least I posted some nurses in APRONS!! LOL

Nurse George

This lovely sister above right is from the early 1900's.

And this fresh faced 24 year old new graduate nurse below is me in 1984. See my cap? See the white uniform? That was the last time I wore that for a long time. Went right to scrubs. LOL Don't ya just love the 80's hair, thin eyebrows, blue eyeshadow and disco make-up? LOL


nancyjo said...

WOW,Georgann, I really enjoyed that post. First of all love hearing about what you are doing at work. Sounds to me like its a good thing you are there, look at all you have done already, I guess I don't want you to quit your job, but I do miss you.
Love your story and pictures, I agree that the uniform is something you earned and should be worn, maybe you should post what you wrote at work so all the girls can read it, might at least give them something to think about.I'am thinking about it and I'am not even a nurse.
So Florance I'll talk to you later, but once again enjoyed reading your post today.

Lady Di said...

Oh how I wish you could be my nurse when I go in for surgery on the 18th.

I have to admit, as an ex-Vet Tech I love scrubs, but I get disappointed when I see the Doctors wearing them. They just don't seem to be "doctorly" when they look like us. I can understand the nurses wanting to wear scrubs, they are amazingly comfortable. I know the clothes don't make the "man" but I do miss the white angels of my youth. :)

auntgeorge said...

Thank you Nancy Jo,
I have submitted that story to Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul 2. I have a story in the originial Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul. I hope they buy it this time around too. It is a true story. Did it by chance evoke feelings in you when you read it? Georgann

auntgeorge said...

Hi Lady Di,
What a nice complement! If you are having your surgery at Johnston-Willis, I might just be your nurse! I work dayshift at JW.
I too love and wear scrubs frequently. In todays health care areana, a nurse has to be able to move fast, bend, lift and sweat like never before. I do still where whites when I am in charge at the desk. I think it looks very professional. Surprisingly there is a move back to whites. St. Mary's instituted an all white uniform nurse policy recently. At which hospital are you having your surgery? I do usually wear dark pants with a white tank and white scrub jacket. I think that looks very professional too. I do like the dark pants because nursing white pants are so thin you can see panties through them and I realllllly don't like that!! LOL

I would be glad to come and check on you in the hospital if you stay over night. Just let me know where and when and I'll make a point of getting up there to see you and check on how you are doing.


sunshine said...

Love the photos. Your graduation photo is beautiful. 80's hair and all. I love the old photos of nurses I always loved nurses uniforms (they where always wearing 2 of my favorite colors ( black and white)) now not so much I miss that. Love that last apron just presious I wonder where to get one let me know if you know. Or where I can get the pattern. Thanks and glad you where able to post. Hopefully you will have a little time in hte future to sew again.

Lady Di said...

Well, I'll be at Henrico Doctor's Forest on July 18th. I'll be in ICU for a day or two and then stay there for about a week (I'm have a left lobe liver resection and radio-frequency abalation of my benign tumors on the right). So, can't say that I'm that close to where you work. :(

auntgeorge said...

Oooo....I understand. I'll keep a check on your progress...not personal stuff, they can't do that, but I'll watch for your room change and come see you when you get to the floor, well that is if you want me to. I know you won't feel like alot of company so I completely understand if you don't want any company. It doesn't take long to drive over there. I just go straight up Huguenot to Cary and problem! Would you like to meet before your surgery, so my ugly mug won't scare you too bad when you are awake? LOL Henrico Doctor's Forest is a very, very good hospital and they are part of our company...owned by the same group. I know a couple of nurses over there and they are very happy working there. I'm being nosy now, but who is your surgeon? More later!

nancyjo said...

oh georgann what a beautifull picture, I love it, thanks for showing us, I think I might cry.

Bhutercup said...

Oh Aunt George! I loved your piece on nursing uniforms! Unlike you, I loved my cap! I got very sick and had to withdrawl from nursing school three classes shy of my was one of the most disappointing time in my life. I loved nursing school and I loved caring for others. I may one day return and finish once my kids are older. But for now I just charish the memroies I have and honor the nursing oath I made in my heart always! I may not have my RN, but in my heart I am always a Nurse! Hugz!!! Buttercup

GloryBee said...

Aunt George...I love your comments on Nursing Uniforms. I went to Nursing School in the 80's as well and unfortunately quit before I finished. I have regretted it ever since:( Our uniform was much like the one on the left in the center picture - Blue Dress, Starched White Apron, a Blue Nurse's Cap, White Hose (ikkk - didn't particularly like that part), white shoes. I always felt very professional though and was proud to be at least a small part of that profession for a time. Considered many many times going back to school. You are totally inspiriing - I love your reading your posts to the Farm Girls as well as your Blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your beautiful aprons etc. etc.

Lisa (glorybee)

Final thoughts...

Thank you for visiting today. Feel free to sit for a spell and wander through my archives of sewing projects, aprons, original poems and stories, musings and vintage treasures. I really love guests in my home....and if you wish, leave me a comment so I will know you were here! AG