We live in Garry House now, which is the most recently constructed and modern building on campus. There are 3 rooms to a suite and each suite has one bathroom. When you enter the main doors the mailboxes for all the nursing students are hidden behind a partition, we have the same mailbox throughout our training. The front desk is where the housemother is stationed. She is the all seeing eyes of the school: in charge of the intercom which also has a camera so she can see the comings and goings of the students between the hospital and the tunnels leading to the dorms; she has a sign in book for all the student who go out in the evenings and on weekends; she is the one that visitors have first contact with before connecting with the student they are here to visit. The lounge is along the back wall, which has all windows, letting in lots of light and hidden from those entering the building; there are comfy couches and oversize chairs to hang around in, besides a few tables and chairs for games or homework, there is a baby grand piano where Mimi often plays Jimmie Hendrick’s Purple Rain; it is the hub of activities where all the students can hang out together. Curfew for seniors is midnight during the week, and one am on weekends, with the ability to sign out for the whole weekend.
On my 21st birthday Mimi and I walk to the Eastside where I purchase my first cheap bottle of wine. We go to Prospect Park and between the two of us drink it all. We then head over to the Coffee House on Benefit Street where there is a piano and folk music being played by local artists with guitars doing lots of Bob Dylan songs. I do not remember much of what happened that night and in the morning could not remember how we got home. It was the beginning of my relationship with alcohol, at this point I will not let it interfere with my education for I need to reach my goal of graduating and become a nurse. It is at this time when I am diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome through a Sigmoidoscopy, and the doctor tells me they do not know much about the illness and suggests that I learn from my body what it does and does not like to eat. He prescribed Phenobarbital to calm down my nervous system which I refuse to take due to it being a barbiturate and possible addictive for I am aware of an addictive quality I possess.
This year I have met a boy called D at the coffee house that I date. He is thin, medium height, dark hair, brown eyes, wearing a Nero jacket and a scarf around his neck like Mick Jagger. He hangs around with two nice guys and one of his friends, who my friend has a crush on, called A, has an apartment in the Italian part of Providence, where we all spend time together on the weekends. I have seen D with another girl at the park and I am distraught over the situation, I can’t let it go, I am addicted to this relationship even though it’s not healthy for me. One night I am at A’s apartment waiting for D. It is late and we are sharing on a very deep level, A tells me that D is seeing another girl and I am the nicer of the two, my worst fears are confirmed and he comforts me. I am still a virgin at 21 so I figure it is one of the reasons he is going with her, similar to what happened with Joe. We are cuddling in the dark and when D comes around knocking loudly and frantically on all the doors and windows, we huddle quietly and do not answer the door. The next day we tell D that we were sleeping and did not hear him, going on as if nothing has happened.
We do our pediatric 3 month rotation at The Potters Building, which is on Rhode Island Hospital grounds, built in 1941 and started treating its first patients with medical problems in 1945. It is a long rectangular four story red brick building with many rows of windows on all its sides. Working with ill children is a challenge; it is difficult for me, because of my overwhelming feelings of helplessness, when watching little ones suffering, or having to do tests that cause them any pain.
Our Pediatric nurses training and caring for newborns to adolescents, promotes and developed qualities of: compassion, patience, ability to incorporate principles of child development and nursing care into daily practice; critical-thinking, organizational, and communication skills; working effectively on a team with other professionals; being an assertive advocates for patients, patients’ families, and caregivers; focusing on disease prevention, wellness, and educating about a child’s healthcare needs. I am relieved when it’s over, knowing I will not be a pediatric nurse after I graduate, it is to heart retching for me.
As seniors our clinical practice time on the floors is four days a week with one day a week of nursing classes. The rest of our clinical rotations are spent learning leadership skills by being charge nurses on evening & night shifts. The students outnumbered the hired staff. We are paying about $1000/yr for training, meals, room & board. So you can see how the hospital is able to keep down its cost while being the best hospital in R.I.
As a charge nurse in training we are in charge of running and managing a particular department within the hospital. We not only carry out our normal nursing duties of carrying a patient load throughout the shift, we manage the other staff on the floor: supervise the nursing staff, delegating nursing assignments, direct other nurses and staff on patient care, provide guidance and advice, document and evaluate the performance of the staff under our supervision, prepare work schedules, oversee admissions and discharges, monitor and order medicines and supplies, administer medications, arrange for specialist care when needed, assess patient needs, develop care plans, and hold educational and/or training programs.
After completing our training, I feel compete in going to work as a charge nurse. I have learned to balance administrative tasks and clinical care; I have developed good leadership, communication and interpersonal skills, with an ability to motivate and lead nursing staff, which requires an able to work effectively with different personalities; I have obtained the knowledge and experience to answer staff and patient questions on a wide range of topics; I have learned how to prepare reports on patient progress and staff performance through strong written communication skills; I am attentive to detail, with good organizational and analytical skills; I have the ability to quickly and accurately assess patients’ conditions with a caring and sympathetic manner; and an emotional stability that helps me efficiently handle emergencies and remain calm in stressful situations. It amazes me what I have learned through doing, with the support of my peers, and the supervision from my instructors. I have matured in the last 3 years and have grown beyond my wildest dreams developing confidence and courage in the face of the unknown.
At graduation, we participate in a great ceremony and ritual, that has been going on here for about the last 90 years, in this same auditorium where our families are sitting in the dark. We enter carrying a burning candle in a ceramic Aladdin type lamp, a symbol of light, as we slowly walk down the aisle to the stage with silence all around us. We ascend the stairs to the stage, where we receive a black velvet ribbon placed on our white cupcake caps, the school pin is fastened on our white uniform at the neck, and we are handed our diploma, symbolizing our accomplishments of the last 3 years. We stand together as a cohesive group reciting in unison the Florence Nightingale Pledge with great emotion and feeling. Now all we have to do is take the Registered Nurse Licensing Exam and then we will be able to work as RNs.
After the ceremony, to celebrate the beginning of our new life, we go to a fancy restaurant which has set up a large rectangular table we can all sit together at including Mimi, Norma, me and our large families. The 3 of us plan to go to California to live. Earlier in the day my mother informed me that she cannot afford a ticket to California for me as she had promised and instead she gives me luggage. My mother did not allow me to work during nurses training so I do not have the finance to follow through on the plan. My mother suggested I move to Boston instead stating it isn’t as far away. When Mimi’s father hears that I am not going, he tells her she can’t go, the next day he has a psychotic break and is hospitalized at a psychiatric facility. At the dinner her brother’s tongue swells causing him difficulty breathing, a severe allergic reaction to strawberries, so we call 911 and he goes to the ER. Norma has her ticket to California while her mother is diagnosed with depression and is hospitalized at Butler Psychiatric Hospital. It is amazing how and what stressors can affect a family, not realizing it could cause such devastation, at the same time welcoming us to nursing.