Oh no. That was bad. After being happily retired from nursing for nearly seventeen years, I had a severe attack of nostalgia last week. We were on our way home from AZ to SD and stopped at a niece’s along the way. An RN, she offered me a tour of her hospital where she’s worked over twenty-five years.
From the minute I met her in the circular entrance to her hospital, I could feel my excitement grow. I LOVE hospitals—their smells, their energy, their mission of healing the sick and comforting the dying. There’s something noble going on that became a deep part of me during my forty years in nursing.
I can’t shake my idealized version of hospitals…unless I’m a patient myself. Then I become hyper vigilant and instantly launch into full critique mode. No one or no thing comes up to my level of expectation.But I haven’t been in a hospital for a while, so I came in with only the visions of the “good life” I’d had the previous month in an over-55 resort community, a place where folks kept active in sports like tennis and golf, discussion groups on everything from history to novels, or in volunteer work…some even helped make five-thousand sandwiches one morning a week.
So I entered this hospital as a recently indoctrinated member of the “well elderly” that enabled me to think I could conquer the world, and all I had to do was don a uniform and I’d be able to fly up and down hallways again performing the magic of nursing.
Imagine my fun as I walked with my niece while she pointed out the latest in hospital design, the latest equipment in private rooms, the latest methods of charting…the latest in everything.
My mind traveled back to my early days in nursing. Hallways were long and straight, patient wards lined up on either side; no center nurses’ stations with private rooms arranged like a theater in the round. Patient areas had only a bed, bedside stand, overbed table, and visitor chair; no conglomeration of gadgets hung on the wall. Patient charts were in black three-ringed notebooks on a desk in the nurses’ station; no computers in the patient rooms to chart as you go.
When my niece popped in to check a patient she’d administered chemo to that morning, I woke from my dream really fast. I’d never given chemo. I vaguely remembered the first time, in 1964, when one of my patients got chemo and the few other instances where my students had taken care of patients receiving chemo. All administered by doctors, of course
I suddenly was very thankful for these younger nurses who were carrying on the difficult, exacting, and draining, but fulfilling, work of nursing, and, later, when my husband and I were on the road again, my nostalgia passed, and I was ready to be a retiree with wonderful memories once again.