3. Tales of a Student Nurse: The Uniform

Prologue, Tales of a Student Nurse

Tales of a Student Nurse is a collection of stories based on my memories of experiences I had while training to become a Registered Nurse. It was a three year program, from 1967-1970, at the Metropolitan General Hospital School of Nursing in Windsor, Ontario. Until 1974, the majority of Ontario nurses were trained in Schools of Nursing situated in general hospitals. Each of these Schools required students to live in residence for two of the three years it took to complete the program. The stories are true, the characters existed, but all names have been changed except for mine. I hope the reader will enjoy my memories in whatever order they are read, but I recommend starting with Tale # 1 and following through in sequence, as some of the stories build on previous ones.

3. Tales of a Student Nurse: The Uniform

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With hands that trembled, and thumbs that didn't quite bend, I fumbled while opening a Metropolitan General Hospital envelope which arrived for me in July, 1967. Gently extracting two stapled-together pages of letterhead stamped with the envelope's logo and script, I found myself lightheaded. I'd been waiting for this letter for months; finally it was here, and it was two pages long! Almost like the excitement of Christmas morning, I embraced this letter like it was the only gift I'd asked for.

The long awaited details regarding essential items to be completed and/or to be obtained prior to Registration Day in September were in the letter. I was required to purchase specific nursing supplies in advance of arrival: a pair of bandage scissors and a watch with a second hand. Nursing supplies! I was to buy and own nursing equipment! My heart soared. Certain academic supplies were recommended but the list of required textbooks, I was informed, would not be released until after enrollment.

The uniform stipulations, the details I was most excited to read and which I believed the most essential of all, filled the top half of the first page. Enclosed was a Uniform Measurement Form which was to be completed and forwarded to a company in Toronto. A stern warning to be precise in taking the measurements formed the second sentence, and the paragraph ended with instructions to obtain a money order for the required amount to be made out directly to the company. The money order was to be attached to the Uniform Measurement Form and sent immediately to the company's address in Toronto. I'd never been to Toronto, had never even seen a money order, and had never before purchased anything that had been custom made. My mother had sewn all my clothes since childhood. Making a formal communication by mail to a mysterious destination in the province's capital filled me with awe, and reinforced the gravity of the decision I'd made to become a Registered Nurse. Sadly, I would have to wait til the end of October or early November for my uniform; it was to be delivered to the school, said the letter. How could I wait that long?

Barbara Thiessen

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
Barbara Tiessen is a retired RN who lives with her husband in southwestern Ontario but winters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She researched her genealogy, wrote and self published The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History in 2015. More recently her interest have focused on writing short stories.
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