4. Tales of a Student Nurse: The Tour

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Diagram of our cap

Well, maybe there was a little chink in the awe and admiration we felt upon seeing these women in their glorious nurses’ garb. How disappointing it was to know that we were to be forever denied a black band on our caps, and that we had no choice in the matter. The cap of the Metropolitan General Hospital School of Nursing was all white; its shape, as we regarded it, was disturbingly unusual. The starched plain white cuff was attached by four white buttons to a beanie. A beanie! ….. As if that weren’t odd enough, the beanie on the student nurse’s cap was navy blue to match the navy blue uniform dress we’d wear for the next three years. At the capping ceremony, marking the successful completion of two years of training, we would be awarded our all-white graduate caps and the privilege of wearing white hose and white nurses’ shoes. But the capping ceremony was two full years in the future. Our collective desire to reach that milestone would intensify with each week that passed by.

While in the cafeteria, we’d been introduced to several on-duty second year students who’d been unable to participate in the Registration Day event that morning. The double breasted, military style, navy blue dress each wore was adorned with a double row of large white buttons on the bodice. The dress came down to a length just below the knee and was covered by a white bibbed apron just long enough to cover the length of the uniform skirt and graze the bottom of the student’s knee. Their shoes were black oxford lace ups with low, square, black heels. Instead of white stockings, nude coloured hose finished off the standard uniform. I was reminded of pictures I’d seen of nursing sisters serving in war zones in the early 20th century. The uniforms I had so excitedly ordered in July, and which hadn’t yet arrived, would be identical to these. In my excitement to order my uniform that July day, I had obviously paid little attention to the attached picture. The dress on its own didn’t look so bad but when the white apron, beanied cap, military style black oxfords, and beige hose were added the full effect of the uniform was to our eyes, esthetically disappointing, displeasing even.

The tour now over, we tore ourselves away from the idealized visions we’d created of our future selves and turned back into the tunnel steeling ourselves for the uncomfortable trip back to the residence. It wouldn’t take long for us to wonder what had ever felt eerie about the tunnel. By the end of three years every one of us walked it in dream-like monotony, noticing nothing at all but the omni-present colour grey.

Read more Tales of a Student Nurse stories!

In the school's classrooms, with the ugly cap.


Both pictures are from the school year book and taken in the school’s classrooms, with the ugly cap.

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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