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.
9. The Student Nurse and the Profession of Nursing
In January, 1968 I returned from my Christmas break to begin the second semester of my first year as a student nurse at the Metropolitan General Hospital in Windsor, Ontario. While on break, I’d had plenty of time to reflect on the first term and on my decision to become a Registered Nurse. I had no regrets, felt sure I’d made the right choice, and was eager to get back to continue on.
Even though I’d been very young – only seventeen – when I made the decision to enter nurses’ training, it had not been very difficult for me to choose to become a Registered Nurse. Growing up on a farm, I’d been doing back-breaking work since childhood, and grumbling about it the entire time. In response to my complaints, my parents used to urge me to work just as hard in school so I’d get good grades. My dad’s oft-repeated sage advice was: “if you don’t want to work this hard, make sure you get a good education so you don’t have to.” I desperately wanted to get off the farm and the sooner the better.
Women’s career choices in the mid ’60s were limited to three primary categories: nursing, teaching and secretarial work. In fact, women weren’t really expected to have lifelong careers at all. They would get married and live happily ever after, of course. I was not attracted to either teaching or clerical work, and frankly, the idea of going off to university was impossible for me to imagine. My parents were willing to send me if I wanted to go, but I really had no interest. They didn’t urge me to go: they couldn’t understand why any young woman would want to go away to university when she already had three perfectly good career choices near home. My mother couldn’t help showing her preference for nursing. “Barb, nursing is something you can always fall back on after you get married and have kids.”