TSN 10: The Student Nurse and the Curse of Confidence

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.

10. The Student Nurse and the Curse of Confidence

Read more Tales of a Student Nurse stories!

Spring arrived in technicolour one May day in1968, outside the doors of the nurses’ residence at Metropolitan General Hospital School of Nursing in Windsor, Ontario. Red tulips and purple crocuses saluted the sun, dogwood trees erupted in huge, but delicate pink blooms, and the air was filled with the yeasty brewery smells emanating from the Hiram Walker distillery a few miles away on the banks of the Detroit River. Just across the river in Detroit, Tigers baseball season was in full swing; memories of the previous summer’s violent riots had seemingly evaporated. In contrast to a young man’s spring imaginings, this young woman’s fancy turned to thoughts of the end of Year One of nurse’s training. I could see it in the near distance; I was almost one third of the way to the finish line and my Registered Nurse’s diploma.

My classmates and I had spent the last five months on a schedule of two days’ per week of classroom instruction countered by three full clinical days learning to care for patients on the hospital wards. Not only had we become proficient in giving bed baths, changing dressings, running IVs and administering patient medications, we had also begun to understand the caring relationship between the nurse and her patient. Having only one patient, and at times a maximum of two, gave us almost unlimited time to engage with the patient, learn about their fears and challenges, and provide them with emotional support. Our patients loved us for that and in those encounters, we student nurses experienced the intimate relationships that are the essence of being a nurse.

At the middle of June, after we had written our final exams, we would be assigned to work full time, and on all shifts, as part of the nursing team. To this point, we had been closely supervised by our Clinical RN Instructors, limited to a very narrow role, and excluded from all but the most perfunctory interactions with the staff. We were thereby clearly identifiable as outsiders: student nurses. I had great hope that once we were integrated into the nursing team, and especially on off hours, we’d feel like we belonged on the team. Oh, how we all looked forward to that!

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
Barbara Tiessen at the patient’s bedside

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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