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.
11. The Student Nurse and the Learning Environment
MISS TIESSEN, she barked! I cringed, lifted my head from the book I’d been pretending to study and, against my will, made eye contact with Miss Staczs. My insides churned, my heart pounded and perspiration trickled down my ribcage. I had no idea what she’d been discussing and couldn’t possibly answer a question. She was a tall, large woman who wore no makeup, had grey unmanageable hair that stuck out from under her white cap, and was built like a man. She carried herself with the demeanour of a drill sergeant and seemed to delight in startling and intimidating me.
It was the beginning of September, 1968; I had just started Year Two of my nurses’ training at the Metropolitan General Hospital School of Nursing in Windsor, Ontario. Year One had prepared us to care for patients with medical and/or surgical conditions and now in Year Two we would be expanding that basic knowledge to include the nursing skills required to work in the following specialty programs: Psychiatry, Operating and Recovery Rooms, Pediatrics and Obstetrics. Obstetrics was divided into four parts: Postpartum Care, Nursery, Premature Nursery, and Case Room, which was comprised of both Labour and Delivery Rooms. Because of the size of the Obstetrical Program, we would spend more clinical time there, under the direction of Miss Staczs, than in any of the other specialty areas; fourteen weeks in total. This, the first of my fourteen weeks, was not starting out well.
My first year had ended on a high note. Having been scheduled to work afternoon and night shifts for one month, on units where I worked as a fully functioning member of the team, I had felt like one of the real nurses. We didn’t just provide patient care together, we shared lunch and coffee breaks, laughed and joked together, which made me actually feel like I was one of them – an equal. How humbling it was to start my second year back in classes, knowing nothing at all about Obstetrical nursing, and feeling as powerless as an elementary school child afraid of her teacher.