TSN 12: The Capping Ceremony

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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.

12. The Capping Ceremony

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In July, 1969 I had somehow completed the Obstetrical rotation of my second year of nurse’s training at the Metropolitan General Hospital School of Nursing. I didn’t think it would ever end, but thankfully, it had been the first assignment of Year Two and when it ended, I breathed a sigh of relief. Putting those fourteen weeks behind me, I sailed through the remainder of my other specialty rotations.

During the second year of training, students sampled a variety of specialty nursing programs. I had completed sixteen weeks, from September to December 1968, on the Obstetrical Program. It had been broken into three parts: Labour and Delivery, Postpartum Care and Nursery. Our instructor was a foreign-trained midwife who was gruff, impatient and intimidating. I was uncomfortable in her presence and never felt safe telling her I didn’t understand what she was trying to explain to me. My experience was not unique; all my classmates found it difficult to be her student. Thankfully, each of my next three specialty assignments was an enjoyable learning experience.

Twelve weeks on Pediatrics flew by. Our Pediatrics instructor was a firm but kind, advocate for hospitalized children and their families. I enjoyed her as an instructor but discovered within just a few weeks that I had no interest in pursuing a career in Pediatric nursing. I found it heartbreaking to see small, ill children in hospital cribs crying in pain and calling  for their parents. The next six weeks spent in the Operating (OR) and Recovery Rooms (RR) were great. The Recovery Room appealed to me very much; the Operating Room though, felt highly impersonal to me. There was no possibility of getting to know the patient; s/he was anesthetized. I didn’t understand it then, but many years later I realized that the inter-personal relationship a nurse developed with her patient was the essence of nursing. Finally, I found my favourite specialty experience during the nine weeks I spent on Inpatient Psychiatry. The calm manner, wisdom and experience of our instructor, Mrs. Wey, inspired me. The patients’ illnesses, the symptoms they presented, their socio-medical histories, and the hospital treatment options, were fascinating.

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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