Here’s a nurse that I can relate to. She’s mature. That’s code for “old as the hills.” She is in the medication room, getting ready to pass medications to her patients. Look at the frown on her face. She’s not happy about all the new technology she has to deal with at the nurses station and in the medication room. Mature nurses occasionally wish that they could dump clumsy glumeter machines, and go back to checking a patient’s blood sugar by using urine dipsticks. Sometimes we yearn for the good old days.
I’ve had many youngsters fresh out of nursing school ask me why I’m still working as a nurse. Nursing is a stressful job, and they wonder when I’m going to retire. I tell them that I’ll have plenty of time to rest when I’m dead, and as long as I have a pulse, I’ll keep working as a nurse. Besides, who will teach young nurses what they need to know if all of the mature nurses go out to pasture?
I remember when a guest speaker came to talk to my class during my first week of nursing school. Her name was Minnie, she was 80 years old, and she was working as a nurse at a local nursing home that was located across the street from our hospital. When Minnie walked into the classroom wearing her white nursing uniform and cap, we all gasped. She resembled my idol, Mother Jones. She was barely five feet tall, wore a pair of wire rimmed glasses, and her snow-white hair was tied up into a bun. I thought, “My God, why is she still working as a nurse? She looks like she should be living at the nursing home, not working there as a nurse.”
Minnie was quite a lady. When she was 23 years old, she joined the American Red Cross in 1918 and traveled to France to care for wounded troops during World War I. She told us about her adventures in Europe, and fought back tears when she talked about the soldiers who died in her arms. She also showed us her extensive collection of nursing school pins and explained the history of each school. When one of my classmates asked Minnie what she did at the nursing home, Minnie laughed and said, “I give people hope. They figure if I can still work, they can at least get up and live another day.” She said that since she wasn’t dead yet, she was going to keep working as a nurse. Minnie never married, and her life revolved around the nursing profession. We heard several months later that when Minnie didn’t show up for one of her shifts, the nursing home administrator became alarmed and met the police at Minnie’s house. They broke into the house and found that she had passed away in her sleep.
I don’t know that I’ll be working when I’m 80 years old, but I can’t imagine that I’ll leave nursing anytime soon. I’m glad that Minnie never retired. She served as an inspiration, and taught me about nursing’s history. I hope someday a young nurse will hear my words and think the same thing about me.