Tuesday, March 17, 2015


There was a definite lack of  academic tradition for our graduation.   The 22 graduating survivors (we started with 78) had just completed 3 years of training not education. The gowns and mortarboards of  academia were replaced by our nursing whites, caps, and clinic shoes. We looked like we were ready to hit the wards.

For the trip to the graduation site, an actual cathedral, we boarded our school's own group transportation device, a WWII era yellow school bus that was donated to the school and had seen better days. The rear fender wells had long ago rusted away leaving gaping holes in the floor that were open to the road below. We received one of our first  lessons in trauma nursing, when one of our instructors  pressed into service as a bus driver struck a rabbit while rolling down the road at considerable speed. The impact propelled  vital organs of the rabbit into the cab via the holes in the floor.  We quickly identified small bowel, but were unable to reach a consensus about the tissue that landed on the back of one of the seats. Some thought it was the liver while others guessed kidney.  It was a tossup.

Every time we got on the bus that old diploma school limerick was sung. The only 2 lines I can recall are:  Came here to get my pin / All I do is live in sin. It was a very memorable song and I wish I could recall more.

Our class flower was a white rose, but when we got to the cathedral a blue carnation was pinned to our uniform. I guess they must have been on sale.

We fired up our Nightingale lamps and processed to the front of the darkened cathedral.  My emotional intelligence is on the low end of the scale, but it was very memorable and a touching moment.

I do have an actual copy of our graduation program and the next listed event is the Inovation (sic). I don't know how a typo like this got past the proofreader, but our hospital was always trying to save money. I think they really meant Invocation and it was delivered by a Catholic priest, Fr. Kyle.

After the Invocation all the bigshots got to address the graduates. This included the Hospital Director(no CEO's), the President of the Hospital Board and finally the Medical Chief of Staff. No nurses were on the list of esteemed speakers.

Next on the agenda was a choral selection from the Freshman and Junior students. Maybe they were more insightful than given credit. The song was " Bridge Over Troubled Waters." We were about to jump into the deep end of the pool and become real nurses.

Next on the agenda was the presentation of special awards. This went to whoever was the best at kissing up to certain instructors. The most coveted award was the Dr. Strangeglove  Obstetrical  Nurse award. It always went to the nurse with the most superficial bubbly personality. Jubilant nurses who could cheerfully implement a labor  & delivery protocol that called for 3H enemas (High, Hot, and a Helluva lot) immediately administered upon admission to  supposedly facilitate contractions. I could not imagine a more invasive procedure employed at the most inappropriate of times.  I still recall the mother's blood curdling  screams during this procedure and the ensuing mess it created.  This type of nurse could also goo-goo and fuss over every new born regardless of how vociferous the crying. I didn't stand a chance for this award!.

Our class motto: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" was blabbered about by the Director of Nursing-This was the first time an actual nurse was given the podium. We all knew who was really running the show.

Time for another choral selection. This time it was "The Impossible Dream."  Our choir director was an elderly man who happened to be a single BK amputee. He also had limited use of an arm. What he lacked in mobility, he made up with bizarre facial contortions. Very memorable.

Finally we processed up to where all the bigshots were solemnly assembled and the Nursing Director physically applied our school pin to our uniform - the moment we had all been waiting for. The Chief of Staff handed us our diplomas. We were GN's at last.

In the interest of ecumenism, a protestant minister delivered the benediction and the ceremony was over.

Immediately after graduation we were notified that none of us would be allowed to take State Boards in Illinois because someone had stolen portions of the test.  Illinois was not permitted to administer boards for 2 years. We had to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, take boards there and apply for reciprocity to practice back in Illinois. Nursing was always like this. Someone higher up the food chain makes a mistake and the nurse working on the ward gets eaten.

All 22 of us passed boards and immediately went to work in the hospital. It never occurred to us to work elsewhere.

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