Thursday, December 8, 2016

Nursing Joins the Money World

There were some sure fire ways to get the boot from a 3 year Diploma school of nursing back in the late 1960's; stealing drugs, falsifying nursing notes, serial uniform code violations, failure to sign in and out of the dorm, having your room light on after 10PM and perhaps the most heinous was having currency in your possession. The student handbook was very explicit on that last infraction.

Students are not allowed to have sums of money in their room our on their person while in the nursing dorm or hospital. It is permissible to have less than $1.50 in change in the student's possession for use in the dorm telephone or for the 25 cent deposit for the use of the sewing machines. Violators will be referred to the School of Nursing Directors office. This violation may result in a determination that  the student is unacceptable for the practice of professional nursing.

The school did provide for virtually all of the student's needs including  books, housing, uniforms, meals, and bed linens. For recreation there were pool tables in the basement, a sundeck on the roof, and a large lounge complete with heavily patrolled conjugal visiting booths with the admonishment that there must be 2 sets of feet on the floor at all times. The nursing school bus made biweekly trips to the Cook County School of Nursing for dips in their beautiful swimming pool.

I think the rationale for the money restriction was to reinforce that you were totally dependent on the school for all your needs. We somewhat derisively referred to the school as "Mother," but it did meet everyone's basic needs for 3 years. All you had to do was follow the rules. We started out with 78 prospective nurses and 24 of us survived to graduation.

Another reason for the no money rule was to reinforce that you were here to "dedicate yourself to the service of mankind." This mantra was repeated very frequently to the extent it felt like being brainwashed. This was a charity hospital and even the doctors were very careful about conspicuous displays of wealth. Dr. Slambow, my surgeon idol, proudly motored to the hospital in his $2,000
Volkswagen Beetle. If he were around today, the first thing he would do is put all the young MDs of today driving BMWs in their rightful place.

Nursing is a calling that has nothing to do with remuneration. Rewards came in the form of caps, bands for caps, and of course that highly coveted pin. According to administrators, angels in white don't need pension plans or decent pay.  If our instructors ever got wind of the notion that we were practicing nursing for the money you were history.

I was watching videos on YouTube of nurses openly discussing salaries for different nursing positions. This would have been professional suicide back in the 1960's and 70's. The first thing we were told about interviewing was to NEVER ask about salary as that would have been the end of the interview.

I think that young whippersnapperns of today have so many financial burdens that we never dreamed about  such as school loans and grossly overpriced textbooks that they have to be concerned with finances. School loans have made education unaffordable. Nevertheless, when I hear a nurse discussing salary or asking for money on a blog for services it sends shivers down my spine. I was harshly conditioned against this line of thinking in my impressionable  adolescent days. I completely understand it, but it creeps my subconscious mind  out because from my experience when nurses talk or ask for money, very bad things happen and you soon find yourself on the outside looking in.

Don't fret, I could never monetize this foolish blog. Who would I "partner" with?  Perhaps hearing aid battery companies or maybe even denture adhesive, I think Polident works best. OOPs I didn't mean to say that. It must be getting past my bed time. I will never sully the "OldfoolRN" media brand (I learned that term from some of you youngsters) with those annoying adds or self serving "partnerships." I learned my lessons about nursing for money at a very young age and those values have stuck like a thick coat of tincture of benzoin.

Nursing provided me with anything that I really needed. Nothing fancy, but the basics were certainly met............Thanks so much for tolerating my foolishness!


  1. I'm SO glad you don't "monetize"... If you did, I wouldn't respect you in the morning ~

  2. You graduated 24 out of 78? Wow, my platoon in boot camp (USMC) graduated 64 out of 85. Of course, that was only 12 weeks, not 3 years. Still.....

  3. Officer, part of the reason for the high attrition rate was the lack of admission screening. The diploma school I attended accepted just about anyone that was 18 y/o, a high school grad, and said they wanted to be a nurse. Students that left school returned to woo others away with grand tales of making twice as much money as a nurse with jobs like being a buyer for Marshall Fields Dept Store in Chicago's Loop. Only the very hard core students hung on - the type that wanted to be a nurse since they were 8 years old. Anyone that was concerned with the monetary aspects quickly bailed out of nursing. In our senior year we took comprehensive NLN exams in each of the 5 exams covered by state boards (medical, surgical, peds,psych, and OB. IF the powers at be thought your scores on these tests were not sufficient to pass boards you were released from school. Our school had a 6 year record of 100% passing boards and the school was obsessed with continuing this trend. A number of very good nurses were lost very late in the training, but our class had 100% rate of passing too. I always thought the school was being unreasonably harsh with letting so many very good nurses go so late in the program, but that was not a call for me to make. After serving in the Marines and working in law enforcement, nursing school would be a walk in the park for you. Thanks so much for your comment!

    1. I understand that these were different times and mindsets, but it makes me glad that today's nurses are demanding decent salaries, even if it involves talking about money in public. Higher education, including nursing, is free in my country's public schools, but you can't feed a family on even the noblest calling. Nurses at a large pediatric hospital in my area went on strike last year; they eventually got a [still smallish] raise and the admin made [still smallish] improvements to scheduling, so I guess that's a start.