Thursday, December 5, 2019

Nursing Diploma Schools Were Providers With a Price

Diploma schools provided "free" textbooks
It was the crack of dawn on the very first day of a new class and we were seated at our hard wooden chair/desk hybrids. Those  old hardwood seating devices had a writing surface that resembled a bent canoe paddle that followed a serpentine course until it was right in front of you. This clever design averted a hasty exit because you had to swing out laterally before standing up. Scanty student seats like this were scorned by those unfortunate enough to be left-handed as there was no upper extremity support while writing.

Miss Bruiser, my favorite instructor was doing her gestapo waltz around the classroom depositing a brand new text book smack dab in the middle of the business end of the canoe paddle desk. We all knew what was coming next and dutifully treated our new books as if they were a hot branding iron. Like all "gifts" from the school, books came with a harsh admonishment. Everything from uniforms to housing had a price and I'm not referring to dollar signs.

"Before you students put your grubby little lunch hooks on these brand new textbooks, I have a little paper for you to read and sign," Miss Bruiser bellowed as she dolded out the pungent scented mimeographed documents. We were conditioned just like Pavlov's dogs to the scent of mimeograph ink. That unique smell spelled trouble in the form of a test, written admonishment, or stern warning from a rigid authoritarian instructor or senior nurse.

Here is what the nursing school party line was on handling our sacred nursing textbooks. Hold the book  with it's back resting on the surface of your desk; let the front cover down, then the other, holding the leaves in one hand while you open a few leaves at the back, then a few at the front, and so on, alternately opening back and front, gently pressing open the sections until you reach the center of the book. Do this several times for the best result. Open the volume violently or carelessly in any one place and you will break the back and cause a start in the leaves. Never, ever force the back of a book.

I let loose with a muted chuckle before endorsing the mimeographed missive and paid a heavy price; I had to "volunteer" as a patient while the sophomores practiced their phlebotomy skills on my prominent veins.




9 comments:

  1. Thank the universe I was never subjected to this kind of B.S.!!!
    And my 1942 Lippincot's board review book is still in great shape!!!

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    1. You missed lots of fun. Miss Bruiser was a real hoot if you did not take her too seriously. Old nurses could cure few ailments and lived a subsistence lifestyle so they strived for some sort of control by over-regulating mundane activities.

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  2. I have a friend who is a retired librarian and she talks like this about books! She would have approved of your Miss Bruiser I think.

    Still have my original textbook - Smith & Lew's Nursing Care of the Patient - our textbooks were paid for by us and costly - the Smith & Lew was our bible for three years - a copy kept on each ward as well! Sue

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    1. Our go to textbook was Brunner's Medical Surgical Nursing. My all time favorite book was Alexander's Care of the Patient in Surgery. I fell asleep many times with that book in bed with me.

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    2. What's terrifying is that I can still recite whole slabs of that textbook - we had to learn heaps of it off by heart. It must be etched into my brain after years of falling asleep over it in my room before going on duty... I actually didn't take it to bed with me, I used to read novels instead at night by torchlight until the Home Sister switched my light off because I was reading after Lights Out..

      My ex-librarian friend is still very particular about how people keep their books - when moving recently she hovered over me ensuring books were packed correctly in the boxes - spine had to be facing the correct direction - it all depends on whether they are paperbacks or hardbacks apparently. Who knew? Sue

      Thinking about her now she would have made an excellent Miss Bruiser...

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    3. It amazes me how similar old diploma nursing schools were no matter where on the globe. The housemothers made rounds in the dorm every evening at 10PM to make sure lights were out. The only exception were for seniors working nights or evenings. I missed out on all the fun because I roomed with the interns in the hospital.

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    4. Interesting everyone I know who lived in nurses homes had the lights out at 10pm rule. I wonder who started it? Did Flo Nightingale herself recommend it? I didn't know it was the same in the USA. Imagine young people today putting up with it! Sue

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  3. I picture Miss Bruiser as 6 foot 8 and 350 pounds of mean. You are lucky she was in a good mood when you chuckled, otherwise she may have used you to demonstrate why there is no need for anesthesia for minor surgery. Of course, you could have taken a big hit of the mimeo ink to get the same effect.

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    1. I did sorta like the scent of mimeograph ink, but that was usually tempered by what was contained in the text-usually something that was not good.

      Miss Bruiser was big and very muscular for a lady. We were all terrified of her. One of her whacky notions was that student nurses should personally experience the various procedures carried out on patients. Thank heaven she did not teach neurosurgery or we would have all wound up in halo traction. I get a headache just thinking about those barbaric devices.

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