Former Nursing Student, Nurse and Nursing Administrator
Life Long Bonds
I was 18 years old when I first came to MedStar Washington Hospital Center in 1964, to go to nursing school. There were about 100 of us in my year, and all of the nursing students lived on the top four floors of the East Building, which was our dorm. So no matter what-snowstorm or whatever-no excuses, we were right there on campus, and classes were never canceled.
In those days, the nursing school was all girls, with a single housemother who sat at the front desk, 24 hours a day! We had to be in our rooms by 9 p.m. on weekdays, so we tried to devise ways to sneak out. And we did-down to the basement and out a back door, and on our way downtown!
Even then I knew I wanted to be an ICU nurse, and when I graduated from the three-year program, I went to work in the hospital's ICU. There I was, on my very first day as a nurse, taking care of patients. It was overwhelming, but during our training, we spent a lot of time in the hospital at the bedside right from the start.
I had only one or two patients to care for, but it was very intensive hour-by-hour care. One patient from those early days sticks in my mind and demonstrates just how gratifying nursing can be. He came into Intensive Care completely paralyzed, suffering from Guillain-Barré Syndrome. He needed a ventilator to breathe. Then over time, his condition reversed. I watched him come back to life one day after another until he walked out of the hospital!
It's not only the close ties to patients that bind you to the hospital. The nurses and the residents were family, too. Many of them stayed on to become chiefs and directors. That's the hallmark of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, I think. Now 30 years, two jobs and a PhD later, I still feel close to them. These are bonds that simply don't break.