Chapter 11: Nurses’ Training

In February of 1948, I got started in Nurses’ Training at Emmanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon. We were all a bunch of “probies” (probationary students). You could tell when we got up “on the floor” of the hospital that we had had no experience. We were just in from the out-of-doors and were completely ignorant of what happened in a hospital. Neither of my parents had ever been in the hospital except when my mother was having a new baby, and I think that no one in our family had ever been hospitalized for anything.

We went through “the line” being weighed, having our heart beat registered, having our temperature taken, and getting our feet sized for shoes that would be the only kind to wear on those cement floors in the hospital. “The most important part of your uniform is your shoes,” they said, and they were really kind of ugly. But they did fit right and they were very comfortable. The shoes were white, and so were our stockings. Our uniforms were white, and later on, we would be wearing white caps. The dresses and caps all had to be laundered just right, so they went in to the laundry every time they needed to be cleaned, and when they came back, they were crisp and like new once again. Although we had to do a lot of things that were not pleasant, having nice uniforms made it so it wasn’t quite so bad. We felt we were a part of something big, and were proud to be able to wear this uniform, no matter what kind of work it required.

You may know that when you go to the hospital, you have a record kept of everything that happens there. Every time a nurse comes in to check your temperature, they have to go out after that and record your temperature in your chart. No matter what it is they do for you, it has to go down on your chart which is like a diary, only everything is very definite and put down in a particular way. When the nurse comes in to see the patient, she has to go back later to the chart and record what she did there and what she saw. There were words that were very descriptive of everything, and no matter what it was, she had to describe it all so when the doctor came in to check on his patient, all he had to do was go to that chart, and he would know exactly what had happened to that patient while he was gone from him. That way, he knew ahead of time, too, how things were, because he looked at it before going to see the patient. Therefore, a good nurse was one who knew all the words to describe everything, no matter what it had to do with the patient, so she could write whatever was most appropriate concerning the patient.

Interestingly, the thing I remember about dinner time was that we became comfortable talking about gross things, such as bodily functions and dysfunctions, while we were eating. We had to memorize terminology new to us, and some of it wasn’t the kind of thing we liked to talk about at a meal time. However, we got so we were tossing those words around like we had been using them all our lives, and they didn’t bother us while we were eating.

We learned many things, and one thing we learned was how it felt to be a patient. We each had a partner that was our teammate, and we had to practice various things on each other. This was not done on the floor where the patients were. It was in a part of the classrooms where we had our course work. There were beds set up just like they were in the patient’s rooms, and they had the same type of equipment that was seen there, too. If I was going to be a patient for the session at hand in the classroom, I had to put on my patient’s attire and wear just what she would wear. This was always a white gown that tied in the back in two or three places. That’s all I would wear if I was the patient for the day. Depending on what we were learning to do, we divided the time, and I was the patient for part of it, and my partner was the patient for the other part. We all got our chance to practice whatever it was we had to learn. If we needed to learn how to give a bath in bed, then we had to fix the bed ahead of time for that, and have our towel and wash cloth at hand. We had to get our wash basin, too, and fill it with water that was just the right temperature. Then we had to get the patient ready, after pulling the draperies around the bed so we had privacy from the others in the ward. It was fun being the patient, but sometimes we were not treated too smoothly and it wasn’t so much fun then. There was a certain way to take hold of the patient’s arm or leg to wash it, and if you were the least bit harsh in the way you took hold of her, she might get a bruise from it. My partner got a lot of bruises while we were going through this phase, because her skin was so sensitive, and I had to learn to be especially careful to hold her just right. It was fun putting her feet into the pan, maybe because it was such a challenge. It could be a catastrophe if not handled just right. Our patients got the full treatment because we had to learn it all from the beginning.

Even making the bed afterward was a real problem. You had to learn how to roll the patient just so far and not off the edge of the bed on to the floor. You had to learn how to put the sheets on and tuck them under her just right so that when she got rolled back to the other side, everything was in perfect shape and there were not a bunch of wrinkles on the sheet. The sheet had to be pulled just so in order to make it taut and without any wrinkle at all so the patient would be most comfortable after her bath. There was a trick to doing everything just right.

Well, we learned it was not all just fun and games. Our experiences in the classroom were only the foretaste of what life would be like on the floor when we were actually taking care of the patients, and it wasn’t always just a bath we were giving them but whatever else it was, it had to be done just right. No wonder that Emmanuel Hospital School of Nursing had such a good name. We surely had to hump to learn all that needed to be learned and in the right way every time. We learned to take notes in the very best way possible so we would know how to do whatever it was we were learning to do, memorizing these things and then practicing until it was done perfectly. I strove to be the best nurse I could be.

After six months, our probationary period was over. We were no longer probies going around without a cap. We had our capping ceremony, and finally we were student nurses in good standing. That was really nice. Even the caps had to be folded a certain way and worn with pride. We also got our capes at that time, and they were beautiful with red on the inside and blue on the outside. We really didn’t wear these often, but we had them for dress-up occasions or if it was really cold outside. There was a passageway that went from the Girls’ Dorm to the hospital, though, that was an underground tunnel and you went downstairs to enter it from one side to go to the other side. Seldom did you have to go out into the snow or cold to get from your dorm to the hospital because it was much easier to get there through the tunnel, so we didn’t wear our capes very often.

I had a good roommate in a lovely room. We used to give each other haircuts because we could not wear our hair long. There were girls who were in a religious group that could not have their hair cut, so they had to keep their hair in braids and wind it around their heads so it was not touching any part of their shoulders. We had a lot of fun in our dorm, our class having its own separate part of the dorm, and we didn’t mix much with the other classes. The hospital itself was Lutheran, so we had devotional services early every morning. These were directed by the hospital chaplain. On Sundays, we could go to the church of our choice. My roommate and I went to the Portland Central Christian Church where Ralph Holcomb was preaching at the time. He was the husband of Velma, one of my roommates while I was going to Northwest Christian College. My roommate came to know the Lord there and was baptized into Christ. Another girl used to go with us, and she eventually came to know the Lord, too, and was immersed into Christ. When it became known that I was sharing the gospel with my roommates and fellow students, the chaplain had a talk with me about it, but I had to tell him that this was my place to share the gospel with those who didn’t yet know Christ.

One time, when there was an evangelistic meeting at another church in town called The Church at Montavilla, Portland, I went to it. I took my roommate with me, and we both enjoyed it tremendously. The evangelist was a professor, Brother Roy Shaw, from San Jose Bible College, so I knew him from my time there, and he asked me why I didn’t go there all the time. So after that, I decided it was a good church, and I would go there instead of the other one. Both places were sharing God’s Word in a good way, and if I took a friend, I could depend on them hearing the truth in either place. At one point in my attending there, I was brought to consider whether or not my baptism in the little Congregational Church I went to when I was 12 years old was really valid. I decided it would be fine if I would just be baptized again by the preacher at The Church at Montavilla, and then I would be absolutely sure I would be right in my faith, so one night I had the preacher there baptize me. His name was Leo Yoder. He was one of the regular ministers there. Brother Archie Word was the name of the other man who ministered there, though he was out holding evangelistic meetings from time to time in other churches, so he wasn’t always there.

One day, there was a special holiday. It was Memorial Day, 1949, and The Church at Montavilla held a special picnic. It was held in a lovely park in Portland. It so happened that Chuck Richards had come up to Portland with Dean Boulton on his motorcycle, taking turns driving all the way from San Jose, and they came to the picnic that day. Of course, I met him there and was happy to see him again. We had been corresponding with each other through the months of my time at the hospital, although it was spasmodic. He tells that we would be writing and enjoying our letters, and then all of a sudden I would say things were getting a little too close, so I would stop writing. He didn’t like this, so he finally talked to Dean Boulton about it and wondered what he should do. Dean suggested that he himself would do the writing of his letters to me, so they began working as a team on their letters to me, although I did not realize it. It was not until much later that I found out about this. At any rate, Chuck was very sure that he wanted to marry me, but he didn’t want to ask me if my answer would be “No!” So he asked me that day to take a little walk with him in the park.

While on the walk, he told me that this was not actually a proposal, but if he asked me to be his wife, and I said “Yes,” then he would actually ask me to be his wife. However, if I would not be his wife, then he would not ask me. In other words, he was giving me an ultimatum. “If you say ‘No,’ then please never write to me again or make any attempts to communicate. Just get out of my life so I can go on with my life and find somebody else.” So, although I hated ultimatums, I did accept, and we went on from there. I knew he was a terrific man and one whom I really appreciated very much for all he was. I could not abide thinking of anyone else marrying him because I felt he was all I wanted in a preacher and a man, and he passed the tests I had already set for such a one in the past.

Well, I do know that he borrowed a friend’s car, and we went out that night somewhere for the evening. It was too late for me to go back to the dorm that night. The door would be locked, so we went to my sister’s home who lived in Portland, and we parked in front of her house. We talked and talked and I guess we talked the whole night through. The next day was the famous Portland Rose Parade. We went there, and we took pictures of it and enjoyed it tremendously. Eventually, though, I had to go back to the dorm and face the music. I had done something that was a real “No-No” at the school, and I wasn’t going to get away with it. When I did go back to the dorm, I had to talk to the dorm mother, and ultimately to the head of the School of Nursing.

It was decided that I would just quit training at that point because we wanted to be married the following July, which was only a month and a half away, and there was no way I could stay and do my “penance,” so to speak, and continue my nurses’ training. So I quit and returned to Los Angeles as soon as possible, and there I got ready for our wedding.

We made arrangements right away to put out an announcement of our engagement, with a picture of the two of us on it, and had it printed. We also have a picture of me standing by a tree in front of San Jose Bible College with my left hand held up near my face to show the diamond ring we had chosen together from Proctor’s Jewelry Store. It was summer and Chuck was working in a cannery, canning apricots; then there would be a lull and they would begin canning peaches. There was time for us to be married in that gap and have a short honeymoon. Therefore, Chuck stayed in San Jose while I went home to Los Angeles to get ready for the wedding. I had many things to do, and one of them was to contact Alma Massey, the lady who had the wedding dress I would be wearing. It was the one she had worn first, and then Virginia Fleenor wore, and now it was my turn. What a lovely dress it was, too.

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