This past week I went to Edwardsville IL to see my best friend from nursing school. I suppose I am getting older because as I was driving home and later when I was walking, I was thinking about how we met and what a good blog that might be.
So it was August 1985 when I started nursing school at Deaconess College of Nursing. It has since been bought out by Chamberlain College and it is a horrible nursing school. Back in the day Deaconess was one of the best and also one of the most expensive. I was originally going to attend Lutheran School of Nursing but they stopped accepting financial aid and since I qualified for financial aid, I changed schools at the last-minute.
I moved in on a Sunday afternoon and I met Gena in the bathroom. She looked like Mare Winningham (Wendy from St. Elmo’s Fire) and I told her that. She told me she heard that all of the time. She told me her name was Gena and was spelled G E N A and that her mom spelled it that way because Gina was too close to vagina and her mom didn’t want people calling her that. This is actually hilarious since I work on Women’s Health AKA the vagina floor. So that night we also met Leah Lerbs who was from Herman MO and we all went to Jim Buck’s party at the boys house. This was in 1985 so the five or six male students had their own house down the street and guys were checked in and out of the girls dorm and all boys had to be gone by ten pm. Anyhoo the party was absolutely stupid and Jim was a dork to put it nicely. He would eventually flunk out of nursing school our last year for leaving an uncapped needle in a baby’s bed. So we left the party early but became friends really quickly.
About two weeks later, I caught Gena and Leah outside on the commuter parking lot smoking cigarettes. I asked them why they didn’t come and get me and they said because they thought I would be mad at them for smoking. Side note, when I was younger I most definitely had the I don’t smoke or drink holier than thou attitude. I said give me one of those suckers and that was the beginning of smoking during nursing school. I would eventually get busted because my friend Tim from high school had written me a letter saying he would quit drinking when I quit smoking and I left it on the living room floor like an idiot and my mom read it.
That May was our first nursing clinical’s. It was a four-week rotation and we were at Delmar Gardens North. I believe all three of us were together and we had the strictest instructor. She had actually gotten pregnant at the age of 40, five years after having a tubal ligation. I was just a hot mess convinced that I would fail. I hated it and I wanted to quit. During my clinical evaluation I was told I relied to heavily on my fellow students and I needed to be more independent. I took that to the extreme and have to be almost drowning before I will ask for help at work. Anyway, I passed clinical’s but I wanted to quit. My mother being the smartest person around refused and said I needed to go back one more semester for hospital nursing and then if I still hated I could quit. So that summer I worked at Hardees and drove my dad’s orange Nova and then back to nursing school I went.
I think I had Margaret Acre that semester and I loved it. I will never forget my first IM injection, I was so nervous and hesitant that she finally just grabbed my hand and jammed it towards the lady’s rear end. All worked out well. I will never forget she smoked during pre and post conference as well. During our first year we had microbiology and our lab teacher was awful. I will always remember the day Gena told him off because he was of no help on the unknown. She does not remember this but I do and I thought to myself I love how she is able to speak up and say what is on her mind with no bull shit. Eventually I would adopt this trait but I certainly didn’t have it back then. One of my all time favorite stories was our first nursing check outs which was on temperature, pulse and blood pressure. I had zero self-confidence and I just knew I was going to fail. Gena and I were partners and I had myself so worked up, I couldn’t even feel a pulse or read the glass thermometer. I start crying and she starts laughing because of my lip quivering. We both got sent to the bathroom until we could compose ourselves. Somehow I managed to pass that mess after we returned. I was always a stressed out mess for every check off after that.
After about the first week of the second year, Leah was so overwhelmed with all the stuff we had to do that semester, she decided nursing was not for her. She dropped the nursing classes but stayed in the others and finished the semester. She left and went on to become a teacher, starting with special needs and then history or she may have done history then special needs and then history again. I just know she has remained in Herman all of these years and has also coached basketball. I had a patient this week from Herman and she knew exactly who she was. It’s a small world.
Gena and I both worked as student nurse assistants. She worked on mother baby because she originally planned on being a pediatric nurse and was going to get her pediatric nurse practitioner degree and move to Colorado. I worked on the isolation floor and this was right at the time that AIDS was starting. I will never forget my first AIDS patient. Although I cannot remember his name, I still remember what he looked like. The day he finally died about three hours later his call light went on. We all felt like he was telling us good-bye. I thought I wanted to be a OR nurse. I spent two days in the OR and had enough of that. The patients couldn’t talk and it was BORING.
At the time Deaconess was a three-year diploma program with an additional year to receive a BSN. However the BSN program was not accredited by the NLN (National League of Nursing) so Gena and I decided to attend SIUE. Her dad had a bunch of rental property in Edwardsville so we moved in together at the property on M street. We lived together for a year until she and Eric got married and I then moved back to St. Louis and commuted to SIUE until March when I was finished. Deaconess was finally accredited but only back until the year after we would have graduated. I had planned to get my masters degree so I needed the accreditation. However after all the stupid busy work for a bachelors I said forget that. I would end up working at Deaconess for two years on a medical/surgical floor before I would then go to work at Mercy for good. Gena ended up at Anderson hospital and has worked on the medical floor for twenty-nine years. She never did pediatric nursing and I could blame that on the mean clinical instructors. They were tough as nails and told me I had no business being a nurse and I should consider a new career. I almost failed clinical’s but I called my mom for advice and then used my Gena voice and told them I had never been around kids, I don’t like kids, I was never gong to have kids, and I would never be a kid nurse. That word never, I ended up having kids and when I worked in the burn unit I actually took care of kids.
Gena has three boys who are all doing wonderful. Her oldest is 26, middle is 24 and youngest is 22. None of them are married or have kids, just like my girls. We both agreed the best part is we are not grandmas so we are still 25. I just realized that we have been friends for thirty-two years. I am not sure how that happened, but somehow it did.
We get together about three to five times a year. I always drive to her house because she does not like driving in St. Louis. I don’t mind as it is a nice forty-five minute drive. She always buys me lunch or cooks because I drive over. She did come to my house twice. The first time she and Eric came when her oldest was a baby to see my house and the second time was a total surprise. My nephew Andrew had been born and died six hours later and that night she showed up with a precious moment (we started collecting them in nursing school) that said safe in Jesus arms with a baby on a cloud. That meant the world to me. I don’t think I ever told her just how much that meant. She came all by herself just because she cared about me so much. Emily was learning how to rollerblade and I’m pretty sure we were smoking out on my front porch. I still have the precious moment in my cabinet given to me by a very special friend for a very special baby.
Mole Moral ~ A bathroom, a lame party, and cigarettes led to the very best friendship ever! So whoever said smoking is bad for you is cray cray!
2 thoughts on “My bestie from nursing school”
I tell people all the time how much I hated nursing school and wanted to quit, but how much I love being a nurse! I remember that first month in the nursing home-I wrote in blue ink instead of black and the instructor made out as if I killed someone!
I’m not sure any of us went into peds because our instructors were so mean! Thanks for sharing these memories! I wish deaconess would have a reunion-I’d love to catch up with everyone!
Oh Rachel….what memories that brings up. Even though nursing school was not it for me, teaching has been and I love it. This is my 28th year and o am nearing retirement, but will still go back to sub. I didn’ t work with kids in one way but in another. I went to see Gena once in Eswardsville and would love be t see her again. I thin fondly back at n those times. I think between your nursing stories and my school ones we could do a comedy tour. Lol. Thanks for sharing this.