Monday, March 12, 2018

Nursing When It Was Like "Call The Midwife" by Sarah J. McNeal

Me at the CCU Nurse's Station at Mercy Hospital (1991?)

I binge-watched “Call The Midwife” on Netflix for days…and nights until I was on a zombie TV hangover. For those of you who know nothing about this series, it’s about nursing in London, England at the end of World War II when the country first instituted National Healthcare through 1962. I loved this series and I didn’t think I would. When I left nursing in the Emergency Department in 2009 to retire, I was burned out on nursing. After the medical center bought out the Sisters of Mercy in 1995, the demand for “excellent” care and the decrease in nursing personnel to carry that out made most nurses, including me, and especially veteran nurses who had been nursing for more than 10 years, feeling inadequate, worn out, and dissatisfied. On top of that, in order to cut costs on personnel and save money on wages, insurance, 401 K matching, and so forth, the administration decided all nurses were to work 12 hour shifts limited to 3 days a week and were dedicated to allowing no overtime. Consequently, patients were herded in and out of the department in record time. Quality care became a thing of the past. It got worse after I left according to some of my colleagues who still worked after I left.

So, when I watched this series about nurses dedicated to their patients, delivering the kind of care we used to give in the early years of my career, well, it took me back to those days when I loved my job. I actually woke up in the morning feeling a sense of purpose and eager to get to work and make a difference. My sister, who is also a retired nurse who specialized in psychiatric nursing, was on the same page I was about the change in nursing care then and now. I had the added pleasure of working with the Sisters of Mercy at Mercy Hospital. We changed sheets every single day and at night we changed the draw sheet (a thing of the past) and gave the patients a back rub and refreshments before their bedtime. We had time to do these things and it was encouraged and expected that we would CARE about those patients and spend time with them. And, for me, I had the addition of the nuns and a resident priest who not only administered to the patients, but to the staff, as well. Father King held mass every day in the chapel and he made rounds at every nurse’s station and patient’s room.

We were encouraged to go to classes and some of them were expensive, but we were allotted the money to take courses that would advance our knowledge and level of care. I went as far as Virginia Beach to take a 2 day seminar from Dr. Marriot, a well respected expert on EKG interpretation, to learn how to interpret electrocardiograms. It was fascinating and enlightening. Later on, I even taught 12 lead EKG interpretation and heart rhythms to nurses in the coronary care internship program. I loved that stuff. And I loved those patients and their families.

Things have changed. The Sisters of Mercy could not compete in the financial world medicine had grown into and sold Mercy Hospital to Carolinas Medical Center. New technology has saved numerous lives through the advancements made in medicine like stents and angioplasties along with so many other medicines, treatments, and diagnostic procedures. Nurses aren’t taught to give tender loving care to their patients anymore the way we were. It’s all about cost effectiveness and time management. But I will always remember with the greatness fondness that time I spent delivering care in the same way those nurses did in “Call The Midwife”, and the support and care I received from the Sisters of Mercy and Father King.
By the way, I saw in the news yesterday that the shortage of nurses is so great now hospitals are offering 5 digit sign on bonuses as well as benefits, better hours, and great pay. It’s a hard, often grinding job, but maybe things are changing. Maybe they are coming full circle now and nurses can give the kind of care that nurses and patients both want.

One more little bit of trivia. Do any of you remember when there were ashtrays in the patients’ rooms and patients and visitors were allowed to smoke anywhere and everywhere? I remember one of the nuns, who shall remain nameless, who used to smoke in the utility closet. Just sayin’…

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