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  1. Section Editor(s): Laskowski-Jones, Linda MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM

Article Content

We sat together eating lunch, talking about the things that nurses talk about-conversation that invariably causes the uninitiated to lose their appetites: leg ulcers, surgical complications, stroke, cancer, heart failure. But we weren't discussing patients; my colleagues were sharing their own experiences. The tables had turned. All had retired from a lifetime of nursing service and were now looking expectantly to the generations they'd raised.

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I was invited to be the guest speaker of this noteworthy gathering, a reunion luncheon for the nursing alumnae (all were female) of the Wilmington General Hospital School of Nursing, which graduated its last class in 1966. The oldest member who attended was 95. Their obvious delight at being together, classmates from a different era, warmed my heart. I spoke about the latest advances in emergency nursing, but the real highlight for me was listening to the stories that these nurses shared.


As the animated conversations flowed, we laughed and talked of nurses being assigned to the duty of sharpening needles and boiling mercury thermometers to sterilize them. These veteran nurses described the nurses' dormitory at the hospital and giggled as they reminisced about sneaking out the window after curfew. With pride, they pointed out that a senior nursing student could run an entire 40-bed floor and not require any orientation after graduation. Competencies spanned what we now consider specialty areas. A nurse had to transport a patient to surgery, assist the surgeon in the OR, and then care for that patient on the nursing unit as part of a normal day's work.


The mention of "Klondike therapy" stumped me. My blank look inspired this explanation: "Before we had antibiotics, we thought that cold air would kill the germs that caused pneumonia. So, we bundled up all the pneumonia patients and wheeled them to an outdoor veranda in the middle of winter." Incredulous, I asked, "Did it work?" She said, "I don't know. We never found out." If ever a rationale was needed to support evidence-based practice...


We owe a debt of gratitude to the nurses who paved our way. We also have a responsibility to the generations of nurses who look to us for guidance. The quality of that guidance will shape our own future.


Until next time-


Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM

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Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2013 Vice President: Emergency & Trauma Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.