Ann Kuehn - Contributing columnist

It has been Nursing Week, and in my befuddled state, I missed it!

Once a nurse, always a nurse, although in today’s hospitals I would only be fit to pass food trays, if that.

I came into nursing serendipitously, needing to rescue myself and my five children from a violent, abusive relationship. If so, why five children?!

Believe me, the physical attraction totally waned after #5. I graduated from Western College for Women with a B.A. in History, with minors in Political Science and English. After spending the first half of my senior year as a transfer to American University in Washington, D.C., I wanted to become a lawyer.

“Women do not become lawyers” decreed my Neanderthal father. With no readily available prospects, I settled for marriage the second half of that year.

By 30, I had four children, and five by 34 — and I, with not enough sense to raise a goldfish.

We all suffered during a time when domestic abuse was not mentioned, particularly in the high-toned atmosphere of Cincinnati’s Terrace Park.

With a perfectly good degree, teaching seemed an option. A summer course convinced me that I never cared if children learned to read. The nursing office was across the hall, and to my amazement, it would take less time to become a registered nurse than a teacher.

I loved it! Every disgusting, heart-breaking, exhaustive minute of it. Nursing school was hideous, but it taught me how to pass the test. The hospital taught me how to become a nurse.

My first job was at a suburban hospital on a 28-bed medical surgical unit. In comparison, Clinton Memorial in total has perhaps the same number of beds.

We did “personalized” nursing, which meant we did everything from feeding, bathing, wound care, IV therapy, insertions into any orifice that needed such, and explanations to patients as to the whats, whys, and wherefores.

We were mainly RN’s with a few LPN’s and one aide. We normally worked in teams. I chose to work with the aide. She was wonderful, and what she was not allowed to do — pass medications, give injections, IV therapy being the biggest — she made up in pure energy.

We normally had 13 patients, and sometime during the shift, each had to be bathed. We would start at one end and scrub our way down the line, with constant interruptions.

The clientele was from an affluent, health-conscious area, so when they were sick, they were really sick. One memorable summer — please remember those were the days when patients were hospitalized for weeks — we had a man on a Stricker frame, with which every time it needed turning, had the possibility catapulting the man out the window; an executive with a pseudocyst of the pancreas; a young man who got drunk one night and shot off his toes (dirty wound); a patient dying of cancer; and assorted others — some with habitual back pain in for R & R where they could smoke, receive pain medication, and watch TV.

The executive kept trying to tell me what to do, when I finally turned on him. “I would not presume to come into your office with suggestions on how to do your job. Do not tell me how to do mine.”

The floor was a total zoo, not helped by our sometimes irreverent staff. We cooked lunch in the break room; talked back to doctors, at the peril of our jobs; often worked 10-hour shifts since the evening shift was not happy if we left in the middle of something.

But we were good — competent, caring, intuitive women, whose only concern was that each patient was cared for in the best possible way.

Eventually I went on to be an oncology nurse. That might be another whole article.

I cannot imagine the strain nurses are facing today. Advances in medicine have increased the ability to save lives, but at an emotional price for those doing just that.

They have my admiration and sympathy.

Ann Kuehn resides at Ohio Living Cape May in Wilmington. She says, “I gravitated to Ohio at age 18 and never left” and moved to Sabina in 1987.

Ann Kuehn

Contributing columnist