Nurse at the Switchboard

Ten of us from a class of 44 traveled to Cape May, New Jersey to attend our 55th nursing reunion. We first met as young Catholic teens in the late ’50s enrolled in the diploma program at Saint Peter’s School of Nursing in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Hard to believe we are now in our mid-70s.

At our luncheon at the Inn of Cape May on a glorious sunny day this past September, we laughed and reminisced about the three years we lived together, when Connie mentioned that she had to man the switchboard at night during the psych rotation at a private psychiatric facility in a Maryland suburb.

Never heard of this we said. But one of us (can’t remember exactly who that was) chimed in to say she remembered at the time how glad she was that she never had to do this. So there was validation that Connie’s memory was intact. Imagine having to work at a telephone switchboard! What does this have to do with learning about psychiatric patients?

lady at switchboard

I found a picture of a telephone switchboard for you too young to remember this contraption that connected folks to each other via telephone lines. Or you could just watch the old movie: Bells Are Ringing with Judy Holiday and Dean Martin.

 

 

 

After hearing about the switchboard, we began outdoing each other with anecdotes about our early nursing days.

I wanted to take notes to capture these unique tales but decided I would rather just enjoy the fellowship. Later, I asked my classmates if I could call them, one by one, and document what they would want to share with current nurses about life in the “olden days.” They all consented.

So now I have a new project. I had been thinking about surveying my classmates about their nursing lives for quite a while. Since our 55th celebration is over, I realize it is now or never. We are dying off. Sad to say but true. Who will remember us? Or what nursing was like years ago? Who would believe that as part of the educational program to learn to be a psych nurse you had to know how to work a telephone switchboard?

You’ll be hearing more about my classmates.

5 thoughts on “Nurse at the Switchboard

  1. alanakh says:

    Mrs. Crane, I am so happy you will be recording these stories and I will be first in line to get an autographed copy! One of the delights of my careers has been taking care of some of my elders in the world’s greatest profession! I have enjoyed their tales of “the way it was”, right along with the black and photo’s of them in “super-hero” capes and seeing the different styles of caps and graduation pins. All treasures as they are!

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  2. Joan Moore says:

    Dear Marianna, I was the one who said I was so glad that I was never called to work the switchboard. Can’t wait to read about all of our stories. After being a nurse for 55 years , I just learned something new from one of my patients yesterday! She told me she had Charles Bonnet Syndrome, which I had never heard of, so I looked it up. It’s a phenomenon that happens to some older folks who have very poor vision. They see hallucinations at night that seem very real.It’s very rare and the folks who are afflicted with it are happy to know they are not mentally ill.I won’t write the technical explanation here but my patient is very accepting, and just tells the people she “sees” to get off her bed. Just thought I’d share this because we learn something new every day- and I admit I often learn from my dear patients.

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