I had fun last year with the annual Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge 2021, so I decided to enter again this year. My theme last year was Places I Have Been. This year I planned to blog about my three years in nursing school (1959 to 1962). This would also fall under the Olden Days of Nursing theme I sometimes blog about. I even bought an old Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary just like the one I had used in nursing school. Hopefully, it would help me figure out what to write about if I got stuck at one of the letters—especially Z.
I was still working on a tentative list for the letters when I logged on to the 2022 web site to sign up. I had missed the theme deadline. Bummer.
But in order not to waste all my efforts, I want to share with you what I found for the letter Z.
Z zoanthropy: Delusion that one is an animal. (Taber’s cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Clarence Wilbur Taber, 11th Edition, 1969, page Z-1)
Okay, I’m reaching here. Who wouldn’t with the letter Z? I actually did have a patient who thought she was a cat. Not that I saw any evidence of this. She looked and acted perfectly normal.
Seton Institute, just outside of Baltimore on a bucolic campus, was a private psychiatric hospital run by the Sisters of Charity. Twelve of us students from St. Peter’s School of Nursing spent three months there in the 1960s. During the tour of the facility, I realized, as a seventeen-year-old, that bizarre-acting patients scared me—even the catatonic woman who didn’t move. Thankfully, our student role was to be recipient of knowledge rather than dispenser of therapy.
One of my memories revolves around two women patients not much older than I. One was recovering from post-partum depression and the other thought she was a cat. We three had more of a social relationship than the professional relationship that I should have promoted.
I took walks with them. I even short-sheeted the cat patient’s bed. The post-partum depressive patient told the cat patient that she must be liked when the “nurses short-sheeted your bed.” If she reported me, would I have been tossed out of school?
There were other nursing schools that sent their students to Seton Institute for psych experience. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of young men hanging about. I dated an enlisted Navy guy and a cadet from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Besides taking leisurely walks with my patients and short-sheeting their beds, learning to play bridge, and dating some interesting boys, I must have learned a bit about psychiatry because when I took the “comprehensive” tests in senior year in preparation for sitting for the State Nursing Boards to become a licensed registered nurse after we graduated, I received my highest score in psychiatry—in the 99th percentile.
I never wanted to work in psych. And in my long nursing career, I never did.