Chapter 02: Nursing Education and Early Professional Life

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Chapter 02: Nursing Education and Early Professional Life

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Ms. Alt begins by talking about how she came to attend the Allen Memorial Hospital Lutheran School of Nursing in Waterloo, Iowa, then sketches her first job as a charge nurse on the medical surgical unite at Allen Memorial Hospital, and then as Head Nurse for the Medical Surgical Unit at Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Identifier

Alt,J_01_20180529_S02

Publication Date

5-29-2018

Publisher

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subjects Story - Professional Path; Personal Background; Professional Path; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So tell me about your next step, which was let’s see, Allen Memorial Hospital, [School] of Nursing. Tell me about the decision to go there. How did that happen?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Well, for one thing, my cousin was Director of Nursing at the school and a tough lady.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Her name?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Damn, I wish I could remember. [Virginia Turner]

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

You’ll think of it. That’s the good reason to review your transcript, right, just to put it in.J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Yeah. I can see her. Isn’t that terrible? I tried to avoid her anyway, she was tough. (both laugh) A good school.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So did she help you get in, was that the idea?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

No. It was sort of like when I—because I really didn’t know her that well. I know my friend who went to school with me there, she knew my parents and it’s sort of like when they said we’ve made the decision she said, “Well, where else would you go?” You know? She’s really tough. It was a good school, very good instructors, small but just, it was good.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Now when you got to nursing school, did that experience open your mind up to—how did it meet or exceed your expectations of what you thought nursing was?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

It didn’t exceed. I just felt, this is what I want to do. I was terrible in the operating room.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What do you mean by that?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Oh, I couldn’t, just couldn’t get it to click. I remember they would say, “I promise to get you through this if you promise never to step foot in an operating room.” So, stuff like that, but of course the nursery, everybody wanted to go to the nursery. It was just a good experience of my folks, I mean Iowa. Took courses at the university, excuse me Iowa State , that has changed, that name has changed three times, but when I was there it was [Iowa State Teachers College]. Coincidentally, the anatomy teacher I had had taught my mother, because she went to Iowa State.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What was your mother’s major at the time?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Teaching.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

She was teaching?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Yeah.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

And she continued teaching after her marriage?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

She did but part-time.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Okay, yeah, that’s neat. What skills and interest areas did you start discovering in yourself during nursing school? Were you gravitating toward an area?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

No, because it was so different then. You didn’t have a specialty, you know you were just a generalist and you rotated through every kind of… they didn’t call it medicine. This is where you put the heart patients, this is where you put the polio patients. It wasn’t like we know it, segregated. No, it was just a great experience. Like I said, I enjoyed everything I was doing except surgery. So if you aren’t good in surgery, you weren’t very good in delivery either, so I promised them I would never go near… Oh, they had me do what they called circulation, instead of scrubbing, so I’d get my hours in.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What did that mean, what is circulation?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

You don’t scrub. That’s when I got so nervous, with the scrubbing, sterile. You go in, you give all the instruments to the physicians. I just could not get that to click.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

And the circulation meant?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Oh I just, I’d get things ready for them, but I didn’t have to hand it to them.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Hand things in, gotcha, okay, okay. Well, it’s finding where you can do your best work, you know? J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

And then, as part of my senior curriculum, they had you write letters. It was called professional adjustment, and they had you write letters to places you might want to go to work, which was, I thought a neat idea.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

It’s a great idea.J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

And you had, I think it was ten. So my friend who I met there, she wanted to get out of Iowa too, so we ended up coming to Methodist Hospital.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So you wanted to get out of Iowa?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Yeah.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

How come?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

I needed to get away from my mom and dad. I was just too dependent on them. And they didn’t want me to go. So anyway, we wrote our ten letters and really took to Methodist Hospital here, and we happened to meet—the person who was hiring jad lived in Iowa all her life, lived very near Waterloo, and I believe it was Dysart. But anyhow, she says, “Come girls, I have a job for you,” and so we did. (Doua) was her name, and she was so helpful.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So that’s when—let’s see, I’m trying to look when you started. That was in 1960, or no I’m sorry, because first you were a charge nurse at the Medical Surgical Unit at Allen Memorial in Waterloo, Iowa.J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Yeah.$$

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So then in 1965, you went to Methodist Hospital. Now you were Head Nurse for the Medical Surgical Unit. So tell me about getting that job. Why did they put you in that position?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

I’m not real sure. I didn’t apply for it, I remember that.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Really? Now, were nurses really in demand at the time, 1965? Was it kind of a shopper’s—J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Yes. Nothing like what it grew to.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So what was your role at that time?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

I had the Teaching Unit, I had the Renal Transplant Unit, and I had the indigent beds, and such a contrast, the VIP Wing. Can you imagine?

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So what did you do as Head Nurse?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

You’re responsible for the functioning of the unit. You’re responsible for evaluations, both patient and staff, directing them to educational need, classes that we had, if needed, and run a smooth unit.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Wow. Now you were a very young woman when they gave you that responsibility. Did you feel up to it and prepared for it?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

I guess I was dumb, too naïve to think I couldn’t do it. (both laugh) I had good support, that lady, you know from Iowa. I’m just going to be honest with you, I had a hard time at Methodist because the contrast for me was just unbelievable; VIP/indigent.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Right.J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

And the differences in the service, it just… And so one day I told Sandy, my friend, I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She said okay, I mean she was really—and the follow-up by administration for the VIP just was not within my core.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

So, meaning they were kind of giving special treatment?J

Joyce Alt, RN, MS:

Oh sure, and I understand. I mean, we had the Fondrens were in our VIP quite a while, bed. It was just really special treatment, I had to get out of it.

Chapter 02: Nursing Education and Early Professional Life

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