Choosing a Career

Title

Choosing a Career

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Identifier

BrewerC_01_20190516_Clip02

Publication Date

5-16-2019

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

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.

Transcript

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

I met some—a lot of different people, and I met a guy. I met one young man who we spent a lot of time together on campus, doing things, studying, and having fun. And one day, I probably made—mentioned to my friend. I said, “I’m in school, and this is my second semester” and then I said, “I have to work. I’ve got to make money. I just can’t live off of grants, and that’s not enough money for me to survive and to help my mother.” And I said, “This—I need to go get a job.” His grandfather was a physician in Dallas, and he said, “Why don’t we try the hospital? Let’s go get a job in the hospital.” “Sure, yeah, let’s go, let’s try it out.” My sister is already a nurse, so I knew a little about what she’s doing and her style of living, and I could see it was very positive. She was making money and—well, money that we’ve never had before, and she was in a very worthy profession. Her husband was—she married—got married. She married a guy who’s also a licensed vocational nurse, so I got—I had a chance to see him in his role, and I was very impressed, very cleanly dressed every day, very smart, very articulate about what he was doing. It sounded great to hear somebody talking about anatomy and physiology and diseases. That had an impression on me.

So we went to the hospital, and we applied for a job, and when we applied for a job, we told the personnel of the record, at the time the personnel was not big like it is today. It was a small room, and you meet a personnel person, and they either hire you or not hire you. And we told we was [sic] college students, and they were impressed, “We’re college students, we need a job, we want to work,” and he said, “So what type of work do you want to do?” and we looked at each other and said, “What kind of work you got?” And he said, “Well, we have these orderly positions,” and obviously, we need to work in the evenings and after class in the evenings after school. And he said, “Well, we have some orderly positions open on the evenings—in the evening, and I think you guys would be—would do well at that. It doesn’t require any special skills at this time, and you will—I do think you’ll learn a lot.” We said, “We’ll take it.” And we did tell just a slight little fib in that we told the personnel of the record we were premed majors. And that was impressive, right? I was an accounting major, now I forget what he was majoring in, but his grandfather was a doctor, you know, “We want to be doctors” something. “Okay, well we’re going to hire you as orderlies.” Well, we didn’t know what an orderly was. We thought orderly was like being a security guard, maintaining order. We came to work, got out of the orientation, which was nothing, and they said, “Well—” I was assigned to be like on-call orderly. He was assigned to work up in the labor and delivery area, moving the linen, dirty and the soiled linen, cleaning, that type of thing, and I was basically the same. I was called—be taking equipment to different parts of the hospital, but I thought it was very prestigious because I—my name got to be called over the PA system. In the olden days in the hospital, they had a public-address system where they would call, “Dr. Johnson, calling Dr. Johnson.”

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah, yeah, I remember.

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

But they would say, “Calling Cecil the orderly, Cecil the orderly, go to Four South or go in Five North.” And I would go there, and the nurses would tell me what they wanted done, “Take the dirty linen and take it to the chute—take it down or pick up some supplies” or whatever. I thought that was quite very impressive getting my name called over the PA system.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

So how long did you work in that role before you decided, hey—

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

Less than a year. While I was working at Parkland, I became quite interested in medicine and what the nurses were doing. And at that time in 1966, ’67, there were no—very few if any registered nurses, male, and there were a handful of male LVNs, my brother-in-law being one of them, and I thought, You know, this is maybe what I want to do. So I knew he had—he graduated from Dallas Vocational Nursing School, which was the linked with the Dallas Independent School District, and I said, “This is what I want to do.” And I applied, I was accepted—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

And that was to—

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

—in 1967.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

And that is Dallas Vocational Nursing School?

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

Uh-huh. And I enrolled, and you—I was... I showed up for class, and lo and behold, I’m the only male in this class for this year, 1967. There were approximately probably, I would say, 70 students, maybe 5 black students including me, and I’m the only male. And this is my first encounter with white students ever in my life because remember in the ’60s, everything was segregated, so I never interacted with any white male students ever. This is my first—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible).

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

—encounter with white female students and white instructors. I had never had a white instructor in my life.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

So tell me about that. I mean what were you feelings going into that, what were you thinking about?

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

I mean, I think by the time I was a teenager, 18, 19 years old, I had such arrogance about me by that time, I didn’t—I wasn’t intimated or anything like that. I really can’t recall if I was—had any feelings at all other than I wanted to be a nurse, I wanted to succeed. I was accepted by the instructors, and they supported me, and I always tell people that there’s something special about the first and the only. So they were kind of protective of me in a way because I’m the only male and I’m black in this class of—and I’m—I want to be a nurse. That’s a triple threat, you know—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Now—

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

—in 1967.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

—was there any weird gender stuff going on? Like, why does a guy want to be a nurse, you know?

C.C. Brewer, RN, BSN, MS

There wasn’t any gendered stuff going on—there was plenty of gender stuff going on especially among my peer group because it was also homophobic at that time, and the whole issue of discussing homophobic ideas was wide open at that time. My friends would confront me with, “Are you gay?” Well, that’s not the word they used back then; they used another word. (laughs) And there was a lot of stigma, a lot of stigma about that, and I really—I felt good about myself. My self-confidence was high and I—so I didn’t let that get in my way. I think that what I saw in becoming in an LVN was what I saw in my brother-in-law, intelligence, respect, respectability in your community, this whole—the whole appearance thing just—that elevated your personality in your work group, in your community, with your friends.

Choosing a Career

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