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Interview with Helen Lofton, May 26, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Helen Lofton, May 26, 2004
May 26, 2004
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Lofton, Helen Interviewer:  Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview:  6/9/2004 Series:  SENC Health Services Length:  115 min


Mims: Today is May 26, 2004 and we are talking with Mrs. Helen Lofton who is a 1966 graduate of the Community Hospital School of Nursing. She's going to share with us her memories and recollections.

Mims: Good morning to you.

Lofton: Good morning.

Mims: Let's begin by getting some personal background, who your family was, where you came from etcetera?

Lofton: I was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. My parents were Josie and Edward Rogers who were both born in Wilmington. I graduated from Williston High School.

Mims: What year?


Mims: What kind of business was your family doing?

Lofton: My mother was a housewife and my father; he started out believe it or not as an iceman. He would carry ice around. During that time people didn't really have refrigerators like they have now so he carried ice around to different businesses and homes and things.

Mims: Was this downtown?

Lofton: Yes and I grew up, as a matter of fact, I was born right and reared across the street from James Walker Hospital. I lived directly over; I don't know how much you know about James Walker, but right over in front of the x-ray department. That's where I was born and reared right there.

Mims: Any brothers or sisters?

Lofton: Yes, I have three sisters and three brothers, seven of us.

Mims: What point in your life did you start thinking about being a nurse?

Lofton: Now every time I tell somebody this, they laugh, but this is true. When I was a little girl and I would sit on the front porch, I would see the nurses from James Walker. I'd see them going and coming from the hospital on duty and then I would also see them going out on dates. I would sit them sitting out in the cars with their boyfriends and what not.

So when I was a little girl, I said, “That's what I want to be. I want to be a nurse.” It seemed like it was so glamorous with them going with their white uniforms on and then they would go and change their uniforms. Then they would go out on their dates. I said, “That's what I want to do” (laughter). But then later on, you know, when I was in high school I decided I did want to become a nurse because I enjoy helping people and what not.

I didn't go into nursing school right out of high school. I didn't do things the traditional way. I got married, had two children, then went to nursing school. So when I went to nursing school, I was a little older than the other girls, a few years older, but I think it was to my advantage that I did it that way because when I did go into nursing school, I was very serious I didn't have to worry about boyfriends or anything I was already married so I knew what I was there for. I wouldn't recommend that way to everybody, but it was good for me.

Mims: Now at one time, they had restrictions that you could not be married.

Lofton: That's right. I'm not sure when they lifted those restrictions.

Mims: It was in the sixties sometime.

Lofton: I think it was because when I applied, I was accepted with no problem. But you're right. They could not be married.

Mims: I want to say they changed like '62 or '63.

Lofton: I think it was during that time period, thank goodness.

Mims: What year did you make an application, do you remember?


Mims: Do you remember what that process was like, trying to get in?

Lofton: I remember going over to the hospital and getting an application. I brought it home, filled it out, took it back over there and I'm not sure how long the time period was, but I got a letter saying I was accepted.

Mims: Do you remember having to take any like qualifying tests?

Lofton: Yes I did and I had to go to Greensboro to take it. I went to Greensboro to take the test, …I’m not sure now whether it was for entering but I passed the test before I went to school.

Mims: What about your living arrangements? Traditionally the nurses stayed at the residence.

Lofton: They allowed me to stay home. I did stay at the dorm. I had to stay sometimes especially; I'm trying to think of some of the instances I had to stay. I think maybe it was when I had early duty or something the next morning or I don't know whether it was when I had exams or what, but I did spend a little time at the dorm, which was very interesting. Can you imagine me being in a dorm with all of these little girls just out of high school and dating and whatnot? It was interesting, it was fun, it really was. I enjoyed it.

Mims: What do you recall like when you first got to the school? Were you given a uniform or did you have to buy a uniform?

Lofton: Yeah, we had to purchase our uniforms. As a matter of fact there was a store down on Market Street by the name of Alexander… Mr… I don’t remember his name. Anyway, we had to go down there and they measured us.

Mims: What did it look like?

Lofton: We had a blue and white striped dress with a white apron and the white cuffs and the cap was white, first the cap was plain. You had to earn stripes. You get one stripe, then two stripes. We definitely had to wear the white shoes and the white stockings. Our hair could not touch the collar. We would always wear our hair up. The main thing I loved about the uniform, we had capes. They were blue with red lining and for some reason when I put on that cape, I just felt, I don't know… I just loved that cape. I just loved the look of it.

Mims: Did it make you feel like a nurse?

Lofton: Yes it did, uh-huh it really did.

Mims: Now you weren't given your cap right away?

Lofton: No, you had to earn that. Let me see…the first year, it might not have been the whole year, you just had the dress and the apron. Then you earned the cap. Then you earned the stripes. That’s how it went. So you could look at the nurse and tell what level they were by their uniform and by their cap.

Mims: Was there any respect given for the higher up you meant? I mean did you notice that among the girls?

Lofton: Oh yes, you could tell. We really looked up to and respected the ones who had the two stripes. It was good because we had what we called big sisters. When we went to school, we were assigned a big sister and she was our big sister until graduation. I'll never forget my big sister was Janie Miller and I still see her to this day. She moved away, but then maybe a couple of years ago…she was from New Bern, but a couple of years ago, she moved to Wilmington and I ran into her, my big sister.

Mims: Did she remember you?

Lofton: Yes. Now we stay in touch.

Mims: So friendships and bonds develop. Was their academic help too? I mean did you guys try to help each other?

Lofton: Oh yes. The big sister was really supposed to be your mentor, you know help you out if you had any problems or questions or anything. It was good that you had somebody assigned to you when you went to school. You know how it is when you first go to school. You're a little afraid, you don't know what's happening, but they made things easier for you. I think that was a good program.

Mims: Now 1966 is the last class that graduated.

Lofton: Last class.

Mims: Did you guys have any realization that this would be the last class?

Lofton: Uh-huh, yes we did. It was kind of bittersweet. We thought that we were something because we were the last class but then by the same token there was a sadness knowing the school would be closing.

Mims: Was this was all in anticipation of New Hanover opening?

Lofton: Yea, we knew.

Mims: How did you guys feel about New Hanover opening and that Community would eventually close too?

Lofton: Well, there was a little excitement about going to a new hospital, but like I said there were still reservations about the closeness and what not of a small community hospital. Like you said everybody knew everybody, all the doctors knew us. You know when you get to a big institution like New Hanover, you lose that.

Mims: With what you were getting from your big sister, you didn't get to reciprocate with having somebody behind you coming along, like the baby of the family. Don't know if you guys got special treatment.

Lofton: I wouldn't give anything for my education at Community.

Mims: What was your education like? Do you remember like some details?

Lofton: The education at Community and I'm sure also at James Walker, it made you a well-rounded nurse. My senior year at Community under the supervision of one of the seasoned nurses, I was what we call charge nurse. We'd have the nurses that worked at the hospital. They were right there with us mentoring, but I had to be responsible for a whole unit of patients.

So when I got to New Hanover, it wasn't such a cultural shock for me because I had done a lot of that stuff already unlike the nurses that are coming out now. They really don't get a chance to get that experience. So consequently when they come to the hospital, it's a little bit of a cultural shock. I wouldn't take anything for the experience I got there.

Mims: One of the things that I'm learning about these diploma type schools was the total emersion into the hospital setting. Like you were saying you were indoctrinated totally. Tell me about some of your rotations that you had to do while you were in training.

Lofton: Okay, well we had to rotate through all the services. We had to do the medical, surgical, we did pediatrics. We had to do obstetrics. We went through all the services and we had to do that being in charge like that on every service. So the experience we got was just phenomenal. It really was.

Mims: What rotation did you like the best?

Lofton: Believe it or not, surgery and I never worked on a surgery floor. I started out, when I first went over to the hospital, I'll never forget, it was June 14, 1967, when New Hanover opened I was on the receiving end. What happened, they took half of us and we went over to the new hospital, half was at the old hospital. So I was on the receiving team at the new hospital.

My first job was on pediatrics. I worked pediatric for two years. Then I got pregnant (laughter). I went on maternity leave and when I came back, I went to seventh floor, which at that time was urology and neurology. I stayed there. I think it was, I'm trying to think of what year because you know when we first moved there, there were just seven floors and they added the other three.

So when the eighth floor opened, we went from seven floors to eight floors. I went up to the eighth floor and that's where I worked the rest of my career.

Mims: What was eighth floor?

Lofton: Eighth Floor… it was a medical-surgical unit. We had mostly medical patients, a patient with medical problems, but we did have some surgery. We would get the overflow. We'd get the overflow from all of the other floors so that was a good experience too because on the eighth floor we got the overflow, so that means I worked with all kinds of patients so I got that experience which was good.

And I stayed there until I retired three years ago. I was at New Hanover for a total of 35 years.

Mims: Oh my goodness! Well going back to your earlier days as a student nurse, it sounds like you had a wide variety of the rotations so when you became a nurse you liked that variety of getting people with different, you know you could help them in different ways. Well when you were a student, what rotation did you like the least do you think?

Lofton: OB- obstetrics (laughter). I don't know, I never did want to work on obstetrics. I don't know why. Now I loved pediatrics. Oh, I loved the babies, but I only stayed there two years. Then I went on a medical-surgical floor. Yeah, obstetrics was my least favorite; I knew I didn't want to work on obstetrics.

Mims: With your situation with being married and having children and living away, did you ever participate in any of the social activities that some of the nurses may have done?

Lofton: Yes, you know sometimes they would have little parties and things and I would go. If they went to dinner sometimes I would go with them, but most of the time I had so much to do I had to come home.

Mims: Sure because it was a rigorous schedule. I understand it was something like 40 some hours of duty and I don't know, 20 some hours of class.

Lofton: I had a lot of help from my mother and my mother-in-law. They were so helpful. I couldn't have made it without their help. You know they did everything for me. I had to go to Goldsboro to Cherry Hospital for my psychiatric experience. So when I went there, they helped my husband with the children.

Mims: Because that's a three month rotation?

Lofton: Yeah, at Cherry Hospital.

Mims: It wasn't like it was a vacation for you (laughter).

Lofton: No, no it wasn’t (laughter).

Mims: Well I've heard some other nurses talk about the Soda Shop area.

Lofton: The Soda Shop out by the hospital?

Mims: Yeah.

Lofton: Yeah, I'm sure they really enjoyed that.

Mims: But you didn't have an opportunity to do that kind of hanging out kind of thing. I understand there was a basketball team at one time and a glee club. Was any of that going on when you were there? Do you remember?

Lofton: No.

Mims: I wonder if they're starting to phase things out because they know…

Lofton: Probably so. We didn't have any of that when I was there. Sarah Mack might know. Like I said, she was in the 50's

Mims: I'd love to be able to talk to her.

Lofton: Yeah, because I bet she could give you a lot of information. She knows a lot. So I'm going to give you her name and her telephone number and I'll call her. I'm sure she will do it.

Mims: Whenever we were talking off camera, you had said that there were about 20 girls that started with you and only six graduated. What happened along the way do you think?

Lofton: Well, we had a few to drop out and then we had a few that didn't make it academically. I think most of them were academic because you had to maintain a certain average in school.

Mims: During this time were there other nursing schools available that you could have gone to?

Lofton: Oh yeah, there was one in Durham; I'm trying to think of the names of some of them. I mean it wasn't many. I know one was in Winston-Salem. There was another diploma school and it stayed open until maybe not too long ago. Was it Watts?

Mims: It was in North Carolina?

Lofton: Yes.

Mims: So what was the choice with not going to the university, which was Wilmington College at that time? They were offering a Bachelor of Science nursing program. You didn't think about that?

Lofton: No, I really didn't because, you know, we took courses there.

Mims: At Wilmington College?

Lofton: Yes at Wilmington College. We took anatomy and physiology there, psychology, a few courses we took at Wilmington College. But with me, I guess I was just thinking about Community because you know it would have been easier for me to stay at home and go there. Come to think of it now, when I think back on it, I don't even think I even thought about or considered it.

Mims: It may have been too new at the time.

Lofton: I think so. But I don't even remember giving it consideration.

Mims: Well, of all the local hospitals that were here, did you only work at Community and New Hanover?

Lofton: Right.

Mims: Did you ever go and visit James Walker at all?

Lofton: Oh yeah, I visited James Walker. As a matter of fact, both of my kids were born at James Walker.

Mims: Really?

Lofton: Yeah, they were born back in the Marion Sprunt Annex were the black patients were.

Mims: Not the colored annex because Marion Sprunt was the women's section.

Lofton: What was the name…it wasn't Sprunt. What was the name of the wing where the blacks were?

Mims: I think they just called it the colored annex.

Lofton: Maybe so because we were all just in that one annex.

Mims: Because from my understanding, labor and delivery at James Walker was integrated earlier on. I've talked to nurses in the mid-60's and they remember the integration of that so maybe you were just on the cusp of that.

Lofton: Yeah, because see my kids were born '57 and '59.

Mims: So you just missed that. Well what did you think about that particular setup over there? Just give me your thoughts.

Lofton: Well you know I guess at that young age and all I never really thought about it too much you know cause I was very, very young. So I didn't think about it until later here we were all of us, obstetrics, everything. Everything was in that one unit.

Mims: How was it subdivided? It surely wasn't just an open ward, was it?

Lofton: Well, yes ‘cause I can remember when you walked in the door, when you first went in, I think there was a birthing room over here on the right and then you walked back a little ways and I think on either side were maybe rooms with maybe 2, 3, no…4 patients in them. Then you would go further back and there was a ward, what they call a ward and they were like cubicles because you could either go left or right.

I think the women were on this side and the men were on that side because I remember being back there in a cubicle in this ward. I remember they took me up front to deliver and then I went back there. So everything was in that one annex.

Mims: It's amazing that they were able to keep like wound infections away from the new moms.

Lofton: I know, isn't that scary now? That WAS scary.

Mims: Especially with new babies. Where were the new babies kept?

Lofton: Where was the nursery, I can’t remember now, I think there was still a little area. It's kind of hard to remember where things were there anymore, but we were all packed in that annex. Now that I have been in nursing and what not and I think about how all of us were just in there together like that, it sends me into a tailspin.

Mims: I can imagine. Do you remember was it staffed by only blacks?

Lofton: Most of the nurses were black. I remember one white nurse being there, one or two. But they were mostly black.

Mims: Now why did you choose to not deliver at Community Hospital?

Lofton: Because my doctor was Dr. Dosher. Are you from Wilmington?

Mims: Yeah.

Lofton: You know Dr. Dosher?

Mims: Sure.

Lofton: He was my doctor, Dr. Dosher and Bear were in together. So I don't think they went to Community, so I went to James Walker.

Mims: That's another thing I'm trying to figure out is why given the choice, why would you go to that situation.

Lofton: Right, the doctor versus the other. How did I get to Bear and Dosher? I know it was because of my mother, but I don't know why, I really don't. That's a good question. (laughter) You know I never thought about that. But I do remember that Dr. Dosher and Bear and I think Dr. Dosher and I don't know how it came about, but I think Dr. Dosher delivered a lot of black women's children so it was just kind of a given. He was good, you go to Dosher. He had made a name for himself in the black community. So I think that's why or how I got to him. I really don't remember for sure, but I would imagine that's what it was. I can see why maybe black patients went to him. He was such a nice man.

Mims: And that makes all the difference too especially whenever you're having your first baby. You need that niceness.

Lofton: Yes, I remember him so well. Okay, maybe he left and went to Southport or something because then I was basically Bear's patient after Dr. Dosher left.

Mims: So you had two children there at James Walker. Well, do you remember Cape Fear Hospital opening at all because it opened around '57.

Lofton: No, back during that time, I have very little knowledge or memories of Cape Fear Hospital.

Mims: It's way out there, it wasn't in town. Well, whenever you graduated, there was a ceremony. Do you remember where that was?

Lofton: Yes, it was held at Central Baptist Church right there on the corner of Sixth and Red Cross. We had our ceremony there.

Mims: At that time were you given your pin?

Lofton: No, we had a pinning ceremony separately…when did you get our pin? At the graduation we got our diploma. I remember that very well because I was valedictorian (laughter).

Mims: Wow! What an example.

Lofton: I was valedictorian. I received a lot of awards. That's why I said I think it was good the way I did it because, I mean I might have if I had gone right into nursing school right out of high school, maybe I would have done just as well, but by me being just a little older, married with children and all, I was serious you know and did very well.

Mims: Well you must have stood as a role model for your peers too. Did you find it to be easy once you got in or was it challenging?

Lofton: Oh, it was challenging, uh-huh, nursing school, it's kind of hard. You really have to study and that's what I did because I wasn't going out on dates and whatnot.

Mims: And you had family support too so that helped a lot.

Lofton: Lot’s of support.

Mims: After you got your diploma, you still were not a registered nurse though?

Lofton: No, I had to go to Raleigh and take the exam.

Mims: I heard that's awful.

Lofton: Yes, then I became an RN. I worked at Community from '66 to '67 and until the time I went to New Hanover.

Mims: So this is the time it's closing?

Lofton: Yes, one year. I graduated in '66. No, over there I worked med-surg. Surgery was always my choice, but I never really worked on an actual surgical floor. It would still be my choice to this day.

Mims: Tell me a little bit more about the closing of the hospital. You guys knew that the hospital was closing on a certain date. How did that get planned, not necessarily who, but just you know you're working there and it's like okay, as of this date you're not going to report here anymore, you're going to go there.

Lofton: right, let me see…how did we do that…I remember going over to New Hanover. Let me see, I don't think we actually had to apply, but I remember going over to New Hanover. I'll never forget Miss Privett, her name was Privett. But anyway she's the one that I interviewed with because she was going to be over the pediatric area. So evidently they must have asked us our choices because I remember going right over and talking to her and she was on pediatrics. I was lucky, I got my choice and that was going on pediatrics on the day shift, on the 7 to 3 shift. So I was very lucky in that respect. Like I said, I stayed there two years and then moved onto other areas.

Mims: What was this transition like, going from a small hospital to such a large hospital? How was that?

Lofton: It was different and I think it was a little scary, but after I got there and like I said I think my experience helped a lot because you know when I went over there, I remember being a little nervous, a little apprehensive about it, but it really wasn't a cultural shock to me for some reason and I think it was because of my experience that I had at Community Hospital. I had experienced every service; I had taken the role of being in charge. I don't remember it being so much of a cultural shock for me.

Mims: Was there any issue about the integration as far as you were concerned?

Lofton: No. I'm sure there were some issues, but not with me because I don't know why… maybe that's just me, but I didn't feel intimidated. I just felt like I was pretty good at my profession and I just felt like I could handle it.

Mims: When think of in a medical setting and the professionalism that you guys were taught and immersed in, do you think that's why helped make this work so well? I'm just trying to come up with ideas because it seems like very little scuttle once everything was in place.

Lofton: Yeah, everything was in place and I'm not going to say now, I had to earn my respect with the doctors because a lot of them really did not necessarily want to work with a black nurse. So they were used to the nurses at James Walker and they kind of…well, I won't say overlooked, but they kind of went to the nurses that they knew, they were familiar with. So I really had to earn my respect from the doctors.

That's about the only thing I can remember. I don't remember ever having any really bad experiences with them, but I do know that they didn't recognize us at first. They really didn't embrace us with open arms, but as they came to know you and you demanded that respect, you earned it, then we got along.

Mims: Plus maybe just familiar, you know, they were used to a nurse knowing their every need.

Lofton: Sure, sure, right and that's kind of natural for a person to do that.

Mims: Had you known any of the James Walker nurses?

Lofton: Yeah, I knew the class that graduated the same year I did because we used to visit each other. We would go over there and they would come over to Community and we would just socialize together. So I knew when I went to New Hanover the nurses that were in the 1966 class of James Walker, I knew all of them.

So that helped a lot because as a matter of fact two or three of them worked on pediatrics. I remember Nancy Rutledge…let me see who else… so we used to socialize with them which was great you know because when I got over there, I knew quite a few of them.

Mims: I wonder if that was some of the goal, was to try to get you guys together so that…

Lofton: I think so; especially since they knew the two hospitals were going to merge and so I think that was the purpose.

Mims: That's really interesting. I haven't had any one talk about that.

Lofton: Yeah, we did. We would go over there, they would come over there and we'd just sit around and talk and socialize.

Mims: Another curiosity I have is that when Community closed, there were like what you would consider like everyday things like pictures and furniture and books. Do you think that stuff was transferred over to New Hanover Hospital?

Lofton: No, because I can remember someone asking about that. I think all of the... like you say pictures and records and things, it was called the Hemenway something.

Mims: The Hemenway School?

Lofton: There was a school called Hemenway wasn't there?

Mims: Yeah and the Board of Education was there for a while and then it was burned down in like '69 or '70.

Lofton: So I think some of the records were burned.

Mims: Oh, because I've been reading a lot about Miss Salome Taylor and there was a portrait of her that hung in the nurses' residence and a couple portraits of some of the earlier doctors and I'm wondering where those had gone. And you think it went to Hemenway?

Lofton: Yes, it did. I remember records and things ‘cause it seems like I had to go to Hemenway Hall one time to get a record for something and then it burned and I think a lot of the records and things got burned.

Mims: That's a shame cause you know it's a total loss to making this big picture study of what's going on.

Lofton: So you know when they try to…I know you've probably seen the concourse at the hospital.

Mims: Yeah.

Lofton: Where they've got a lot of the pictures and things there.

Mims: A lot of those are replications.

Lofton: That's what I was just getting ready to say. They had to replicate a lot of those.

Mims: Right based on personal memories because I know Janet really worked on getting that. Like I said I'm looking for yearbooks, anything I can come up with names and this kind of stuff and not finding as much unless it's in a personal collections. That's why I was asking if you had any idea where some of this stuff had gone because that would be a real treasure today.

Lofton: It would.

Mims: That's why I didn't know whether it got moved to New Hanover when you guys started moving other stuff there to try to blend.

Lofton: I'm sure some things were moved over there, but I remember them being stored somewhere and Hemenway comes to mind.

Mims: Let's talk some about transitions. When you go to the hospital now and you go on the floor, nurses are not readily identified because they are not in the cap and they're not in the white uniforms. How do you recall that took place? I mean when you got over to New Hanover you were still in your uniform and hat, right?

Lofton: Yes, I was. That grieves me too. I really enjoyed wearing my cap. I took pride in wearing my cap. If it were up to me, nurses would still be wearing their white uniforms and caps because I just think that, you know that's just how I picture a nurse. But the way that the nurses dress now…and believe it or not, the patients liked it better when the nurse looked like the nurse. They want to be able to tell who the nurse is. But now you can't.

Mims: Well, do you think with losing the hat and the white uniforms some of the respect has maybe diminished?

Lofton: I think so. Others may not, but I think so. There was just something about nurse and a cap. It just seems like that's just the way a nurse should look. She earned her cap and her stripes and I wore mine right up to the last.

Mims: You did?

Lofton: When I say the last, when they changed the dress code and they said we could wear this, we could wear that, but you could still wear it if you wanted to. Well, I was probably one of the last ones not to wear my cap. I loved my cap…I did. Now I guess we have to move on with the changes and whatnot. Our Florence Nightingale days are over (laughter).

I guess it doesn't matter as long as you give good quality care, but I do know I've had a lot of patients to ask me, “Why aren’t you wearing uniform and caps anymore?” I think the culture has changed and they've gotten used to it now. But when we first changed, they had a lot of questions about why we weren't wearing our cap.

Mims: Well, some of that is a visual change, can you think of any other big changes that nursing itself has undergone?

Lofton: Yes, like I said, Florence Nightingale days are over. The nurses now, they just don't have that commitment…they don’t seem to have that commitment. When they come to work, number one like I said, it's a cultural shock because they don't get that experience like the nurse used to get or the diploma nurse, I guess this is a prejudicial statement. To me the real nurse was the nurse that was well rounded, you know. She had the experience and the book knowledge too.

Now I think they're concentrating on other things and when they come to the hospital, they're not able to handle a load like the nurses in the past could handle because they don't have that experience. You find the nurses now when they come to the hospital, a lot of things they haven't even experienced where before you had to be checked off on things, certain things before you could get here. But they don't have that now so consequently when they come to the hospital, they have to learn more. They're not able to handle as big a load and a lot of them are not willing to, you know, you give them a few things to do and you find them in the back room crying. (laughter) That's jus the changes. That's just the way things are.

Mims: Well, of course a lot of student nurses are coming in knowing that they really don't want to be involved with patient care.

Lofton: They don't want to be bedside nurses.

Mims: Because of the opportunities for expanded roles for the nursing profession. If you had to do it over again, what do you think you would do?

Lofton: I love bedside nursing. I was a manager for 16 years on 8 North, but I loved bedside nursing. I would never want to get away from bedside nursing. But you're right, they come in and you know they want to be managers. You've got to work up to that. With the shortage of nurses, it's a little better now. With the shortage in nurses, you had to have the ratio; nurse patient ratio was a little higher which a lot of them found overwhelming.

Mims: Well, of course now there's a lot more help on the floor too. Maybe in your student nursing days you didn't have the LPN or the nursing assistant.

Lofton: We had the nursing assistants. Well yeah, we didn't have all the specialized people either on the floor so we had to do everything. We had to do everything. So yeah, you're right, that made a difference.

Mims: What do you think about men entering the profession?

Lofton: Oh, I wish more would and we're beginning to see more men going into the nursing profession and I like that because I find that men make good nurses, the majority of men who go into the nursing profession are really good nurses. They really are. It seems like they are very compassionate. I wish more men would go into the nursing profession.

Mims: Do you remember your first encounter with a male nurse?

Lofton: Let's see, who would have been the first man, I can't remember who it was. But I can remember patients and patients' families not wanting a male nurse to take care of their female family member. So that was really a problem for a while. I don't think you find too much of that now. They have a double standard, you know. The female nurse could take care of the male patient, but the male nurse couldn't take care of the female patient. I said, “Wait a minute, that's double standards” (laughter).

I think they're getting over that now because I noticed there's lots of times when a male nurse has a family, they really bond with him. They really like them. They really do. I think that's really catching on and I think you're going to see more and more of male nurses.

Mims: With some person wanting to go into the field today, what advice do you think you could offer them to give them the success and longevity that you have experienced?

Lofton: Okay, well number one you really have to want to be a nurse. I would tell them these things, to be a nurse – number one, you have to be a special person, I think, because it's not easy. You think about it. You've got to be a special person, you've got to be intelligent, not a whole lot…how to say this… I want to say 3/4 of nursing is common sense, ok?

You've got to be able to think on your feet. In the nursing profession you don't have the luxury of saying well now let me see, what can I do for Miss Smith while Miss Smith is down the hall crashing, you've got to be running towards Miss Smith and thinking about what you're going to do with Miss Smith. So you've got to be able to think on your feet. You've got to be able to think fast.

Like I say you've got to have a whole lot of common sense and you must be able to multitask. That's a must; you’ve got to multi-task. You have to be able to do two or three things at one time if you're going to stay ahead. Because you know every working day, you have to work as if you're going to have an emergency because if you don't work like you're going to have an emergency, if you have an emergency, you're going to be so far behind.

So I would always do my assignment as if I was going to have an emergency. Then that way when I had one, I wouldn't just be so drawn back. But it's a beautiful profession. It really is. I love nursing. I'm still at the hospital all the time because now I'm on the Board at the hospital. It's a good profession. It's very rewarding. It has its problems because you have to work days, nights, weekends, holidays, so you've got to be committed, you really do.

Mims: But starting with the dream of a little girl looking at the nurses across the street and then your experience, you don't think you would change anything?

Lofton: I'd be a nurse all over again, I really would. If I had another chance I would be a nurse. And my two daughters are nurses.

Mims: Really?

Lofton: One works over at Coastal Rehab. She's a nurse, but she's a case manager at Coastal Rehab and the other one is a nurse on 4 North, the diabetic unit.

Mims: These weren't the babies you had when you were in nursing school?

Lofton: One of them is. The youngest one, the one that works on the diabetic unit, there's 10 years between the two of them. I had her real later. She's the one who said she would never be a nurses, "Not me! I will never be a nurse." So she went to school and she majored in psychology. She comes out and what does she do. She goes to nursing school and she loves it, loves it.

Mims: Well, gosh I want to thank you for talking to me today.

Lofton: Oh, you're quite welcome. I don't know whether I gave you what you were looking for or what you wanted, but I certainly have enjoyed talking with you and reminiscing. The nostalgia is fun

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