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Interview with Berneice Williamson, July 26, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Berneice Williamson, July 26, 2004
July 26, 2004
This video taped oral history with Mrs. Berneice Williamson took place at her Wilmington home on July 26, 2004. It was conducted by LuAnn Mims for the Health Services series. Mrs. Williamson is a 1963 graduate of the Community Hospital School of Nursing. Originally from Mississippi and Alabama she came to Wilmington specifically to attend this diploma school. After graduation she worked briefly at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and later returned to Wilmington to work at Community hospital and New Hanover Hospital. Her career was concentrated in bedside nursing of medical patients.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Williamson, Berneice Interviewer:  Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview:  7/26/2004 Series:  SENC Health Services Length:  60 minutes


Mims: Today is July 26th, 2004. I am LuAnn Mims for the Randall Library Special Collections series on Health Services of Southeastern North Carolina. Today we’re talking with Mrs. Berneice Williamson who is a 1963 graduate of the Community Hospital School of Nursing.

Good morning.

Williamson: Good morning.

Mims: I would like to start by asking you questions regarding your family. Where were you born and where did you grow up and what kind of occupation did your family do?

Williamson: I was born in Selma, Alabama and my family is all from Alabama. My father however moved from Alabama to Mississippi. My father was in the sawmill and this company moved from different places in Alabama, mostly Alabama, and then settled in Mississippi. And that was the last place they settled.

Mims: And you went to high school there in Mississippi?

Williamson: No, I went to high school…junior high, and high school in Williamson.

Mims: Did your mom work at all?

Williamson: My mom…when they were with the sawmill she worked in what they call…like the commissary, you know, like what military people have. And everybody that worked for this sawmill company…mostly the commissary supplied them with things.

Mims: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

Williamson: I have two brothers. They are older.

Mims: So, when you graduated from high school, what was your plan?

Williamson: When I first graduated from high school, I really didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I tried to make myself be interested in teaching, but it just wasn’t there. And I found myself, seems like, that most of all my friends…they were getting away, going to college for that teaching. And so it seemed like I was about the last one in my little group to leave…so I had another friend that was in nursing and so I thought about that and I went into nursing.

Mims: How did you find out about the school here in Wilmington?

Williamson: Well, I wrote different schools, you know, and it was getting kind of late, and it wasn’t very hard to get into. But a lot of the schools, you know, the finances and things were just sky high, and so Community was really good to get in…Community School of Nursing.

Mims: Do you remember any of the other schools that you attempted to get into?

Williamson: I know Tuskegee because that would have been close to my area…and some of the schools in Ohio that I really don’t remember the names, I would just pick them out of the book. But I know Tuskegee was very high.

Mims: At one time Community graduates went to Tuskegee for part of their rotations. So you may have heard…if you had gone there you may have heard about Community Hospital here in Wilmington. It’s always interesting to find out what pulls people to a certain community, so…their availability of acceptance and financially it wasn’t going to be too much…What about the concept of you had to live in the resident home. Did that support you being able to come here, was that okay with your family?

Williamson: Yea, that was fine, that was fine.

Mims: Because that was putting you, what, five or six hundred miles, maybe a thousand miles from home.

Williamson: Yea, but I was the type of person that every summer I was going to a different place where family was, like Ohio and Chicago, and Detroit. Sometimes my summers were spent working in the summer and being there maybe two or three months, and then when school started…back home. So I was really used to going away, you know by myself…with family members.

Mims: So it didn’t come as a shock to you being on your own.

Williamson: No.

Mims: Now, I’ve heard that whenever a person arrived into the environment that they were given a mentoring person, like a big sister. Do you remember that at all?

Williamson: I do, but I just don’t…I know I was a big sister to someone, but I don’t know who my big sister was. I sure don’t, I…even…I just don’t remember. I don’t remember having a big sister.

Mims: What are your earliest memories of coming to Wilmington and Community?

Williamson: Like?

Mims: Like when you first got here…was your facility ready…was your room ready?

Williamson: Oh yea, rooms were ready and let’s see, I had a roommate and she was from Anderson, South Carolina. And then there was another…at another time while I was there, I had another roommate. And believe it or not, they used to get us mixed up…they said we were twins. She was from Atlanta, we didn’t know each other or nothing.

Mims: But that must have helped though to have somebody from not local.

Williamson: Well, most of my classmates were not from…maybe there were some from North Carolina, but none from Wilmington in my class. We had twenty-five.

Mims: Twenty-five in your class?

Williamson: Right.

Mims: How many graduated out of that…

Williamson: And, um, we had eight to be capped and five graduated.

Mims: Oh my gosh. And the capping took place about six months into the program?

Williamson: Right, right.

Mims: And then only five graduated.

Williamson: Right, and um, so now I was at five, I believe, maybe three that I know…four that I know, you know is still living. One has passed out of the five.

Mims: Um hum. What would you say was the biggest determent of stay in the program? Was it academic or social?

Williamson: Well, I think mostly it was, you had to really…we had one instructor say…you had to get that bookwork. He would say, “you’ve got to get my work”…I think he was teaching anatomy and physiology…and he would come over if we needed help…his name was Johnson. I can’t remember his first name, but he would give us extra classes if we needed help on a Saturday, or whenever, he would help us out. So it was mostly about that book, you know.

Mims: The academic side.

Williamson: Yea, right.

Mims: Its tough on…you know, eighteen, nineteen year old girls to be thrown into this environment, because you are thrown full throttle into that hospital environment. So I didn’t know whether that…just some people just…it wasn’t the kind of life they wanted to have.

Williamson: Yea, well that was…socializing…you know they had, you know, like a restriction. We had to be in, I think eight o’clock during the week we had to be in, and on the weekend, like Fridays, I think we had like eleven o’clock. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I think we had eleven o’clock that we could be out until eleven.

Mims: Yea, they really kept tabs on you, almost like a father.

Williamson: Um hum, that’s right. And, then, we did a lot of work in the hospital. Especially like during the summer we were there, you know, like everybody didn’t go home at one time, you know. They would allow a certain amount of students to go at one time, and then the other one that were left, you know, we did work in the hospital. And we worked on, sometime we worked on Sunday morning sometime. But if you weren’t working you was expected to go to church and we had to sign in and out. That book was checked to see where we were signing in and out. You know, whether we went to church or not on Sunday.

Mims: I think Ms. Taylor was not there when you were there.

Williamson: No, no she wasn’t there.

Mims: I’m sure you’ve heard about her.

Williamson: Right, right. We had different ones. It seems like we had about three or four at least during my time, when we were there.

Mims: Yea, I think she was very hard to replace. She left a big gap whenever she left. Well, tell me about some of your classes. Do you remember any particular one that you liked or didn’t like?

Williamson: Well, I didn’t like chemistry and I liked psychology and anatomy…I wasn’t too fond of it but, you know, I got through that. And fundamentals of nursing, that was good. And I think that was…I believe…

Mims: Where were the classes taught?

Williamson: They had a building, you know, it was between the School of Nursing and…it was a building especially for classes.

Mims: Do you ever remember going to any other facility for classes?

Williamson: We went to Williston. They had the junior college and so we went there, we had…there was a teacher, don’t remember her name, she taught us English and…

Mims: Was it Ms. Wheeler, maybe?

Williamson: No, no I think she…

Mims: There was a Ms. Taylor too that I know…

Williamson: Okay, no, it seemed more like it would have been Williams, but I’m not sure.

Mims: Well, there was a Ms. Williams.

Williamson: Okay. But I don’t think its that…okay its one that everybody talk about that was real, you know, I think with them, she was real tough. So it was not that one.

Mims: The one I’m thinking about, I think also taught Latin. She was an English teacher and a Latin teacher.

Williamson: Okay, maybe that was her then. And I think she left and went to Charlotte, got married and went to Charlotte.

Mims: Do you remember taking classes at Williston every year, or just some of the time you were at Community?

Williamson: Well, you know, a certain semester that it starts, you know. So we were there and we had to take it…you had to go through the full semester part of it. And then we had the anatomy and physiology that was taught there. And sociology was taught there and English class was taught there.

Mims: Were some of your nursing instructors the physicians on staff?

Williamson: Yes we had Dr. Ficklen, he’s retired now…he taught us. And Dr. Upperman, he has passed now…he taught us. And…

Mims: What was he like? Do you remember?

Williamson: Kind of easygoing, quite, easygoing.

Mims: I’ve only read about him, I’ve never met him.

Williamson: Yea, he was kind of an easygoing man, you know. And seems like Dr. Mebane…I don’t think he’s…he’s not living now.

Mims: No, he died tragically.

Williamson: Yea, he taught us. Dr. Wheeler.

Mims: He must have been a real character, because the stuff I’ve heard about him…

Williamson: But he was a smart guy too, though.

Mims: And, from what I understand, is he really babied the nursing students, and he took them under his wing a lot. I’ve talked to some of the people in the administration that talked about that…the nursing students were just the darlings of the hospital and that everybody went out of their way to try to help, you know, the young girls who were in this program. And I sensed that was the feeling that the doctors had…I mean, you said that you had teachers extending themselves on weekends.

Williamson: Right. He was also good about giving you a little extra points, tutoring you in psychology and psychiatric nursing. He was good.

Mims: Now, part of your training required you to do actual work at the hospital in a rotation type manner. What to you recall about that?

Williamson: Well, one thing, it seemed like, I guess like most hospitals, they probably run short on the weekends and somewhere I can remember like we were juniors and seniors during that time, it seemed like the student nurses really played a big part in carrying the hospital. Maybe there was the supervisor there on the weekend, and a lot of the senior nurses or junior nurses, they were in charge of a lot of the floors during that time.

Mims: A lot of responsibility.

Williamson: Yea, right. You did a lot of work.

Mims: Do you remember feeling like you were taking on a lot of responsibility at the time?

Williamson: Well, yea, I sure did, but I guess that was just the way it was, but it did seem like that…and I think as the years went by for a lot of the nurses, it got better, where they didn’t do as much…seemed like more emphasis was probably put on the book work instead of the work as the years went by for different nurses…for different classes, you know.

Mims: One of the things I find intriguing about these diploma schools was the total emersion into the hospital setting, I mean you kind of lived, and worked, and played under the guidance of this medical facility. Looking back, how do you think that helped you in your career?

Williamson: Well, I think, because when I graduated, it was time to work, you know, yea I was seeing about getting a job, until the time to take your state board and all that. So, I was engaged to my husband just before we graduated and so we had decided that I wasn’t going to stay here and be here. And during that time while we were being engaged, I wasn’t going to do that. So I decided…well I haven’t seen my brothers and my mom say “well that would be good…go to Chicago and work.” So I went to Chicago and I worked in Cook County.

Mims: Really?

Williamson: Um hum, I worked in male nursing. At that time I was on the fifth floor, male nursing. And we had wings, you know. Not rooms, but wings, one on this side and one on that, and about sixty patient’s this way, and about sixty that way and they were all men. And so they had seven stories of male nursing, just men, seven stories, and this was in the medical part. And five stories of female nursing at Cook County, it’s just a huge place; I mean just a big place.

Mims: Much different than the Community setting.

Williamson: Oh yea, right. So when I got there they said be a “medicine nurse.” Well, at that time I’d never really heard of anybody just being a medicine nurse, but that’s what I was, you know, starting out. And I said, “my goodness,” I didn’t realize it would take you almost all day. Well, by the time you got through with this end, you had to go to the other end, and medicine is medicine, you know, you’ve just got all these pills and shots and injections. We had a lot of patients that were off what they called “skid row,” and they were alcoholics and they required a lot, they would be restrained. I remember how they would give them that Berocca B in the IV fluids and formaldehyde injections. And so anyway that was interesting and it wasn’t physically hard, but it was just so hard, I guess stressful too, trying to get through giving medicines. You know, because, that’s what you did all day long…gave medicine all day long.

Mims: And your training at Community taught you hands on type nursing to follow the patient throughout the day, so it doesn’t sound like you were able to do that in that larger facility.

Williamson: Right, but this nurse that was there when I got there…I think maybe I was there like three months or something and she was going on vacation…and do you know she put me in charge while she was…I couldn’t believe it. I mean, you know, oh boy…I made out, but it was something! It was something.

Mims: I’ve actually heard other Community graduates talk about leaving Wilmington and being thrust into supervisory type roles and that’s why I’m trying to get to…it seems like Community did such a thorough job at teaching every aspect, that when they reviewed what your schooling was like, they felt you were capable of this…

Williamson: Yea. I know, they knew you knew how to…I think you really knew how to carry a floor, and not be afraid, you know, that you could do it. And so, because before I…during the time that I was there, they were telling me about putting me in for a position for head nurse. I hadn’t even passed my state boards, you know, but they was telling me to do that, you know.

Mims: That’s incredible!

Williamson: Yea, they were.

Mims: How did that make you feel?

Williamson: Well, you know what? I…the doctors there, they came and they made rounds in groups…I guess they would have their…you know, so many people come to Cook County in training…medical students and all…so when they made rounds it would be almost like ten or twelve doctors, you know, going from one patient to another. And, so I heard one doctor say…I was feeding a patient…and I was a nurse and he said, “well we don’t see nurses doing…,” but you see I was used to doing that. And I hadn’t gotten away from it, so… But my thing was, I always liked bedside nursing. I never really wanted the title or position of head nurse or assistant head nurse. I just wasn’t like that. I mean, I just…I probably could do it, but it just wasn’t my thing. I liked giving nursing care. That’s what I really love.

Mims: And I can appreciate that, because now nurses today, they are so specialized that its hard to find somebody that is wanting to just do that bedside care. I want to think that it has something to do with the way that the nurses are being trained today, because they are not immersed in this hospital environment. They don’t have to stay on facility like you guys did. I was going to ask you a little bit about the Community Hospital facility itself. Had you ever been in a hospital environment before?

Williamson: No. No more than, I guess, visiting somebody in the hospital.

Mims: I was wondering what your thoughts of the facility, the structure itself, how did you think it was?

Williamson: Well, I think, looking back, seemed like they didn’t…well they didn’t have a lot of things they probably needed to have, you know, the really didn’t, but I think maybe some of the doctors, I have heard, kind of helped, you know, give things to the hospital. But the facility in fact, they didn’t have enough of the things or either they didn’t have what they really needed to have.

Mims: Right. I know at one time they actually lost their accreditation because of the physical structure and you would have been there near that time that I think, that they were getting the accreditation back, so you may have seen the improvements.

Williamson: Yea. Maybe they had began to get it back when we come in…maybe, you know.

Mims: I know that it was a small hospital, with a ward setting. What else can you remember about it?

Williamson: Well, the pharmacy part and the emergency room part, and we had some good doctors that, some kind of like foreign doctors, that had worked there and, I don’t know, one doctor in particular, I’ve wondered what happened to him when it closed. His name was Masterand. I don’t know if he was Mexican or what he was, but anyway they had some good doctors. It was more like a homely setting, you know, type of hospital.

Mims: I’ve heard that said by other people too. That if somebody was sick or ill, you knew…on the staff, you knew what was going on. So in talking about it, they were open, you know, to children visiting, and that kind…

Williamson: Yea, and I think, like, on the floor where you worked, and especially like at one time I did eleven to seven, after I had gotten married and come back here, I done eleven to seven…and if you needed help and another nurse had finished her care, you know they were good about helping you out. Because I know during my time that I was pregnant, I was quite sick, and I would get help that way.

Mims: So after you left Cook you came back to Wilmington?

Williamson: Well, I was engaged, you know when we left, when I left and went to Chicago…and we was supposed to get married. My husband and I were supposed to get married in Chicago at my brother’s home, and I had my blood test from Chicago and he had his from Wilmington. And not knowing, they would not accept out of state, we didn’t even know that until he got there. So then, he had someone, his brother-in-law was with him, helping…he was going to help drive us back, and then we had to turn around, after being there a few days, resting, we had to turn around, and we came back to Greenville, South Carolina, where he had been stationed at, and we got married at his…we call her his “play mom”…at her home.

Mims: So did you meet your husband here in town?

Williamson: Yea, I met my husband…he was in service, and I graduated in sixty-three, and I think he came…he was out of service in sixty or sixty-one and back here. So he was stationed in Greenville, and he was back here in sixty or sixty-one. So I met him during that time that I was at Community.

Mims: I’ve heard that they did organize some socials when Camp Davis was up and running, that…I didn’t know if this was in that time period or not.

Williamson: Yea, well I know a lot of the girls used to date Marines and a lot of them married, you know, Marines and…I think most of them probably married Marines instead of from Fayetteville. And so, a lot of them used to come up, you know, on the weekend and the School of Nursing, when they would give socials, the girls would invite the guys up.

Mims: Yea, matter of fact, I read somewhere that they had a jukebox in the living room area of the nurses residence. Did they still have that when you were there?

Williamson: No, the didn’t.

Mims: They had a piano and some other…

Williamson: I think they had a piano, but I don’t remember the jukebox. I think maybe somebody would just bring the music in when we would have something.

Mims: Where else do you remember socializing? I’ve heard something about a soda shop.

Williamson: Yea, well there was a soda shop there and also my husband’s father, he used to…he had a restaurant…was called the Greenleaf Café at that time, and a lot of us would go there.

Mims: Where was that located?

Williamson: That was right on Castle on Tenth, yea, right on the corner there. In fact, it’s called something else now.

Mims: Oh, so it’s still standing?

Williamson: Yea, it’s right on that corner of Tenth…

Mims: Oh yea, the one that kind of sits on an angle…?

Williamson: Yea, it’s a little greenery…um….if you’re coming from downtown, it would be on the right, right hand side, right on the corner of Tenth.

Mims: Do you ever remember any social time with the School of Nursing over at James Walker at all?

Williamson: No, not during my time. I don’t remember any. But I know there are some nurses that, you know, after getting to the new hospital, that were working there at that time, that, you know, once the two closed up, you know, everybody ended up there.

Mims: Um hum. New Hanover?

Williamson: But I know there was some Community nurses that had attended Community that were working at James Walker.

Mims: Yea, I talked to some, I think somebody that graduated in that last class, and she remembers a couple of socials with…so my thought was, they knew they were going to open that hospital, and maybe trying to get everybody to know each other or something, so, but not during your time…

Williamson: No.

Mims: Did you go to work at New Hanover?

Williamson: Yes.

Mims: You did? How did that work? They were closing Community Hospital…

Williamson: Yea, they were closing Community Hospital, and I think you had the option of when they closed, some of the nurses, I believe, went to James Walker when they closed, and for me, I had not been off, so, and my child was young, so I just stayed home until New Hanover opened.

Mims: I was wondering, did the administration try to find the nurses other jobs?

Williamson: I think that most of them could have gotten work at James Walker. Like a lot of them did.

Mims: And you did eventually go to New Hanover?

Williamson: Yea, when they opened up, I went.

Mims: What was your position there?

Williamson: I went as a staff nurse.

Mims: What floor?

Williamson: Fifth.

Mims: Fifth floor? What was that set up for?

Williamson: It was men.

Mims: Did you run into any difficulties during that transition?

Williamson: It was crazy! It was a crazy time, you know, people just had to settle. And I think the medical part of it, medical patients you know, boy they were like…it was just like, we needed help…and I think they were pulling people from other floors, you know, because it was just…and there wasn’t enough nursing assistants to give baths and things. So you had to fall in there and help give baths and medicines, and try to do your treatments…dressing changes, IVs…it was terrible.

Mims: And you read in the newspapers how smooth the transition was, but then you talk to people and it’s like, “no…it was…”

Williamson: No, it…

Mims: It was a little bit more…

Williamson: Right, it was…

Mims: I can’t fathom shutting down two hospitals and opening another one and it not having some issues, you know.

Williamson: I don’t know how the people in the office, like the directors, I don’t know what they were going through, but…and then a lot of times you’ll find that…I find a lot of times that the people like the directors or administrators…you can be working your head off and you can be going to I don’t know what, but they may get a little of what’s going on, but they don’t really know. They don’t really know how bad it is on the floor sometime. So, and then you find a lot of times what happens is when you know that people are going to make rounds and all, you have a tendency to try to have everything looking a different way. But it really should be where you really see what was going on and what need to be done, you know.

Mims: It sounds like that, once again; you fell back on your training as a nursing student to get you through that, because as a nurse you had to pick-up doing some stuff that maybe nursing assistants would have done.

Williamson: That’s right. And the only thing I find in nursing…that before retiring…is the stressful part. The stressful part to me is like when, I told you I like bedside nursing, and when I couldn’t…when I would see the trays coming up and I couldn’t…and there were three or four patient’s need to be fed, and maybe one assistant on that end, one on this side and one on that side, and you know your patients need to be fed, and you can’t get to all of them at one time…that’s stressful to me you know. And sometimes the trays are almost sent back because, you know, and the people from the kitchen, they come around…they pick up trays, you know. And some of the patient’s, the trays are just there. And so, it can, to me, when you can’t do what you need to do for your patients, that makes it stressful.

Mims: Right. It goes back to that feeling of responsibility that you have for your patients. They must have done a really good job with this because this is a consistent theme that I hear. Another thing, I understand, was the professionalism that was kind of knocked into your head when you first came on board. Do you remember anything about that…about regarding the doctors…how you were to…?

Williamson: Oh yea. Well, they would always say that…and I think it got maybe a little better with us, because I don’t…it think it was changing maybe with us. They was telling us how they used to stand up when the doctor came in and so I think that was changing when we came about. I remember when we were on affiliation, we had been told that even with the senior students, and you were a freshman…if they were going in to wash their hands, you had to stand back and let them wash their hands first. So that had changed when we came about. But I think some of the doctors maybe still expected it.

Mims: I’ll bet they did! Nobody told them there was a change.

Williamson: Yea, but I think maybe they could probably sense that things were changing.

Mims: What about the uniform? We haven’t talked much about that. What do you remember about it?

Williamson: Well, starting off I think ours was blue with white collar and white apron and white cap. And white shoes. They had the, I don’t know what’s the name of them, but anyway, they were more or less like the string up ones, more like the oxford or something. But anyway, you really had to be…you had to have white shoes and you had to have them polished. And your uniform had to be really pressed and because the laundry did them anyway. But you had to be very neat and your cap had to be white and your stockings…couldn’t have no runs in them either. You just really had to be very neat. I guess you may have heard of Ms. Hatcher.

Mims: Willa Hatcher, yea.

Williamson: She was always a good role model cause she was always so neat. All the time, she was just so neat. So that was just the way we had to be in that uniform. Very, very…so now that change came about…well before I left it had come about that the nurses…you can wear clogs.

Mims: Really?

Williamson: They started to wear them over to Hanover. Yea, the clog, not dressy, they had those white nurses type clogs.

Mims: Yea, I heard that they could be autoclaved or something.

Williamson: Yea, well some of them, you know had kindly get…but most of them on the floor, they hadn’t really gotten into that but you could find a few of them. But the uniform thing, seem like that was now…I mean some years back, you know, they just kind of got away from that. It’s more, I guess, if you’re doing your job, that’s it…but they got away from that. But I think, some time or another, I have heard patient’s make a remark, you know, because when they see nurses with dirty shoes on, or something like that, they would make a comment. I mean, not to the nurse, but you know, you would hear…

Mims: And you wore your cap too, professionally.

Williamson: Yea, we had to have a cap on. The uniform wasn’t complete without the cap. And then…when we first were capped it was just a plain cap. And then at some point in there, I can’t remember…you got that little one stripe on the side and then when we graduated, you know, you got the big black band to put on your cap.

Mims: When would you have gotten your pin, your nursing pin?

Williamson: Um, I believe…well I know we got one when we graduated. So I don’t think we got one before then.

Mims: So those were pieces of your uniform that were identifying you as a nurse and a graduate from Community.

Williamson: Yea, we also had a cape, which was beautiful too. It was a navy blue cape and on the collar part, it wasn’t a turned back, it was just a straight up collar, it had Community…CHS on it. And I think it was in gold. And the inside of it was red, and the outside was heavy blue.

Mims: Like wool?

Williamson: Yea…it was beautiful.

Mims: And when you put all of that on, how did you feel.

Williamson: Oh boy! It was very beautiful and special. I don’t know…I don’t have a large picture, but it was very beautiful.

Mims: It’s almost like these were awards…after you got to a certain point, you got something that kept you motivated to try to get to the next stage. I’ve heard other nurses talk fondly about their cap, that that was an identifier for them.

Williamson: Yea, and I guess I just have to mention it…at graduation I got the certificate of the Florence Nightingale Award.

Mims: Wow!

Williamson: And to my sad, I don’t even know where it is now. And I think it happened in moving, like when I went to Chicago and came back, moving somewhere in there it was lost.

Mims: That’s a shame.

Williamson: It sure is.

Mims: What do you think about the nurses not wearing caps now?

Williamson: Um, I think it would still be good if they could wear them because even sometime I’m seeing now, in churches, I don’t know how many churches do this, but even they have like…they have the nurses…they’re not really nurses, but they have them there to…there supposed to be like a nurses guild…but a lot of times you find that it’s nurse or the nurses assistants, they help out in the church and they will wear the cap. So but to a nurse that cap really means something. So I think it really would be good if they, you know, if they were capped, to use it.

Mims: Do you remember in your career when you stopped wearing your hat?

Williamson: Well, I wore mine for a long time and it had to be like…somewhere in the eighties, I guess in the eighties or nineties, somewhere in there. And you still could wear it if you wanted to.

Mims: I understand that now the nurses, its just like a ceremonial thing and they never really wear their caps.

Williamson: Yea, but it certainly would be good.

Mims: It’s interesting how these things have changed. Can you think about any other things that have changed that I wouldn’t know about, because that’s such a visual thing to not wear the hat. What about, like, you probably saw new nurses coming in during your career. What could you tell different about their training versus your training.

Williamson: Well, I think the new ones that were coming in, they really got…I saw, you know, maybe like…that would have been in the sixties or seventies…they really got a very good academic background, but they did not…their, what would you call it…to give them the…I guess maybe to turn them a-loose and give them the training that would set them up for taking over or working on the floor…they didn’t have that.

Mims: Like their clinical training.

Williamson: Right, they didn’t, they were kind of lacking that…because I think they were so used to, probably just…they probably had one patient, you know, to work with when they started out. And they didn’t know really what to expect, I don’t think. I think it seemed better than it was. It seemed so easy, you know. But it wasn’t like that, so when they came, they was thrown into a different thing, you know. Like, well you’ve got to get out there and do it now, you know, but carrying them along, you know, they just had maybe one little patient and they would go back and probably discuss that patient. But for us it had been altogether different. You were thrown out there on the weekend to carry that floor, you know, and you did it.

Mims: I’ve heard some other Community talking about like being in the labor and delivery room and all of a sudden they’re there and the baby’s coming.

Williamson: Yea, I really hated labor and delivery. I think I was just so scared the baby was going to come…I really hated that…and you know, maybe some of the doctors back then, they really didn’t want to come until… “are you sure you see the head?” “Yea, I see it, come on, come on, now!!” So, that part I really didn’t like. And it was a true thing, you can believe it when the full moon is out, we had more babies come, because I guess being a small hospital, the floor, when they got empty, you would hardly have anybody. But when that moon changed…

Mims: You know you were going to have a crowd. Did you ever go over to James Walker at all?

Williamson: I think I visited somebody there.

Mims: I didn’t know what you thought that compared to where you were at Community.

Williamson: No, I just visited somebody over there, because I guess not being from Wilmington, I didn’t really know that much about James Walker Hospital, you know, even in the beginning, I didn’t know that much about it.

Mims: Do you remember Bullocks Hospital at all?

Williamson: No.

Mims: That had probably closed by the time you got here.

Williamson: Probably so, right.

Mims: Cape Fear Hospital?

Williamson: Cape Fear, it was…yea…Cape Fear was here.

Mims: I think they opened in fifty-seven, so they would have been here. How about Babies Hospital down at the beach?

Williamson: Babies Hospital was there. Well, I remember my baby going there for having her tonsils out.

Mims: Really?

Williamson: Uh, huh, so it was there. And, in fact, one of my neighbors, she’s not here now…she worked at Babies Hospital before she came to Hanover. But she was a Community grad. I think maybe when she graduated, she probably went to Babies Hospital. Because I think her family and all used to live in that area.

Mims: Yea, it’s a shame they tore that structure down too. So now we’re missing another structure that had been the community for a long time. Just can’t keep our stuff around here. I’ve also heard nurses talk about their surgical rotation. What do you remember about that?

Williamson: Well, I always thought after leaving Community that I liked medicine. I thought maybe I just wouldn’t ever work in anything else but medicine…and I would hear people say “well, medicine is harder than surgery,” but I had gotten so used to being in the medical setting and but...after…let’s see…oh, when the built the ninth floor, then we had…our head nurse had decided that she would be in charge of the ninth floor. And so she was on fifth with us then, and when the ninth floor opened up she went there and you had the option of going or either staying where you were. So a lot of them were going on to what they were calling, supposedly really surgery. And so, gradually I went on up too, you know. So, I left medicine and went into surgery.

Mims: And the difference being is that medical patients kind of stick around a little longer than surgery?

Williamson: Yea, medical patients have a lot of medical things going on with them and a lot of medicine, they’re sicker, you know, they’re sicker patients. They’re diabetics and they are patients with hypertension and whatever, but it’s always just giving a lot of medicine to those patients and they’re sicker you know…where as surgical patients, after surgery you trying to get them up and out of bed and get them moving. Although you do have, a lot of times, a lot of dressings to change and things like that…but they don’t stay as long.

Mims: So somebody who likes to build that relationship with the patients, I can see where you would really like the medical. What about when you were in training, your time spent with the children, the pediatric area. What did you think about that?

Williamson: Well, peds was…it was real nice working pediatrics. I think you can kind of really, you know, they can get close to you and you can get real close to them, you know, that way…so I enjoyed peds but I never thought I wanted to be a pediatric nurse.

Mims: Yea, I’m sensing that most people, they gravitate towards something in training and that’s what they kind of do. Given how everything is set up today, do you think you would stay in that same tract or would you try to do something else? I’m talking about the expanded roles that nurses are taking now. Do you think you would go into anything…?

Williamson: I don’t know what it would come under but I often said, you know, I went to a lecture, let me see…they had our floor at one time, the ninth floor, and I thought they were going to do it all over, but they didn’t…so we went to, ummm…it wasn’t the Ramada Inn, it was something else on this side…and they had a large room set up for us. It was like a day, I guess the hospital had to probably do this or something…but it was like a day thing that we spent just about all day and some of us from our floor went. And these ladies, there were two of them, and they went…it was more like trying to help you have a better relationship I think with your patients, with the doctors, and how you could stand up for yourself as a nurse and that type thing. It was just like a day thing and then we had paperwork, like answering questions and things like that. And that was real good, and so from that I said I wish…I never knew how to get into it. But I said, but it would be a short thing, but I said if I ever really had to do something, I think I would like to…I find myself sometime…the kids that come out of school…before they come out of school, I think, you know, if you could…if I had the training and knew what to do, I would want to go and have a talk, you know, just with the children, before they come out of graduating…and just talk about the…I don’t know what it comes under…the attitudes, how they’re going to be in life when they get a job, you know, how to approach a person. The importance of their attitude, because it means so much on a job. Because, we had this guy that spoke to us once and he said, he was speaking on…and I remember one thing, he said, “fake it till you make it.”

Mims: I like that!

Williamson: And so, I find that you know a lot of times if the students, if they’re coming out, and if they’re on a job, and if they don’t really like what they doing, if they could just have the attitude of making somebody feel like they really enjoy it, even if they don’t really enjoy what they’re doing, you know, just have that attitude of liking it or acting like they like their work, you know, instead of have that other attitude. If I just knew how to…I find myself saying when I go to the store sometime and I’m talking to some of the younger people, you know, and they act like sometime they don’t want to be there, you know, and if I can see them sometime, and like you know…“well you must be having a bad day”, you know. And I see others, you know, that say “well thank you, come back” or something like that, you know. They just don’t realize how important their attitude is.

Mims: And how it affects their relationship with somebody else. What you’re talking about is nursing education basically. It’s fulfilling a gap that obviously needs in transition between what you learned academically and how it to apply it to real life and, you know, somebody who’s kind of been in the trenches like you have, would certainly be very effective in that situation. Because anybody who experiences the hospital setting, you don’t want your caregiver to have had a bad day, you might say. So what you’re saying is a way to maybe psychologically address whatever is going on with you yourself and could let that pass so you can do your job more effectively. That’s a real interesting point, because I think so many people are getting into nursing for different reasons and you know, with the expanded roles that the nurses can take, the bedside nurse is becoming kind of obsolete you might say. Because everybody wants to do everything other than patient care. But I don’t think that there will ever be a time where we can’t have that setting, do you?

Williamson: I don’t think so, but I find that if I really had to do something, that’s what I would want to do.

Mims: Yea. I know that a lot of the nurses have kind of been somewhat critical in the regard that once you were approaching graduation, that there wasn’t a lot of, how you would say, counseling or guidance as to what you could do next. I think that the academic environment that nursing is in now does give you that, but like you said, when you were getting ready to graduate…did anybody give you options about what you could do or couldn’t do?

Williamson: As to um…

Mims: Like you know, that you could go on and pursue additional training…of what other type of jobs were out there in the nursing field.

Williamson: No, but I think after working and… a while in my life I said “boy if I could have gone into this flight nursing,” you know after seeing it when it came about, I said, “boy I would have loved that,” but, I mean, you know, to me you don’t need to be married…that’s too much.

Mims: But I think that that was one of the things that people were most critical about was that they gave you all this training and they never really channeled you into what you could do with it. And like I said, also that you were kind of at the cusp of a lot of transitions too, talking about, like disposable gloves, and the gloving situation. I’m not sure, were you using glass syringes or the plastic syringes?

Williamson: Well, when we started off we used the glass syringes, but you know, somewhere in there, I know by the time we were at New Hanover that we were probably at the plastic then…syringe.

Mims: So you saw a gambit of change in technology and procedures. What is the most striking thing that you can think of with that change?

Williamson: Well, I’ve seen here lately in the dressing changes I saw, it wasn’t at New Hanover, but it was just that I saw it in home health nursing. And I saw where they didn’t use sterile gloves and they were changing the dressing. She was using clean gloves, but they weren’t sterile. You know, just your loose gloves and so I was asking her did they not use them now. And she said, “this is what they do now,” and she said to me, “because the wound isn’t sterile,” you know, and so I don’t…I think I told my relative, I said ask the doctor about this and she say he said that’s what their doing. And so she was coming I guess because of it being a dirty wound that they weren’t using the sterile technique. We had to use sterile gloves handling the dressing and if you picked up something that weren’t sterile you needed to change your gloves to sterile ones. But you made your sterile field. You opened a sterile…even if it was a sterile gloves that came in a pack. You opened that pack up and you didn’t let nothing touch that sterile field other than sterile things you put on there. And you would handle your sterile gloves using those things that were sterile. So I have seen this recently.

Mims: It’s probably a little unnerving because you were taught a certain way and maybe a bit uncomfortable with it. Well, the tapes almost done. I want to thank you for all your time and effort here today.

Williamson: You know, I never offered…did you want something to drink…

Mims: Oh no, no, I’m fine.

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