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Interview with Marlene Robinson Blake, November 16, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Marlene Robinson Blake, November 16, 2004
Date:
November 16, 2004
Description:
Mrs. Marlene Blake is a 1953 graduate of the James Walker SON. Her class was the first to attend classes a Wilmington College (Isaac Bear).After graduation she worked in Labor/Delivery at JW. After several moves around the south Mrs. Blake resumed her nursing education at UNCW, pursuing a 4year degree (BSN). Her memories are detailed regarding her time in training and makes distinctions between the diploma school and 4year. (S1) Mrs. Blake donated textbooks, cape and nursing cap
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Blake, Marlene Robinson Interviewer:  Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry / Vance, Mona Date of Interview:  11/16/2004 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length:  60

Mims: Today is November 16, 2004. I am LuAnn Mims with Jerry Parnell and Mona...

Vance: Vance.

Mims: Vance, for the Special Collection Series on Health Services and today we are going to talk with Marlene Blake who not only completed the James Walker School of Nursing Program in 1953, but went on to become one of the first to graduate from the four year program UNC-Wilmington had to offer in 1987. Is that correct?

Blake: Um hum.

Mims: Okay. Let's start with some family background. If you could tell me where you were born and a little bit about what your parents were doing.

Blake: Okay. I was born in Onslow County and we moved from there in 1941 when the government took over the property to build Camp LeJeune. And we moved to New Hanover County but only lived in New Hanover County a year and then we moved to Pender County. I grew up on a farm and completed high school at Burgaw High School and I wanted to do something with my life, and...but I really wanted to be a lab technician...that's what I really wanted to be.

And so...but one day, the principal called us to the auditorium when I was in the eleventh grade. He called the eleventh and twelfth grade girls to the auditorium and we had a presentation given to us by a James Walker senior student nurse, dressed in her cape, and her cap and everything...trying to influence, you know, some students for James Walker. And my interest was with that because I really wanted to go to a four-year school, but I knew my father could not afford to send me, you know. I knew he would send me if I really...you know, if I really wanted to go, but I hated to put the burden on him. So I saw this as a chance...as my chance.

Mims: Did you have brothers or sisters?

Blake: I had a brother...I had one brother four years older than me.

Mims: What kind of farm did your father have?

Blake: Um, he raised tobacco and corn.

Mims: So seasonal type crops...

Blake: Right.

Mims: ...to sustain throughout the year? So this...this influenced you to come to James Walker, but you were saying that you had an interest in the medical field before this.

Blake: Right, um hum.

Mims: How would you know about...like, medical technician? What would you have come in contact with to make you even know that that was a career you'd be interested in?

Blake: In the hospital. And I...and I liked...you know, I enjoyed chemistry.

Mims: Hum. That's interesting because there are not too many people that really know about that field until you get into the medical environment. I think I've talked to one other lady who said something about that. So was this influential in bringing you to James Walker or did you investigate other nursing schools?

Blake: Um...East Carolina would be the four-year program where I was...where I wanted to go.

Mims: Um hum.

Blake: But, after the student came, you know, then I thought, well that was...I would be closer at home and I was kind of shy and timid and I would get to come home, you know. It wouldn't be hard on my father to send me there...because I really wanted to do something with my life.

Mims: Well, that's also another interesting thing because you're in a time where a lot of women were not career oriented...but you always felt that you wanted to work?

Blake: I was going to do something, you know, I was definitely going to do something.

Mims: Did your mom work at all?

Blake: No. She was just a housewife.

Mims: So you came to James Walker. Did you come any time prior to school starting, or did you...?

Blake: aaah...

Mims: ...a pre-visit, or...?

Blake: Well, I was only...not for a visit, just a visit, you know, but my mother was a patient there...inpatient...she had surgery. I was probably about ten or eleven years old, you know, so I could see...you know, look around and see what was going on.

Mims: Do you remember if they took any type of entrance exam for you guys when you first came?

Blake: Oh yes. Well, I had to apply, you know, and then I was sent a letter for the pre-entrance exam. We all went down...it was interesting that it was...it was young ladies, you know, from small towns all around here...all of 'em...and when you look in the annual, they're all from towns around here...and there was a pre-entrance exam.

Mims: Now one of the things you had to agree to would be living on site there at the nurses home.

Blake: Right.

Mims: How did you feel about that?

Blake: Oh that was, you know, that was good, because you'd be protected, you know, my mother and father would not be worried...because there was a...we were...at night the fen...the gate was locked, you know, nobody could come in.

Mims: Um hum. So when you got there you were assigned your room?

Blake: Right. We all had private rooms. It was...all rooms were totally private. The showers and tubs and all were down in one big room, you know, you had to walk down the hall...and telephone...one telephone on the hall, but there was a lavatory in each room...and a desk...and a cot, and a dresser.

Mims: Who would have oriented you to the nursing home? Was there a housemother that did that or was it a senior nurse that did this?

Blake: Two housemothers were there.

Mims: They were the ones that showed you were everything was?

Blake: Right, right.

Mims: And told you the rules?

Blake: Right. And they watched us. They had eyes in the back of their heads.

Parnell: Were they also nurses?

Mims: I don't think these housemothers were nurses.

Parnell: They weren't nurses, where they...the housemothers?

Blake: No. Um um. We um...let's see, we had to be in our room by, you know, by seven thirty with the door closed each night to study. That was...study from seven thirty to ten thirty. No one could go...you could go to no one else's room. You were in your own room. And the housemother would come up at ten thirty to make sure all the lights were out in the rooms. You had to go to bed then.

Mims: And there were repercussions if you didn't follow these rules.

Blake: Right, yes sir.

Mims: Can you remember what some of those were?

Blake: Well, you got sent to Mrs. Masten and you might be, you know, you might not get your weekend off or something like that.

Parnell: Did your study...was it Monday through Thursday or Monday through Friday, or...?

Blake: Uh...I can't remember...well the first nine months it was mostly studying and we would go over for a few hours in the hospital, you know, to...we would learn how to make the bed, then we would go over into the hospital and make a bed.

Mims: Um hum.

Blake: We'd learn how to take a temperature or blood pressure and then we'd go over into the hospital and do that.

Mims: And your first uniform, what did it look like?

Blake: It was blue and white stripe...with cuffs. The cuffs were...you had to...you had little pins...certain kind of a little pin that you pinned the cuff on with. You had to pin the cuffs on and the collar on. And then you had your apron, the top and the bottom. And you had to have your scissors, you know, you put those in the back of your apron there. And you had to have a...make sure you had a...you're writing pen. And...

Mims: Did you have to purchase these uniforms?

Blake: It was included in the...in the pre-entrance fee.

Mims: Did they measure you for them or anything? Like, did you just tell them your size...?

Blake: No, we were measured for them.

Mims: Who did that?

Blake: I don't...I don't remember...I can't remember that.

Mims: I talked to that one who talked about the measuring...I can't remember what it was.

Blake: I can't remember who did that.

Mims: Um, you also mentioned that you were in the class that was the first year that went to Wilmington College for some of your pre-clinical, tell us about that.

Blake: Well, um, we um, we did anatomy and physiology and chemistry and sociology at Wilmington College when it was a two year college on Market Street in front of the New Hanover High School. We walked over for the classes and sometimes the instructor would come over to lecture us in our classroom.

Mims: Do you...do you know what they did the year before? Were those classes just taught at James Walker?

Blake: They were just taught at James Walker.

Mims: But they were trying to utilize the local college?

Blake: I don't...I don't know how it got started...I have no idea, you know, how it got...the college...let me see, the college opened in 1947, I think, so we were the class of '59. So I guess it was just...

Mims: Just something that you started.

Blake: ...took that...um hum.

Mims: But that didn't last for very long, right? That was just the pre-clinical stage that you guys did that...or you did it the whole time...?

Blake: Right. We didn't...we didn't...they were the only classes we had there. The rest was at the hospital.

Mims: I was reading in a paper too, that there was like a lag time between the time you guys arrived at James Walker and the time that the univer...or the college picked up their classes...was like a month or something like that? Do you remember that time?

Blake: Ah...

Mims: Cause it seems like I was reading that they were teaching you some type of professionalism or...

Blake: Oh, nursing ethics and all that sort of thing is...and I can't remember exactly when...it might have been our second year before we started that, I'm not sure...I'm not sure what, you know, which we did first. I'm not sure.

Mims: But as you went through the program, there were different measures of your accomplishment. The first one being the rec...receiving your cap.

Blake: Well, we were pre-clinicals for nine months...we wore no cap. You know, like, when we went over to the hospital, we had a students art room and that's where we went to learn how to make up the beds and so on and so forth, you know, and...

Mims: That was in the basement?

Blake: Right. It was in the basement...and the classrooms were all in the basement. And we went over to the hospital and we were pre-clinical for nine months and then we had the capping exercise where we had our Nightingale lamp...it's in the picture. We had our Nightingale lamp and our caps. The cap we got was...it was not a linen cap like the graduate cap, but it was a thicker, stiffer, cap with no black band on it. And then you had to earn your black band. When you became a junior then you got your narrow black band, and then a senior...the wide black band on your cap.

Mims: How did you feel about getting your cap?

Blake: Oh, I thought I was...oh I was so happy I had made it that far!

Mims: I've heard other people talk about that that was something that really made them feel like a nurse. It was a visible marker of that? When you went out onto the floor then you...

Blake: Yea, because it was...it was frightening, you know, it was like country-come-to-town for me. I...even though I would...the procedures...we had a book with all those procedures in it and like, my first enema I gave, I will never forget. I...you know, you didn't have disposable containers, you had...they all had to be cleaned and boiled and so on and so forth and be used again...and, so they were all in the utility room on each hall, each hall had their own. So I was supposed to do an enema, you know, I was going to be watched by the instructor for that procedure.

So I had my procedure book you know, and I would...I just check everything out thoroughly, you know, it just had to be just perfect. And I...and...I had to...the temperature of the water...I had my thermometer to check that with...I went down to the room and I had it all fixed...I thought it was just perfect. And I got down to the room and guess what...the clamp...I didn't clamp the...

Mims: Oh no!!

Blake: And so, when I got my grades that month, I knew if I cried...she had written, "Lacks knowledge of procedures."

Vance: Oh.

Blake: And...oh that just...and so, you know, then after that I made sure I was going to be on the ball. So that was on one side of the hospital, the woman's side. Well...upper hall on the other side was, you know, mostly men, and...so when I got on that side, my next term, you know, and I worked really hard and then...she wrote, "Has good knowledge of procedures."

Mims: Who was writing this? Was this Ms. Masten?

Blake: Ah, let's see, Ms. Browder, I won't never forget her name, Ms. Browder. No, Ms. Masten, she sat I her office and...all the time, you know, but it was Ms. Britt who walked around to check the...like she was...she looked at everything that was going on in the whole hospital. But Ms. Browder and Ms. Yount, those were the two...our two nursing arts, they called it, instructors. And so it was Ms. Browder who I had "Lacked knowledge of procedures." That just crushed...I has stu...you know, it wasn't that I didn't know the procedure, I just...they were tough.

Mims: I was going to say, did any of these...I mean, I know that you have to follow things correctly, but you know, there's a way of fostering, you know, this education. Did you feel like maybe they came down too hard on certain things, or was it necessary to...to treat you in that way to...?

Blake: It was a step-be-step thing. You followed every single step on that procedure. She would watch you.

Mims: What kind of relationship would you say they had with the...the training nurses?

Blake: Oh, well, um...well Ms. Browder was a...she was...it depended on the person I think. She...she was all right, you know, she was really okay. But she was not as friendly as Ms. Yount, you know, we just all loved Ms. Yount, she was...she'd be so good to us and everything. Ms. Browder was a little tough.

Mims: We've had a number of nurses talk very fondly of certain doctors. Can you recall any doctors there that influenced you?

Blake: Oh, I just loved them all. I loved them all. Dr...of course, I ended up in OB, you know, so I...George Johnson...George Johnson, I thought he was God himself, you know. And he...he delivered my husband anyway when he was born. (laughing) And...but he was just...I mean...it was...he could just work magic. Anything went wrong, you know, he'd just put his hand on it and it would be okay. And I always loved Dr. Walker, Dr. Lounsberry, Dr. Nicholson, and there was Dr. Powell, H. W. Johnson, and Thompson, and Dickie...

Mims: And those were mostly OB...

Blake: ...Dr. Bear and Dr. Dosher...um hum, OB GYN.

Mims: Which Dr. Dosher?

Blake: Some of them were general practitioners, you know, too, Dickie and Powel and Thompson.

Mims: Okay. Was Dosher Arthur Dosher or which Dosher?

Blake: No it was...how could I remem...

Mims: I'll look it up in the annual.

Blake: Uh huh...no it wasn't that.

Mims: Okay. Did you find that the doctors helped you as a student nurse?

Blake: Oh, they did. They just loved us. They just bent over backwards to help us.

Mims: Did any of them do instruction?

Blake: I was...I was...let's see...in labor and delivery, you know, I was scrub nurse...we scrubbed to help with the delivery and I was absolutely horrified, you know, I was always so afraid I was going to make a mistake. And I was standing there and he could tell, you know, I was and he said, "Hand me some TLC," and I looked on the...(laughing) And so I thought that was...

Mims: Very nice.

Blake: Yea.

Mims: Did they act as instructors? Did they ever teach your classes?

Blake: Oh yes. Yea, they taught classes.

Mims: Which one stands out in your mind on that aspect?

Blake: Ah, let's see...we had Dr. Mebane...let's see; he came from...what was the old hospital?

Mims: Bullock?

Blake: Yea, and Cape Fear. It wasn't Cape Fear then, it was something else I believe. But, yea, he taught us. He stood out. Dr. Walker taught us. Dr. Lounsberry. Ah, let's see the...Dr. Koonce...surgery.

Mims: Donald?

Blake: Dr. Hare...urology. And ah...let's see...pediatrics...Reynolds, Dr. Reynolds...pediatrics.

Mims: I was wondering if any of the older doctors had any, like, stories that they told you about like, "When I was starting medicine...", kind of shared that kind of, you know, ideal...with you. Do you recall?

Blake: They did, but I can't remember...I can't remember.

Mims: Like I know Dr. Fales was good about stuff like that.

Blake: Uh huh. Yea, he taught us too, Dr. Fales...

Mims: Um...

Blake: Dr. Fales, you know, was the one who had all the material about the hospital. I don't know if ya'll have dug into that yet... I don't know where it is.

Mims: But your time as a student nurse...you had to go through different rotating...rotations of the departments.

Blake: Right.

Mims: And you liked OB...the OB section.

Blake: Labor and delivery.

Mims: Labor and delivery. What was your least favorite do you think?

Blake: Pediatrics.

Mims: Oh really?

Blake: Uh huh. And then when I went to take the state board, I made the highest grade. (laughing)

Mims: Where did you guys do your site rotation at?

Blake: Well, my class, we didn't go anywhere. In the class right after us, they started sending 'em...

Mims: Up to Dorthea Dix?

Blake: Right. But we didn't...we didn't get to go anywhere. We had a doctor for that too. I can't remember his name now. The first psychiatrist that I can remember here...I can't remember his name.

Mims: Um hum. So all of your training took place there at James Walker except for the time you were at...

Blake: Right. We didn't have much psychiatry.

Parnell: Well, what was a typical day like as a student nurse?

Blake: Well, a typical day...you mean...

Mims: Did you have classes in the morning, or in the evening, or how would that work with your...cause I know you had...were obligated to work a certain period of time...

Blake: Well, most of the time, when you were a junior, you worked an eight hour shift and...

Parnell: Were they rotated shifts or were they all morning?

Blake: Rotated. You would...they would rotate you...like you could work from seven until...three until eleven one night and then go back at seven the next morning, you know.

Parnell: And then go to class.

Blake: Right, right. Um hum. But, we...there would be...some of the time when you were a junior, you know, that you would have part of the day for class and part of the day for working.

Mims: It sounds like they wanted you to go on and start doing, you know, what you were shown to do...very...very soon.

Blake: Right.

Mims: They were teaching it and you were doing the hands on and then as you got more involved, like your junior-senior year, you were doing a lot more work than class type time?

Blake: I'm trying to remember. I think the way the class was handled...we worked...I mean, we would have class a day and then they really wanted you to work those eight hours, you know, they depended on us to work those...to fill the workload over in the hospital.

Vance: So did a class last for an hour or was it an all morning type...?

Blake: Um, most of the lectures lasted for an hour.

Vance: Okay.

Blake: Nursing Arts, or something like that, you know, might last longer than that. But there would always be the clinical, you know, going on over in the hospital, where they were watching us over there.

Mims: So where you in uniform all the time? Like when you were going to class, did you have to wear your uniform too?

Blake: No, you didn't have to wear your uni...you could go in street clothes.

Mims: Hum. Cause I've...we've heard different things, but some of them were like earlier on. As you're approaching your senior year, I know there's things that you're looking forward to. I understand that there was like a big dance or something...near graduation? Do you remember that at all? No?

Blake: No, we didn't have a dance...I can't remember one.

Mims: Okay. Do you remember where your graduation exercise was?

Blake: New Hanover High School.

Mims: New Hanover High School. Was there a baccalaureate service at all? At one of the churches?

Blake: Ahhh....

Mims: I've been seeing pictures of this and I'm not sure if they had it every year...that's why I'm asking.

Blake: I don't know...I can't...I don't...would you believe I can't...I don't believe we had that.

Mims: At your graduation, that's where you received your pin, right?

Blake: Right.

Mims: Okay. Um, she's wearing her pins. Her top one is from UNCW and the middle one is her class pin from James Walker, and then tell us again what the bottom one is?

Blake: It's Sigma Theta Tau...a nursing honor society. I was awarded membership in that from this school and I graduated from here.

Parnell: I can't quite...we'll get 'em at the end...

Blake: Nu Omega is the chapter here.

Parnell: ...cause the light's not good...so we'll get 'em at the end.

Mims: But for your graduation you had to be in your first all white uniform, right?

Blake: Right.

Mims: Where did you get those uniforms?

Blake: Ahh...I can't remember, but I...they were all alike, so they must have come...

Mims: From a place...we saw an ad...

Blake: Through the hospital, you know, through the nursing department...cause they were all alike.

Mims: And you got your graduate nurse hat then at that time.

Blake: Right. And our scarf.

Mims: And then tell me about the scarf.

Blake: The scarf was like an organza type material. It's a...it's a big square, but you fold it over and you bring it around your shoulders and you would pin it right up at the top. That was supposed to be our dress uniform.

Mims: You'd pin it with your nursing pin?

Blake: And some of the nurses, older nurses, used to wear it to work. They worked with it on...like a private duty nurse.

Mims: Um hum.

Blake: I still have that scarf. I'll bring it too. I looked for it, but...

Parnell: Did it have James Walker Hospital written on it, or...?

Blake: It doesn't have anything written on it. It's just a...just a scarf.

Parnell: What color was it? LM/

Blake: White.

Parnell: White

Mims: White.

Blake: White.

Mims: You don't remember any type of small cape thing do you...like a white...shoulder cape?

Blake: No.

Parnell: That may have been earlier.

Mims: No, that was '55.

Parnell: Oh.

Mims: What were your plans after graduation?

Blake: To go to work. To pass the State Board exam first!

Mims: So you went to work...where?

Blake: James Walker in Labor and Delivery from eleven until seven. And I worked two years there. That's where I got my experience in labor and delivery. And I was working during hurricane Hazel...

Mims: Oh my goodness!

Blake: ...and we had a young lady come in and she was sixteen years old and unmarried...to have a baby...and so she named the baby Hazel. I always tell that story.

Mims: Where did you go after that?

Blake: Um, after I worked...my husband was in...you know, he had been drafted...that was back in fifty three...dropped out of college and was...went on to serve his duty, you know. And so I worked night duty while he was gone. And when he was coming home, then I asked for day duty and it just so happened that the head nurse was getting married and not going to be there and Ms. Masten offered me that job...so I felt kind of honored, you know! I couldn't believe she would be offering me that job! So I worked seven...let's see...about seven more years after that there.

Mims: At James Walker?

Blake: At James Walker.

Mims: Until it closed?

Blake: Oh no, that was...that would have been in sixty...

Parnell: This is early sixties here...

Blake: ...early sixties.

Mims: Okay, graduated fifty three...fifty five...then sixty...

Blake: I started work...it was about '62 or '63...somewhere along in there.

Mims: Let me go back for a minute because I...I forgot to ask you about your experience as 'Miss James Walker' in '53. How did that come about?

Blake: Well, it was just...it was just something they did every year. They'd...we'd select a 'Miss James Walker' to go into the annual and she would be chosen by, you know, by class...by...by the students...all of the students. All the...all the freshmen, and juniors, and seniors, you know, all together.

Mims: Was there any award that went with that, like a monetary award or another...

Blake: No.

Mims: Another thing you went to...

Blake: No award.

Mims: So that was just it?

Blake: It's just the title.

Mims: And off camera we were also talking about your hats being sent away to be done in a Chinese laundry.

Blake: Well, they weren't really sent, we...we...each...you had...you could take it wherever you wanted to, you know.

Mims: Right.

Blake: But there was a Chinese lau...ah...laundry downtown on Third Street in front of City Hall somewhere along there, and it was...ah...they really did the laundry nice, like uniforms and stuff like that. So we would take our caps there and they would be...I mean, really stiff, you know when they came back. They had to be stiff so you could fold them and they would stay together for a long time like that. So we would take...

Mims: Would you take your uniforms there to be...?

Blake: I took some uniforms there...because they had to be stiff too. I wore...when I first worked...started...of course, working labor and delivery, you put on a scrub dress, you know, when you get there. But I still had that uniform. I wore over...to...and with long sleeves and cuffs and cuff links.

Mims: Um hum. You also brought us that beautiful cape. Tell us how that was part of your uniform as a student?

Blake: Well, it was...from the very beginning...that was...it came with our uniform, you know, to wear. You had...when you came out of the nursing home, you had to go outside to walk across to the hospital, and so...that was our...you know, we were given that right away with our uniform...the first uniform we got...student's uniform.

Mims: How did that make you feel...wearing everything...?

Blake: Oh, I thought...you know...I...you know, I felt good...you know, I thought I was...I was really...ah...I mean, I was proud of myself.

Mims: Sure. And also...made you stand out.

Blake: Right.

Mims: Certainly, not everybody was wearing this.

Blake: Yea, they knew who we were when the saw us.

Mims: Sure...you were...Well, let's go back. You stopped working at James Walker about in '62...?

Blake: Um hum.

Mims: Where did you go after that?

Blake: I went over to Camp LeJeune. We moved to...back to Onslow County...my husband was transferred over there, and so I applied for a job at the Navy Hospital in Camp LeJeune. And, I worked in the dependents part, Labor and Delivery, where you rotated through premature nursery, nursery, and the labor and delivery, and the hall...maternity hall. That was quite an experience there.

Mims: You still wore your Walker hat and your Walker pin, though, right?

Blake: Right. Yea, we had to...they were very particular there...and we...what...what uniform we wore to work, and all...shoes and everything. You had to take that off and, you know, you had to wear like a scrub dress, or...

Mims: When you were in Wilmington, where would you get your shoes from...your nursing shoes?

Blake: Cinderella.

Mims: Cinderella?

Blake: Cinderella shoe store!

Mims: That was downtown right?

Blake: Those were clinical shoes. They were called clinical shoes and...wanted to all be just alike. They were really comfortable shoes; I wish I could find some now.

Mims: Okay, so how long were you at the Navy Hospital?

Blake: I was there about eight months.

Mims: Then were did you go?

Blake: Ah...let's see...what year was all that going on...let's see...we moved to Charlotte and I worked at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, which was also a three- year diploma school. I was interested in their program too because they had a deal with Peace College, I think, you know, where you go for two years...I don't...I didn't really investigate it but that's what a lot of them...

Mims: So you convert to the four-year?

Blake: Right.

Mims: So all along you're thinking...yea...that four-year.

Blake: Yea.

Mims: Hum. Did you ever rethink the thought about a medical technician?

Blake: No. I gave that up entirely...but I was always interested in it, you know.

Mims: 'Cause we saw that it was...actually a pre-technical technician curriculum developed at Wilmington College very early on, like in the forties...forty nine or something like that. After Charlotte, where did you go?

Blake: Ahhh...let's see, we lived in Bennettsville, South Carolina.

Mims: My goodness.

Blake: And there, I worked in surgery...see, I never worked on the hall and that's why it was so hard...and when I did the clinical work here, see, I was totally out of it...I had been doing labor and delivery, and O.R., you know, and...

Mims: Different procedures for different specialties.

Blake: They...they worked with me on it though, so that was nice...but I worked in O.R. at...in Bennettsville...General...Marlboro County Hospital, it was.

Mims: So you've seen a lot of changes in just this short period of time, probably changing over from glass syringes to plastic syringes...

Blake: Oh yes, um hum, we had to...we boiled...well, let's see, in Labor and Delivery, we had an autoclave, a little small one...well we did boil the instruments though, at first, until we got the autoclave...that's right. We had like the instruments we used for the deliveries, you know, was a whole table full, you know, then...still is now too I think, but...well it's different now, you've got the birthing room.

But it would be like a long basin about that long and about that wide and handles on the end and you'd wash all those instruments and you'd put 'em in there and it was this big boiling thing...boiling water, you know, all the time it was boiling. You put 'em in there and you had to leave 'em for like thirty minutes and then you had forceps, a special kind of forceps, where you...um, all the...there was no disposable...um...linens or anything, you know, you had to do up...we did...in labor and delivery, we did our own linens up.

We made the OB packs; we called them, ourselves, and sent them down to the general autoclave downstairs to be autoclaved. And they'd bring those back up cause they...they're kinda wet, you know, gotta be dry, before they bring 'em up for us to use. But anyway, you would open up that OB pack on the table a certain way, you know, a certain...this is the procedure part where you don't contaminate anything, you know, sterile technique...and, you open up a certain way and then you...there's a basin...the placenta basin would be sitting on the end, you know.

And so when we would bring those...we would put a...kind of a cover under the placenta basin cause you didn't want to get the cover wet underneath it...everything would be contaminated. So we would lift that forceps up and...those...and carry 'em through the one delivery room into the other one...and put 'em on that basin, you know, and they would set it up...put gloves on, you know, and everything...

Mims: Yea, cause you did a lot of things ungloved, right?

Blake: Ah, well we did up the gloves too. The gloves were reused, you know, we had to...we washed 'em and we had a nurses aide who tried to keep up our work room stuff, but we helped too and we had...we washed the gloves in soap and water, rinsed 'em, and we hung 'em on these racks to dry. Then, we'd go back and turn 'em inside out to dry the other side...then you'd take the gloves and you would powder...put powder in, you know, in 'em...and then you would turn 'em down a certain way and we had a special glove cover, you put one in one side and one in the other...

Parnell: And fold it over.

Blake: And we sent those down to the autoclave downstairs, you know, to be autoclaved. But only thing we autoclaved was our...you asked me about syringes...you know, well, we would boil those syringes...have to wash those with soap and water and we would boil those also...at one time we were boiling 'em...and then later on we got that autoclave...little small autoclave...in Labor and Delivery...we would autoclave the syringes then, you know, and they'd have to be done...everything was...had a date on it when we did it, you know, and that's...it had to be done in a...at a certain, you know, you couldn't go any...but certain days before we had to do it all again. We had to do that every night...those syringes.

Mims: And now with all the plastic that they have, they just...

Blake: They just don't really know, you know,...all that work to do...

Mims: On top of just the regular stuff.

Blake: Uh huh, we also had like the milk lab, you know, where we...we went in and made the babies formulas and they had two autoclaves in there and then you made up the babies...you mixed...the doctor would right the formula he wanted the baby to have...like it would be powder mixed with whatever, you know, and we would mix all that up and put it in the bottles and put those bottles in the autoclave and...could you imagine a little baby...I don't know how it tasted but...

Parnell: Hum.

Mims: Well, what about breast-feeding, was that encouraged or...?

Blake: It...breast feeding was encouraged. Yea, we had some breast feeders.

Parnell: So the doctor though, may give different babies different formulas of milk...

Blake: Right.

Parnell: More whole milk...

Blake: Like Dr. Sidbury, you know, he would have his...what he wanted his baby to have...they would right that down and we'd get that in the milk lab...

Mims: And now you just go and get a can of something.

Blake: Right, uh huh.

Mims: What about IV fluids, cause we have heard some of the nurses talk about having to make up their own IV fluids when the did the surgical rotation...was that through by the time you got there...?

Blake: Ah, I never made any IV fluids, but we did have to, you know, like put things in it...we might put something in a...

Mims: Sure, and mix it up...

Blake: And, ah, but we had to, ah, stand and count the drops and we had to know, you know, how...if they said a hundred cc's an hour...how to figure that, you know...don't ask me how to do it now!

Mims: None of those push machines...those IVAC machines now that you just plug in...

Blake: You just punch a button, you know, but we had to figure it out...and you can go back and stand there and count...while there was ten drops in one cc, you know, you had to...and ah...and then you would...ah...and so how many drops would that...would you give, you know, to give a hundred cc's an hour.

Mims: Sure.

Blake: So, you had to figure all that kind of stuff...and then you'd be walking back and forth to look at the bottle to make sure that bottle was going to last eight hours or how many hours it was supposed to last.

Mims: And all goes back to your training at James Walker...learning all this.

Blake: Right, um hum.

Mims: When you left South Carolina, where did you head to next?

Blake: We came back...came back here. I was...I was back at New Hanover in sixty eight...I believe it was...or sixty seven...somewhere along there...

Mims: Somewhere where they'd just opened.

Blake: And then I worked labor and delivery until '78.

Mims: And then what happened?

Blake: And when I was there, ah...let's see...everything was starting to change around, you know, Lamaze and all that stuff...around sixty seven, somewhere along in there, that's when all of that started, you know, changing and the labor room had...where I was...at New Hanover, where I was working had...it was kind of in a U shape and it was eight beds, you know, so I actually watched...I...maybe eight patient's at one time. I have done that.

Mims: My goodness. All in active labor?

Blake: Well, you had help, but...(laughing)...

Mims: Seems like a potential nightmare!

Blake: Like if one...one of you went down to have a baby, the other one was left just...

Parnell: Um hum.

Mims: My goodness. A full moon must have been really havoc.

Blake: Uh huh. And that's where I also started developing another interest in the four-year program because it was somewhere along there where the two year graduates started coming through, you know, that was different from the three year because we were taught all those...every...all those procedures...hands on stuff, you know, and so they'd be...be...ah...like they might hire a...an RN with a...from the two year program to come and work in Labor and Delivery and what puzzled me so...I would be showing...trying to, ah, show her how to set up the delivery table...see, we kept them set up so we...we didn't...it would be ready when we got ready to have the baby, you know.

And, she didn't know what the instruments were...you know, I'd say, "Put so-and-so there," and she didn't know what the instruments were at all, so that really...I just couldn't believe, you know, that she was an RN and she didn't know what those instruments were.

Vance: Was there resentment between the three-year and the two-year...?

Blake: Ah, I believe there was a little bit...and the four year...more the four year more than anything else...because I...I was going to say...I was doing the...let's see, that was close to seventy eight...I was doing the C-section room, you know, where we did a little bit of GYN surgery there too, and tubal ligations and all, at New Hanover...I was doing that for about three years before I left there. And ah, we had a masters degree, I believe, who was our boss lady...and there'd be...I was having a tough time with the doctors because...down in surgery, you know, you walked the chalk line and you did what they said...

Mims: Sure...

Blake: You didn't cross that red line. But they thought they could come up to Labor and Delivery and walk back in my operating room across the red line without putting shoe covers and stuff on...I was having trouble with 'em or something...so I was asking for help from her, you know, what can I do and all, and...and she...and, you know, it was like she...she knew what I was talking about, you know, but she just had never had any experience with it and I couldn't make her see, you know, it was hard for me to communicate with...my problem to her...to get some help.

And I thought, you know, I was trying to...here I'm a three year, and we've got two years and four years all mixed up together trying to work together. When it first started changing, it was a little bit...but it's not like that anymore, I don't believe, because...

Mims: Well, also the floor hierarchy around in the mid-sixties...the LPN's entered in strongly...

Blake: Yea.

Mims: And then, that's another thing to contend with is...how do you...them...and the nursing assistants...so where they all active in Labor and Delivery, or was it strictly RNs?

Blake: Ah...we didn't have...let's see, we had nursing assistants...we called 'em nursing aides then.

Mims: Um hum.

Blake: And, ah, they, ah, they could stand with a patient and watch the patient, you know, for us to run somewhere or something. They basically cleaned up the delivery room and...we did that too, we did everything, you know...clean up the delivery room, wash the instruments, and get 'em back in the autoclave to use again, and...but ah...basically that's what they did. And ah...

Mims: So you have a strong interest in getting your four-year degree?

Blake: I did, um hum.

Mims: What...how did you come by...out here?

Blake: Well, like is say, I started...we moved to Tennessee and my husband...the deal was, you know, I had worked all those years...he said...I didn't want to move, didn't want to go there, he was transferred and I didn't want to leave here...and he...if I went, you know, well...I wouldn't be working, you know...and I was bored to death! I got there and I...so I went over to the college and decided I would try one course of something, you know. And I went and talked to the nursing department too.

So I decided...I would start out with something easy, like English 101, you know, and I did...and...so I really enjoyed it, you know, and then I picked up some...took a review of high school algebra before I could get to statistics...I did that here. But ah, I did, ah...you know, several things...I did chemistry there, I believe...chemistry 101 and 102 in Tennessee. And then...and the more I, you know, I just felt like I wanted to take every class they had to offer in the whole college...I just was enjoying it so much. And ah, and then when I got back here I just marched right on over, you know, to see what I had to do here to enter the nursing program.

I knew they were going to start one, and we had been talking about this, way back in our James Walker alumni meetings about...this was going to take place at...in the years ahead, you know, and so I...I was interested in it then too. We were wondering what it was going to be like. We kept talking about what would it be like, you know.

Mims: So did you make contact with the nursing school here?

Blake: I did. I went to the Nursing Department and, of course, I knew Ms. Dixon. I believe she was here then. JP/

Mims: Yes, uh huh.

Blake: And...to find out...and somebody else was here I knew too, but I can't remember their name. You have to forgive me; I'm getting older and I...

Mims: Mary Alice Whitfield.

Blake: Right, right. And ah, I ah, asked them what could I...what subjects could I be taking, you know, that would help me in the nursing program...so they told me and I, you know, I would do like two at the time. This was in eighty-one, eighty two, all those years...and then, I worked...I worked four years at Cape Fear Hospital just relieving the night nurse. So when we were not busy there, I'd be studying, you know, pre-calculus or whatever.

And, so...and then that all led up to when Dr. Rosenkoetter came in...ah...'84, I believe it was...she came here in 1984 and then I...I had not met her, and I was telling you the story...I was taking communications and we had to interview someone about something. And so I...I decided I would interview Dr. Rosenkoetter, you know, and she had my name, Marlene...you know...Rosenkoetter. And she was a three-year diploma nurse at the beginning.

Mims: We didn't know that.

Blake: She was. And ah...so I call her up on the phone, and ah...and, you know, tell her, I'm taking communications and I'm interested in the nursing program and so on and so forth and I wanted to interview her. She wanted to know what my topic was and I said, "Well, you know, what do I have to do...what subjects do I need to be taking now, you know, to enter the nursing program?" which I thought was a...

Mims: Legitimate...

Blake: ...pretty good thing to talk about...was what I really wanted to know. And she said, "I'll give you no such interview." And I was just...I couldn't believe she said that to me, you know, so I thought...I don't know if I want to go there or not! And she says, "You think of another topic and then call me"...so...see, she was making me think. So I thought a few days and I called her back, and I said, "I have another topic and it's -Why a BSN?" Well, she really liked that. That really...she was really happy with that. So I got to interview her. She was, you know, really nice and all, but she was really kind of tough, you know, she talked to us when we first came and to tell us how it was going to be and everything and I was absolutely horrified.

Mims: Even with all your experience...you still...?

Blake: And I will have to admit, I had a little resentment, I mean, here I was...I was an RN...everybody...all of us did, you know, it wasn't just me, it was all of us. We all talked about it, you know, and I couldn't understand why I had to come here and do all these different things, you know, after I had already...

Mims: Sure, I mean...

Blake: ...so, ah, and so I...I mu...I, you know, I let her know that a little bit. So, she started to work on me, really, I mean, and she would say, "Marlene, your program that you were in was a different program. This is a different program you're in now. This is an entirely different program." And see, I...I thought about that and I...and then...then I understood. I started understanding.

Mims: Explain it to us then.

Blake: Well, I start...it was...you know, um, I was trying to think that nursing was nursing, you know, and why...and I just couldn't understand what they were going to teach me that I didn't already know, you know. And ah, so...but after I got into the...it all...I could see, you know, what they were teaching me was entirely different...it was really valuable...

Mims: More up to date or...?

Blake: I ended up preaching it to everyone else after I finished.

Mims: Well, what was the difference? We read that, because of the changing in technology that an academic based curriculum was recommended vs. the hands on...

Blake: Well, you ended up with the nursing program you had a plan to work by, you know, you had a plan.

Mims: But still, you said, procedures were procedures...right? They didn't change, so when you had to do clinicals...right?

Blake: Well, you know, what I am seeing now is that...now that I'm of it...and take my family over to the hospital...and I'm watching, you know, the nurses and all, and everything...and they're not doing all this bedside nursing care or paying much attention to the patient, you know, they're walking in with the medicine and...see we were taught to bring the medicine in and watch the patient take the medicine...call their name, watch 'em take the medicine, give 'em...fix 'em their water...hand it to them...well they just wanna walk in and... "Here's your medicine," you know, and...

Mims: It's different. I mean, you're taught bedside nursing.

Blake: And, plus, you know, we would go around in the morning and give each patient...like a pan of water if they could do their own face before breakfast and all of that you know, and then we would go around at night and we rubbed everyone's back with alcohol, and you know...straighten up their bed linens and everything...see we were taught to do all of that. But now they, you know, they might...they pay some attention to you; I'm not saying they don't, but you don't get any hands on stuff much. They're so busy with all their...

Mims: Right...paperwork...

Blake: ...computers and...

Mims: Right. So...so the difference that you saw wasn't in procedures it was in planning...is that what you're saying? I'm still trying to see the difference between the three-year program and having to take a four-year program. I mean, what did you accomplish by doing the four-year program? What did it mean to you?

Blake: Well I...it's like I say, it's like a frame...a framework...a plan of, you know, how to look at what you're doing.

Mims: More analytical maybe?

Blake: Right, uh huh.

Mims: Cause you...you are also talking about a time when bedside nursing...the nurses responsibility was to the patients, but now it seems like nursing is more responsible...like nurses carry liability insurance because they may be the bottom line on...on some questionable situations. And nurses before...they would have never thought that the nurse would be at fault. They would have always have gone to the doctor. So that's what I'm trying to, you know...did you learn any more about that by taking on a different type of responsibility analyzing what the doctors are saying to you a little more?

Blake: Well, I, you know, I...I always covered myself...from day one. I mean, we got that in the three-year program. I...in your documentation, you know, and checking everything out before you do it, you know...and all of that. I...but...

Mims: When you got your degree, 1987, did you change jobs or anything?

Blake: Yes. I work...went to work for...I still wanted to work, you know, and that's when we moved...my husband is from Wilmington and we lived here, you know, most of our married life...but I was...when my parents died, they left me some property and all and that's when we moved back to Pender County. My husband became sick, he had...he was on dialysis and had a kidney transplant...and he doesn't see well, and all that, you know. So we moved back to my home...original home place and so I wanted...I kept working because I wanted to keep my health insurance.

Mims: Sure. So who did you...who did you go to work for?

Blake: Pender County Home Health. Pender County Home Health...I worked for...and I enjoyed it so much.

Mims: This was making visits out to patient's homes, right?

Blake: And this is...I don't know how to tell you how my four year program...how valuable it was to me. I wish I could find the words. Maybe they'll come. But in that...making those visits and communicating with the patients and all, you know, you...you just...ah, I...it was ah...you looked at it in a different way than I did as a three year. I don't know how to explain that to you.

Mims: It broadened your perspective.

Blake: And um...but I did ah...had my own territory for about five years. And ah...workload of patients and ah...I did that...then I came into the office and I did do quality assurance, the...

Mims: And now you're retired.

Blake: And now I'm retired.

Mims: Are you still active with the alumni association?

Blake: Uh, no, I'm ashamed to say I'm not.

Mims: Are you going to come to their homecoming?

Blake: I'll know when we have the homecoming though. I...I ah...I put all that aside when my husband was on dialysis and it...it seemed like I had to take him...bring him to dialysis...I was bringing him to Wilmington. And they'd be having it...they'd have it like early in the morning, or sometime when I couldn't be there, you know, they'd...have it when I could go. I went for all the years up until...I'll say about '96 when my husband...when all that happened to him. But, I...

Mims: How about an alumni situation through UNCW, do you participate...?

Blake: I did...ah...when I started out in the honors...I was secretary of that at first and...but I...after they inducted us into, you know...I never did come back anymore...I was older than everybody else and...in my class see, so it was kinda awkward.

Mims: We call it non-traditional.

Blake: ...it was quite an experience being in the class with young people who had just graduated from the two year program just a few years before then and remembered everything...but see I...everything I had was old and I had not worked on the hall and they wanted me to work on the...you know, and I was having a little trouble with it...so I complained about it...to do my leadership practicum, you know... "Could I please work in the area where I usually worked to do that?" you know, and so Dr. Rosenkoetter allowed me to do that and so that worked out okay. But they were taking us like to nursing homes and a Hoyer lift...I had...I didn't even know what that was. You know, cause I hadn't been working there.

Mims: It wasn't something you were familiar with anyway.

Blake: Right, uh huh. And...

Mims: Did you find yourself as a teacher...?

Blake: But it was interesting...

Mims: ...with these younger girls or did...?

Blake: Oh I loved the teaching part.

Mims: Well, you'd be out and you'd be like, "well I know how to do this".

Blake: Well they kinda held me at a distance, you know, like I was sorta...I was supposed to know everything, you know. There were other RNs there too; you know...from the two-year program, I was the only three-year program.

Mims: I would think that it would be easier to convert your three-year into a four-year degree than a two-year into the four-year, but it sounds like it was just the same.

Blake: I believe it was easier for the two year...

Mims: I do too!

Blake: ...because they had just recently...

Parnell: They had taken more academic courses.

Mims: Right...than the three year that was strictly, you know...very light, because...

Blake: See, it had been...it had been thirty years...I mean I walked in cold turkey to take the pre-existing exam to get into the nursing program here. I was absolutely horrified. I...studied...I did not even study anything. I just walked in. And...so...

Mims: I think you're very brave for doing that!

Blake: On the...on the curve, you know...of course on my OB part, I was ninety-five...I was ninety-five on that! And then on the...I think it was on...Pediatrics...it came on the other side, just a little bit, you know. And ah...and ah...so, that kinda upset me, you know, you know, to...but...just walking in and not even studying or anything I...

Mims: Did really well obviously!

Vance: Very impressive!

Blake: And, then the first...before they were gonna...they didn't want us to take any classes...let's see, am I telling the truth now? Before the generic students...see we were to begin together. But anyway, it was during summer school, I believe, I was going to take the Physical Assessment class and they didn't want me to take that until I took Anatomy and Physiology over again, you know. And they were not gonna wave it for me, you know, or anything.

And so, I...I told 'em, I wanted to take Anatomy and Physiology...I really did. Cause I wanted to...I wanted to learn something and so I took the Microbi...I took the Microbiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry 101 and 102...I mean Anatomy and Physiology 101 and 102, and Sociology of the Family, I believe. I took all of that over for this program. And...but I talked then...Dr. Gray...he was really great.

I had a problem...the instructions they gave, you know, I couldn't understand the instructions sometimes and I had to go to Dr. Gr...I'd go to Dr. Gray and he would...he wouldn't really tell me, you know, he was...but when he finished, I figured it out myself.

Mims: Did you have a uniform, a student uniform at UNCW?

Blake: Ah, let's see...what...we had a...we didn't have...wear a uniform. I didn't wear a uniform...ah...what did we wear?...we had an armband.

Mims: Had an armband? And just like a white outfit, or...?

Blake: Um, I'm trying to remember. We might of...I don't...I really...I don't even know.

Mims: How about a nurse's hat. When you graduated did you get a hat from them or did they have a separate capping ceremony?

Blake: From UNCW here? Oh no, the caps were...oh that was terrible...it was terrible to have...for nurses to wear caps when I came here.

Mims: Really?

Blake: I wanted to tell you about my physical...that course I was going to take during summer school...didn't want me to take until I had Anatomy and Physiology. I...so I talked to Dr. Gray about it, you know, it was going to put me behind...to have to do that. I said, "Well, just let me take it and see how I do, you know, see how I do. And...because I...because I'm tell you, I will go ahead and take it anyway, you know, but just please let me take it and just see how I do." So I took...you know I really worked hard on that...I was determined I was going to show them, you know. So guess what? I made the highest...(laughing)

Parnell: I knew that.

Blake: I was really proud of that.

Mims: Did you work and go to school at the same time?

Blake: Um...I worked...I did, some of the time...I worked those four years over at Cape Fear relieving the night duty nurse. That was two nights a week and three nights sometimes.

Parnell: This tape is winding down...

Mims: Well, I think we're about through then.

Parnell: I do want to get the pin and get her cape too, so I'm going to take it off and see if...

Blake: I realize how valuable the four-year program is, you know, I was...

Mims: That's really good because...

Blake: ...and I won't ever forget it as long as I live and I've used...what I've learned I can just use in everyday life.

Mims: Sure.

Blake: That's what I mean about looking at a plan...a way to look at things...a philosophy I guess.

Mims: Well, I think you're incredible to go through all this.

Parnell: That's the James Walker cape with the initials on the side...

Mims: And the beautiful red lining...and pockets in there...

Parnell: And pockets...little pockets in there...now one more time let's see if we can get your pin in the better light.

Mims: It's the light...

Parnell: Yea, the light doesn't shine there...it's just not very good.

Blake: And I had one class...I mean, after the...the ah...

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