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Interview with Carole Stevens Dusenbury, April 22, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Carole Stevens Dusenbury, April 22, 2004
Date:
April 22, 2004
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Dusenbury, Carole Stevens Interviewer:  Mims, Luann Date of Interview:  4/22/2004 Series:  SENC Health Services Length:  60 minutes

 

Mims: LuAnn Mims for the Randall Library Special Collections, Series on Health Services of Southeastern North Carolina.

Today we are talking to Carole Stevens Dusenbury and she was a student at James Walker School of Nursing and we will be talking to her about her experience.

Ms. Dusenbury can you give me a little bit about your background, where you’re from, and what your family was doing?

Dusenbury: I’m from Tabor City which is pretty close by. We visited Wilmington all my life and so I was familiar with the area. I always knew that I’d be a nurse from a very, very young age and that was just the goal that was out there and I was going to do it hook or crook, but I did win a scholarship from Columbus County Medical Society, it was a small one, but it helped. And, I had known about James Walker forever so I never even considered going anywhere else.

Mims: In Tabor City, what high school did you attend?

Dusenbury: Tabor City High School. It’s a small place about sixty miles from here.

Mims: What kind of work did your father do?

Dusenbury: He was a barber, and my mother was a homemaker, so you know, I grew up very poor and that scholarship was very important.

Mims: Was that to attend after high school?

Dusenbury: It was given by the medical society, so it was for nurses and it was just an amount of money, a one shot deal.

Mims: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

Dusenbury: Yea, I’m the fifth out of six, but actually I’m the first to go beyond high school for education. But like I said, I was determined.

Mims: What do you think in your childhood lead you to know that you were always going to be a nurse?

Dusenbury: I have no idea. It was, I mean, like first grade. It was just set. It was just there.

Mims: And you always just knew that James Walker School of Nursing was in Wilmington, or…?

Dusenbury: No, I didn’t really know that way back then, but I knew when there was an illness in my family, we would come here seeking medical attention. You know, surgeons, and pediatricians. My little sister had a tonsillectomy here and that was the Crouch clinic, which was over near the hospital a long, long time ago. So…, and I didn’t really know about the school of nursing until I was, you know, a teenager.

Mims: Was anybody at your high school pointing you in that direction?

Dusenbury: No, I just pointed myself. It was, like I said, a goal.

Mims: What do you remember about the application process to get in to this school?

Dusenbury: I came and took a pre-entrance exam over at the old Wilmington College on Market Street, long….it was March the ninth, I remember that. I was scared I wouldn’t make, but…and I met a couple of girls from…I think we toured that day, the school, the nurses residence, and all that, a long time ago.

Mims: What year was that?

Dusenbury: Well, I entered in fifty-seven. Fifty-seven to sixty, so that had to be like a year before. Or maybe it was that March, I’m not sure.

Mims: So, you took the entrance exam, and then they came back and told you whether you were accepted or not?

Dusenbury: I suppose, like I said, that was a long time ago.

Mims: Now, one of the ideas about accepting coming to James Walker was that you would have to live on campus in a nursing residence. How did you feel about that?

Dusenbury: Oh, that was exciting, that was exciting, it was a little strange that the bathroom was down the hall, though, but we had…it was like a family. I still refer to the girls in my class as my nurse sisters and they are.

Mims: Now, you didn’t have to share a room with anyone did you?

Dusenbury: No, we didn’t. Some places might, but ours were all individual rooms, but like I said, the showers and the bathrooms were down the hall. We had a house-mother that made sure we were all in a ten o’clock and made sure our rooms were neat, which wasn’t always true.

Mims: Is this the one that gave out the demerits?

Dusenbury: She could. She could, but we had several, you know, to cover each shift.

Mims: You also had to have a uniform. What do you remember about your uniform?

Dusenbury: I still have it.

Mims: Where did you get it from?

Dusenbury: Well, they measured you. They measured every part of you and then they ordered them up, and they were blue and white striped dresses with a white cuff that you added to, because it was starched very stiff, and a white collar. And then the apron that went over and crossed in the back and you always tucked your scissors in the back in the waist. And we had a name we had to wear. We had to wear hose and shoes.

Mims: What color?

Dusenbury: White hose, white shoes. And then in the winter we had a cape, a wool cape. I still have that.

Mims: What color was that?

Dusenbury: Navy with a red lining. And, of course you had a cap that varied a little with each class. I think initially it was just plain and then it had a narrow band of black ribbon, and then a wider one. And then when we graduated it was a different, an entirely different, sort of a linen, thin…., you had to starch it really stiff.

Mims: Now when you started out you didn’t wear a cap, though, right?

Dusenbury: Well, not the very first…well, initially we started in, like a lab coat. And we’d go…when we first went into the hospital to look around. So, each thing was added as we went along.

Mims: What did you feel whenever they said it was ‘capping day’?

Dusenbury: Oh!…it was wonderful! It was just part of that goal, I was so proud! Everybody was, and it was just like a big happy family and that we were having a special event. And, it was exciting!

Mims: Did somebody just literally pass out the hats in a ceremonial thing, or how was that…?

Dusenbury: It was in a church downtown, I’m not sure which one, I thought I’d….I have some old newspaper clippings somewhere, but I’m not sure just which one it was. It was a ceremony and we got our little Florence Nightingale lamp and I think I still have that.

Mims: So after you received your hat in a ceremony and you had these little Florence Nightingale lamps….?

Dusenbury: Um hum.

Mims: So you got the hat and the lamp?

Dusenbury: Um hum.

Mims: Were the other nurses in the other classes involved with this process at all….or?

Dusenbury: I think it was mostly faculty and our instructors, and I don’t know, maybe there was a doctor or two there. That was a long time ago!

Mims: And then, I know, the next big thing you got was a more formal uniform, or was it your pin, or did that all happen at the end there?

Dusenbury: I’m not really sure which came first, like I said, it was a long time ago we did all that, but…

Mims: But at graduation, you wore a different uniform?

Dusenbury: Yes, we had just a white uniform and the different cap. And, that was basically the difference.

Mims: But that was the first time you wore all white.

Dusenbury: Right. We wore the blue striped dress…chambray…kind of a…

Mims: That was your working kind of uniform.

Dusenbury: Yea, um hum.

Mims: And then you received your pin at graduation?

Dusenbury: I think so…right…still have that!

Mims: Back to living at the residence. Whenever you would go out on a date or any social activity, what was the process to be able to go out? Where there time constraints or did you have to check in and out with somebody?

Dusenbury: Oh, yes! We had to be in at ten PM if we went out during the week. I think it was one midnight a week, and of course, at that time we were permitted to marry. Our class was the first one. And I did marry and my husband lived in Kinston…which wasn’t a very good situation and you know that I had to be dedicated to my goal to proceed with it when I much preferred to be with him. But, as my mother said, there’s time for everything. And that’s what I did. And real often he would come down on weekends and I’d be working three-to-eleven and I would have from eleven to twelve to see him because I had to spend the night in the nurses residence. So…we had been married a year and the most we had been together consecutively was four days.

Mims: So it was not…it was allowed but it wasn’t set up where it was going to be easy for people to do this?

Dusenbury: Well, they had the rules and the rules were, you know, you had to be in the nurse’s residence. And, so we went by the rules. That was just the way it was.

Mims: Why didn’t you wait to get married? Why did you get married….

Dusenbury: I don’t know! It would have been simpler. It would have been better for everybody, but I don’t know, how do you talk to a twenty year old? How do you tell them what’s right? They’re smarter, you know, than you are.

Mims: How did you meet your husband?

Dusenbury: In the hospital. In James Walker Hospital. His mother was…well no…his next door neighbor was a private duty nurse and so she came up one night and was telling me about this wonderful neighbor she had and, you know, she wanted to find a date for him…and I said, “okay, when I go to dinner I’ll see if I can find him one.” So, I went to supper, that’s what it was, cause it was in the evening…and everybody that I ran into was either engaged or busy that evening. And I was trying to tell them about this man that was so wonderful. He was an NC State graduate, and his name was something unusual like blueberry or huckleberry, I couldn’t remember, but anyway everybody was busy. So, I went back to Mrs. Twining and I told her I couldn’t find a date for him because everybody was busy, but if I was free I’d go out with him. So, she evidently told him that. He came up, I think it was that very evening, and I met him there in the hospital. And we had a date for the next weekend. And it was just a few months until we were engaged…and then married. And it’s now forty-five years we’re married.

Mims: Well, something must have worked!

Dusenbury: And I often think…if I’d gone to school in Raleigh or Fayetteville, I would have never met him and then I wouldn’t have the great guy that he is.

Mims: Whenever they said that the students could get married, that was to prevent this secret marriage that was going on?

Dusenbury: Well, I assume so, at that time it didn’t even mean anything to me because you now, I didn’t have a beau at that point. It was, I guess it was just something that evolved from secret marriages that had taken place in the past.

Mims: Were you aware of any when you were a student nurse…any secret marriages?

Dusenbury: No, because that was all prior to me and because when I came, then you could marry…and not everybody…it was just a few that did.

Mims: But you were one of the ones that did. Let’s go back to your nurses training. What do you remember about James Walker Hospital itself? I understand you had to do a rotation through different sections of the hospital. Can you kind of give us an overview?

Dusenbury: Well, each year you had an area. You know, everybody got to go to obstetrics, and then the nursery, and then the milk lab…way back then we mixed formula. There was a preemie nursery…was a brief stint. Then we had emergency, we had medical floors, heart patients. We had surgery, we had the operating room, the recovery room. We had to sterilize packs, so we worked in central supply. It was just…we went eventually through all that…and we did psychiatry off campus at Dorothy Dix in Raleigh. So it was just to make sure you went through each…pediatrics…I missed that. That was fun. I loved pediatrics. Just to get you exposed to everything.

Mims: So you said you like pediatrics the best, you think?

Dusenbury: Well, actually I believe that I liked…well obstetrics was always mostly a happy place. You know, you didn’t have death or serious terminal long stuff. It was a happy occasion. So, obstetrics would be my favorite. And then I loved emergency, because it was exciting and you never knew what was coming in. It kept you on your toes but, oh I wanted to be in the middle of whatever was going on…it didn’t matter.

Mims: Can you remember any of the other nurses that you worked with, or other doctors in any of these areas?

Dusenbury: Well, yes, you always had your favorite nurses and doctors and in each service, you know, whether it was psychiatry or surgery, with ah…of course Dr. Bertram Williams is one of my very favorite.

Mims: What was his specialty?

Dusenbury: Surgery. He’s a general surgeon and I always felt like anything that came up in my life with my family, he could take care of it. And anytime I called him, he’d say “come on down, I’ll be waiting.” Whether it was a Saturday or not…and he really is very special, very talented, and a caring physician.

Mims: Did you meet him when you did your surgical rotation?

Dusenbury: Well, I knew him from way back, because my family was…everybody in may family had seen him, because…you know, for various surgical problems...big or small. We always came to Wilmington to Dr. Williams.

Mims: I was just wondering how the relationship worked whenever you had to do your surgical rotation, because I’ve heard other nurses say that was a very high stress situation to be in the operating room with these doctors.

Dusenbury: It was wonderful, it was magic. Because, for instance, a heart patient, way back then we put them to bed and let them rest forever. But surgery, you could go to surgery one day and in two or three days you were up and about and you were out and back to work. Even back then it was quick. It was fast. And the patient got better quickly. So that’s what I liked the most. I didn’t like the long drawn out stuff.

Mims: So what would you say was your least favorite area?

Dusenbury: Oh goodness. I guess maybe that recovery room…because the people were asleep. See, I didn’t get to talk with them, or visit, or get to know them. That was kind of the most boring I guess. I wasn’t wild about psychiatry either.

Mims: Now, you said you had to go to Dorothy Dix?

Dusenbury: Um hum…three months…we went there and we had continuous care assignment…which was like people had been there for thirty, forty years. Then we had admissions, which was people who just arrived. And then we had occupational therapy where we taught them some crafts, weaved baskets, all that. And then we had recreational therapy where we’d take them on bus trips and sing or, you know, just interact with them. And even though it was not my cup of tea, it did go fast. Three months went by in a breeze.

Mims: Where did you stay?

Dusenbury: They had a nurse’s residence there. It was the same sort of set up that…and, you know, we lived there, and we ate in the cafeteria, and we’d go to work, and we had this big string of keys that we could open all the doors…and they did have a criminal section in there, but we weren’t allowed in that…but we could see the building out behind the other.

Mims: Did you ever feel scared at all?

Dusenbury: No, I guess maybe my youth, and really when we worked until eleven or midnight, we’d have to walk maybe two or three blocks to the nurse’s residence. But, I wasn’t afraid, there was usually other people with you. And, just youth, you know, you just don’t worry about that kind of stuff.

Mims: But I know that they also have like a contagious ward at James Walker Hospital. Was that still functioning when you were there?

Dusenbury: That was prior to me. I don’t…now, occasionally we would have an isolation where you’d have to scrub, and gown, and mask, and all that but that was rare for my era.

Mims: ‘Cause luckily you were involved with…there was a lot of immunizations going on that prevented…like the pediatric ward…do you remember what those cases were generally?

Dusenbury: I remember a lot of the croup tents, breathing problems, respiratory. I think maybe a couple of little patients that had cancer that were terminal. But that was mostly a happy place too and I liked that.

Mims: Now, I understand that James Walker kept their colored annex up until the time that New Hanover opened. Do you remember anything about that?

Dusenbury: Um hum…well…it was just like it’s own little individual hospital…because it contained all the things I just mentioned…pediatrics, obstetrics, surgery, it was just a miniature hospital, because you had everything contained there in that one wing. And it was just a really busy, hectic place, I remember that. Because, you know, you just had everything coming all the time, and it was later in the rotation, because, see, we’d been through all of these specialties to know how to deal with that, because it was like, we had everything there.

Mims: There was a black hospital…Community Hospital functioning at the same time. Do you have any memories of that?

Dusenbury: No, I just know about where it was. I never went there. So I never entered it and I don’t know…just…that’s all.

Mims: Just trying to figure out…African American community…they had their own hospital, yet they would still come over to the segregated James Walker Hospital. Trying to figure out, you know, were there more amenities offered to them at this place…or…?

Dusenbury: See, I don’t know, cause I never went to the Community Hospital. I just have no idea. Maybe people prior to me might know that.

Mims: Do you remember if that was staffed by whites or did they…

Dusenbury: No, it was blacks. Black nurses, but very efficient. And some of them were there forever, and ever, and ever. I mean long-term employees. Of course we had the orderlies that would help lift and help bathe and really just do anything. I had a very special friend in the emergency room and he was a black guy and I followed him for years. He was just so kind and courteous and helpful. He really was a nice fellow.

Mims: Did he come over to the white section at all?

Dusenbury: Yea, cause that was the regular emergency room, the big emergency room. I think he is deceased now, but he was a very nice man.

Mims: So there were some interaction with the staffing with blacks, you know, being allowed in the white section then.

Dusenbury: Yea, I think most of the orderlies were…throughout the hospital, I don’t quite understand that, but as I think back, that’s the way it was.

Mims: But, for say…as far as you can remember, you can’t think of a black nurse being placed on a white ward.

Dusenbury: No. Not that I remember at all. Now, in dietary, you know, we had them serving the food… the meals. They would come out with the carts and some black ladies worked there, black and white ladies.

Mims: So you guys didn’t have to serve the food?

Dusenbury: Well, no, not usually. We would help patients that couldn’t feed themselves. But these people would come and bring the food to the room…you know, three times a day. We would make sure they could eat, you know, by cutting the food for them, or by actually feeding them.

Mims: Well, I know that there is a time that nurses did no IV therapy. Were you trained with IV’s?

Dusenbury: Yes. We did it then. Now they have an IV team or in recent years…and I was really afraid to try that to begin with, but, hey, got quite good, and it was fun. It really was, and you were helping with fluids and drawing blood and all that.

Mims: Did that come early in your training or later on?

Dusenbury: Oh my goodness, I would say probably middle. I really am not sure.

Mims: Because I have had some nurses talking that prior to a certain date only doctors did IVs.

Dusenbury: Well, that was before me…I know that when we were beginning, if we couldn’t get the vessel and there happened to be a doctor close by, we would get him to help us as we had just started that.

Mims: I’m trying to think what else about your training…you mentioned that you tucked your scissors in the back of your uniform, why was that?

Dusenbury: Well at the back belt you had two buttons and it just, the scissors just fit in there…and a good nurse always has her scissors. That was something they said from day one. And you do need them a lot, you need them often. And back then we didn’t have prepackaged all this bandage stuff, we had to make bandages…I mean, cut the gauze and tape, and all that…so we needed them. And well you just needed scissors for a lot of things.

Mims: What else as a student nurse did you have to carry around with you?

Dusenbury: Well, that was basically it…your pencils, your pens, and of course we had the charts at the desk and anything we needed there for that. We wrote it all out, of course, no computers. And, you know, made notes about the patients every hour or two, you know, if they were doing well or not, or improving, or going downhill. It was fun.

Mims: Did you have to take care of the patient’s vital signs, or did…

Dusenbury: Oh yea. The nurse’s aides, back then, basically just kind of made up beds sometimes, but we did the care, we did the treatments. If they needed a soak…a foot soaked or a compress on the eye, anything, we did the vitals and we did the treatments. That’s what we called the treatments. We did the baths and we did the beds. We would be assigned each morning to say, four or five patients…and we did…total patient care is what we called it. We gave them mouthwash for their mouth…we combed their hair…we just did everything. Now the nurse’s aides do all that basically.

Mims: I was trying to figure out, like I know, you’d have to take the patients temperature. Did they each have their own thermometer or did you have one…

Dusenbury: No, we had a glass dish that had like twenty or thirty in there…sterilizing in the alcohol…and we would rinse it…and we would pass them out…pass out the whole end of the floor, the rooms, and then we’d go back and take them out and check them, and then we’d put them in a different…to be soaked and sterilized. And we did blood pressures and pulse and, you know, if you had a limb that was swollen, you’d check to see how bad, how much improvement. You just did an overall evaluation of each patient, particularly at each shift change. And then you made notes during the shift as to how they were. And then you reported to the next shift coming on, what was going on. And we had to count drugs back then. And we’d have the narcotics locked and each little pill bottle we’d have to count, and you had to document that. Like if we had twelve…oh if one was missing it was like the world was coming to an end. You accounted for everything, but the narcotics I’m talking about…not the aspirin.

Mims: Were they locked up on the ward?

Dusenbury: Yes, and if you needed one…like if somebody was in pain and needed Morphine or something…you’d have to get the key to get in the cabinet and then you’d have to sign out for it and account for everything.

Mims: Was there a hospital pharmacy?

Dusenbury: Oh yes. Down in the basement…and if we needed something fast, we ran. We went to get it. We didn’t wait for somebody to bring it or to deliver it. We would go quickly to get it…or fluids…IVs.

Mims: Well, like the request for items like that, how was that done, all paper…or did you have somebody that would come and pick up your orders and take them…

Dusenbury: On no. We did all the running everywhere for whatever we needed. I think there was some form, but we would just take that and they would fill it and we’d run back with it. If we…we would do that for central supply or anything…if we needed a pack…they were going to do a drainage or something on a cyst…and we would run and get it. We just didn’t wait around for somebody to bring it…because the doctor is there and he wants it now. We did a lot of running.

Mims: And you probably didn’t use a lot of latex gloves back then did you?

Dusenbury: No, not like today. I mean, when in surgery, or when you’re doing a dirty procedure, but no it was rare. We did a lot of hand washing, but it was a different era.

Mims: I understand that doctors would sometimes be the teachers at the school. Can you remember any of them that…

Dusenbury: Oh this is fun. I remember Dr. Crouch teaching obstetrics I guess…and he was talking about breast feeding…and it was kind of a boring class and we were just following in the book as he read it, you know, and it was really dull, and he was going on and he was giving the advantages of breast feeding. You know, the right temperature, readily available, and listing all these things…and then he added…he got our attention when he added that… “it comes in really cute containers.” Well, that just broke up the class, you know. So, I guess that maybe he was checking to see if we were paying attention. But that just sticks in my mind, I remember it like yesterday…oh it was so funny.

Mims: Well, that’s interesting that they were promoting breast feeding back then, cause you just said that you did a lot of formula mixing in the milk lab.

Dusenbury: Um hum.

Mims: So how did that work?

Dusenbury: Well, he was just presenting that obstetrics class and it happened to be on breast feeding. I don’t know, it was probably fifty-fifty, breast vs. bottle, but that just happened to be the class he was teaching that day, but it was so funny.

Mims: That’s interesting.

Dusenbury: Cute containers.

Mims: How about some of the others, like Dr. Sidbury, was he still around?

Dusenbury: He was, but I never knew him, because he was down at Babies Hospital. I heard his name very often but I…about the only thing I knew the connection from James Walker to there was if we had a baby that had to have a blood transfusion due to the Rh factor, they would take that baby down there and they would do it there but I was not involved with that…so I don’t know.

Mims: Let’s see, how about…Dr. Fales was around for a very long time.

Dusenbury: A doll, he was precious. He was great. He always had time for you and to answer any question. He was kind of a big grumpy fellow but he was really just a pussy cat. He was fun.

Mims: I didn’t know whether he ever shared stories about how things had changed from his day to where you were.

Dusenbury: No…well not when I was a student…but then in later years I heard many of his stories and he would come to the alumni sometime and tell us things and bring his books. He kind of kept up with us.

Mims: Just trying to figure out…as a young nurse with all this responsibility if you were constantly being told by some of these older people…you know, “well in my day we did it…”. So I was just trying to follow that thread.

Dusenbury: Not so much because we were so busy, we didn’t have time for a lot of conversation. You know, we’d go to class in the morning, we’d work in the hospital in the afternoon, and then as we had less class and more hospital, there just wasn’t a lot of staff to do the work and you were just busy…running all day long to get everything done. So there wasn’t that much comparison at that time. And then in later years as we get together as a group, there’s a lot of talking about what we used to do. And, you now, we used to wear black stockings and we wore white stockings, and so it’s just the changes.

Mims: And the changes in medication too…were they still using the drop ether on their surgical patients?

Dusenbury: Aaaah, gosh, now Lil can tell you that.

Mims: Yea.

Dusenbury: I was busy in surgery with the set-up of the instruments and getting everything ready for the doctor and the patient, and all that, so I don’t really know about the anesthesia.

Mims: Um hum. But I know other medication changes as well…didn’t know whether introducing, you know, a new medicine to the hospital…you had to deal with one of the older doctors or something, that… “no,” he wouldn’t do that…or…

Dusenbury: Ah, no, I wasn’t exposed to any of that.

Mims: This is interesting, you know, that as such a young girl you were placed with a lot of responsibility on you. And looking back, how do you feel about that?

Dusenbury: Well, um, it wasn’t that way. I mean the first time we went in the hospital, we were permitted to fold linen. I mean, we started at the very bottom. We always had an instructor or head nurse with us. I mean, we didn’t just go into medicines…it was a gradual, very slow process. We would learn one thing and we would go and do that. I mean, initially, like I said, folding linen…then we learned how to make a bed, an empty bed. Then we learned how to make the bed with the patient in it. Then we learned how to give a bath. So we would go into the hospital and do each individual thing as they stood there and watched. And when we did IV’s we first used oranges…giving shots. Then we would use each other. And then, we would be permitted to use, you know, go to a patient. But, never without the instructor there. And then as you got better, and as time went on, then you were more on your own. And there was responsibility but we were not left unattended at all. And if we made a mistake, oh, we had to write it up. We had to have a little talk with the director. We might be on probation or something…and some people were sent home for various things. But, it…you know, like low grades or…I can’t remember. Only a few went home. But we were very well tended by instructors.

Mims: So you had some…built up a relationship with these instructors and supervisors. Who were some of the people you can remember?

Dusenbury: Ah, Ms. Rountree, Barbara Rountree. Ms. Greer, she moved to Florida with the Coastline. Ms. Jenkins. Ms. Passo, and they were all very dear, and they were always there. I mean, it wasn’t a matter of calling somebody, they watched you. I don’t think they had malpractice back then, so they made really sure that you knew what was going on.

Mims: Well, as I look through some of the annuals that were put out, I noticed that the majority of these nursing supervisors retained their Miss status and I’ve heard specifically about one little lady, Miss Beattie…

Dusenbury: Miss Britt.

Mims: Yea, Beattie Britt. What do you remember about her?

Dusenbury: Oh, she was a little short thing. She wore these starched uniforms and she…her shoes had little heels on them, where ours were flat. She was…um…she was married to nursing, so to speak. She was a spinster, and that was her whole life. In fact, I think she lived in the nurse’s residence, which was basically for students, but there was a few others. And, she was very private as far as I knew her. I didn’t know her well. And she lived a long time. She ended up at a lot of the alumni meetings that we had locally before she died.

Mims: So she was an alumni?

Dusenbury: Yes! Yes she was.

Mims: I wondered about that, if people who went on in their career, that they stayed at James Walker and went to start teaching. Do you recall any…

Dusenbury: Um…I don’t think any of my instructors were from James Walker. They were like from Charlotte or, I mean, you think back then, every school of nursing had their different cap and that was, you know, a dead giveaway. Nobody that was an instructor had the James Walker caps and they were all from other cities. I guess they just happened to be here with their families and that was their job.

Mims: Now, after graduation, here you are married. What did you end up doing?

Dusenbury: Well, I went to live with my husband because it had been a year and a half and I just wanted to be a wife then. So I did, I stayed home and was a wife and a mother and did not work…only did a couple of private duties, three to eleven, and he said…my husband said, “I’m not going to baby sit.” So I stayed home nineteen years, and then I worked at Dupont, industrial nursing, for um, oh, about fifteen or sixteen years, and that was a wonderful job, because you’re dealing with well people. It’s a teaching thing…a lot of allergy shots…little incidents that happened…simple suturing. We had a whirlpool and weight room for people who were recovering from orthopedic problems. We could give out aspirin or something for allergies, just simple medicines. We did a lot of physicals. And in physicals we’d do spirometry and draw blood and do chest X-rays, audiometry, um…it was fun, it was really fun, and I still run into those people, you know, like in the mall or grocery store, and they’re good friends.

Mims: So you said that, earlier, that you liked having the change of pace. It sounded like that job was very suited for you, that it was different all the time.

Dusenbury: Well, there again, it was kind of like colored ward, you had everything there. It was like a miniature hospital at the Dupont plant…and it was a whole wing of the building…and we had a physician, we had a PA, we had a nurse for every shift and a then we had a day nurse. Of course, we did physicals like, depending on age, every year, every two years, every three years. And we did all these, like I said, chest X-ray, blood work, whatever. And then if somebody got sick, we would call into town and make an appointment with the doctor…cause we could get an appointment quicker than they could. And…um…it was just a fun thing.

Mims: How did you make that transition, you know, into that…did you have to learn a lot of , like, the OSHA regulations or…

Dusenbury: Oh yes, OSHA is number one with industry. Um…well my husband worked there and he was in for a physical, and they said they needed a part-time person…actually they called it a relief person, whenever someone’s sick or on vacation…or in a seminar or meeting…and would I be interested? Oh I was so excited I couldn’t sleep that night. I was just so…’cause I never had a real job…and I’d been at home and I was just so thrilled. Well, they didn’t call that day, I was so disappointed! They didn’t call the next day and I thought, “oh my gosh!” Well, when they did call, I went for an interview…I was so nervous, and I was so excited…and it was just fun. In fact, my husband said, “I think you would go if they didn’t even pay you”! And I said “probably”, but…

Mims: After your graduation, you did take the nurses test, right?

Dusenbury: The state board exam.

Mims: Right. So you had to keep that up over all these years?

Dusenbury: Well, um…yes, only in recent years did they require you to have additional classes or you gathered points from seminars, but for many, many, many years it was just a matter of renewal, just like a drivers license. But, anytime you went into a situation, you would be oriented to, like a piece of equipment, or a procedure, and even way back then, they would teach you what they felt like you needed to know. And, of course, like I said, we had a PA and a physician. That was during the day, and then at night there was a rescue squad and an ambulance, if there was an incident, you know, they could be moved to town to the hospital.

Mims: Can you think of anything that was…that stands out in your mind that…

Dusenbury: Well, see, we mentioned OSHA and Dupont had awards for being a very safe plant, so we never had anything major that I was exposed to or even on the plant. We rarely had anything happen. But we had to be ready just in case, and OSHA did come regularly and inspect on that. And the audiometry, the hearing, see that was a requirement. Everybody there had to have a hearing test every year for OSHA. That was one thing, and there were many other things…many, many rules.

Mims: A lot of records management too, right?

Dusenbury: Well, you had to document, document, document, you know, just in case.

Mims: So your training at Walker more than prepared you for this line of work?

Dusenbury: Yes, it did. It was fun.

Mims: What big changes did you notice when you came back into the field?

Dusenbury: Well, all the big changes have come since then. You know, like, all the equipment and CT’s and MRI’s and the heart surgeries, and the…oh, I couldn’t begin to walk into the hospital now, I’d feel very inadequate. But, I still miss it when I go to the hospital. You know, just kind of itchy to look around and see what’s happening now and compare from where I came up to what it is now, and it’s a vast difference.

Mims: Have you had an incident where you have been a patient and you were in contact with a nurse where you identified yourself as a former nurse?

Dusenbury: Well, I’m very healthy, and so I really have not. My husband had open-heart surgery three years ago and he said I was his nurse. But, yea, I do tell…I’m proud to tell people that I’m a nurse…and what really makes me ill, is they’ll say… “weren’t you a nurse?” I say, “I will always be a nurse!” I’m an old nurse, I’m an outdated nurse, but it’s like they say it in the past…but I am a nurse. I graduated from school, and I passed the state board, and I’m an RN, and I’m proud.

Mims: And you’re very active in the alumni association. Can you give me a little background on that?

Dusenbury: Well, I looked forward to the newsletters when I lived out of town. And then, when I came back, I immediately got involved and as our population grows older and more infirmed, and I’m one of the younger, I try to do all that I can to keep it going because some of these little ladies that are 80 and 90 years old, this is the highlight of their month…when they go to a meeting and get to see their friends. And there is always this reminiscing…always…no matter if it’s a monthly meeting or five year meeting. And I just want to keep it going and I arrange for the places that we meet and just kind of…I guess I’m the social chairman. I don’t know…I don’t have the title, it’s just fun.

Mims: So it’s like an informal organization. You guys don’t vote a president or any of this…

Dusenbury: Well, we used to years ago but the numbers became smaller and people… “oh I can’t do that” or “let somebody else do it.” It’s really a social club now. Occasionally, like when we went out the college and had that luncheon and people brought books and pictures and items from the past, but basically its just social now…and we do sit sometimes and talk about how things have changed and how far they’ve come and even, you know, the little ladies that are older than me, they really have stories to tell.

Mims: Can you remember any of those stories?

Dusenbury: Oh, not right off, I can’t. It’s just a fun group. Every, every lady is special.

Mims: But as it stands, you have like a monthly meeting, and then every five years you have homecoming.

Dusenbury: Right. Well, we don’t meet in the summer, but other than that we meet and just meet and eat, and we have…we donate to, like, Hospitality House and Habitat and like five or six at Christmas time…we make contributions to. We pay minimal dues each year and send poinsettias to the sick nurses at Christmas time. When we have this homecoming, if there is someone who financially can’t afford to come, then we sponsor them, but nobody ever knows it. And then a lot of people will send in extra money when they register, for someone who needs help.

Mims: It’s important as a group that you guys function like that because since James Walker has closed, and of course is totally gone now, you guys are like the last memory of this whole thing, or else it would just go by the wayside. I understand that you guys also donate to a scholarship.

Dusenbury: Oh, we do have a scholarship fund and, like when someone dies, contributions will be made in their memory and Lil interviews the people, and she and I talk about it, and decide on how much and how long and their grades have to come in each grading period for them to qualify for the next amount of money. Yea, that is very important, and that is very active even now.

Mims: Where do they usually attend? Locally, or…?

Dusenbury: Yes, I think they do. I think they could attend out of town, but usually most of it’s at Cape Fear and at the college, the university.

Mims: So you do maintain some contact with UNCW School of Nursing?

Dusenbury: Yea, we’ve had several meetings out there. We used to meet with Dr. Rosenkoetter, like once a year, twice a year, when we needed a place, you know, she’d say, “any time, just come on.” And one of our little ladies donated the funds for the lounge there in the School of Nursing. Miss Ezzell. She is one of the Misses. She lived past one hundred, never married, but worked for a long, long time.

Mims: One thing I didn’t ask you when we were talking about being on the floor…where there functioning LPNs at that time?

Dusenbury: Some, but I don’t remember many. I don’t remember very many, in fact, I don’t think I remember any. Of course we had no PAs or FNPs or any of that.

Mims: How about male nurses? Can you think…

Dusenbury: Never. I don’t remember one at all as a student. I think that must have come after me.

Mims: I was wondering when your first interaction with a male nurse would have been.

Dusenbury: Well, see I was home for nineteen years, so by the time I got back they were becoming popular. But I’ve never worked with any because at Dupont it was all women…women nurses…ladies.

Mims: So those are a couple of things that have changed, is the additional personnel on the floors themselves.

Dusenbury: Right. In fact, when I worked at Dupont, one of my instructors was one of my colleagues there, so that was neat. She had been an instructor and then nineteen years later, I’m working with her.

Mims: Who was that?

Dusenbury: Her name was Hilda Ingram. I think she was from Charlotte Memorial Hospital, as I remember her little cap.

Mims: When you went back to Dupont, what kind of uniform did you wear at that time?

Dusenbury: Just white. Actually I think we all wore dresses and hose and shoes.

Mims: How about your cap?

Dusenbury: No, nobody wore a cap. I don’t know…I don’t even know why we didn’t. I guess about then was when it was popular not to wear…and now I don’t think anyone wears one at all…except occasionally if you see one coming down the hall, it will be a James Walker, and that is proven at that hospital right now.

Mims: Interesting.

Dusenbury: To those people it was very important. Now Ms. Jeffords was supervisor and she was over at…ah she was head of the clinic or something over at New Hanover…and it was soon after I moved here and I came back. I told her I had misplaced my cap…and everybody around here knew Ms. Jeffords…she was down from Shallotte and she talked very southern. And I said, “Ms. Jeffords, I don’t have…I’ve lost my cap.” She says, “well honey, if you’ll come to my office, I’ll give you another one.” And I did, and she did. And she was a dear. I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned her before now, but she’s deceased now.

Mims: So it was very important to maintain that cap.

Dusenbury: Yes, yes ma’am, it certainly was. It was an honor. And you just walked around very proud with your cap.

Mims: It would be the first thing that identified you as a nurse.

Dusenbury: Yea. And the difference in the caps. Actually as…growing up as a child…I never realized that each school had one and that they were all different, but I just assumed it was a little handkerchief looking piece of starched linen, but they were all different.

Mims: Going into the future a little bit. How do you think the future of nursing will be?

Dusenbury: Oh my, who knows, at this stage…it’s wide open. I just think its amazing the equipment that they have to diagnose basically…and the blood work and the tests…the things they can find out about your body just with a couple drops of blood. And the surgery is just magic…I mean, my husband had four bypasses and was home the fourth day. I mean, I begged them to keep him…the fourth day! And now…that was three years ago…it might be even less time. That’s one thing that’s changed a lot. You don’t get to stay in the hospital long now. You are in and out. Used to if you had your gallbladder out, you were in for a week. Of course, now they do it laparoscopically and its an outpatient procedure. Even a hysterectomy can be outpatient. So things are quicker and faster…its amazing.

Mims: What advice would you give to a nurse coming in to the field of nursing?

Dusenbury: Ummm. Gosh.

Mims: What characteristics would they need or what would they need to set their goals for?

Dusenbury: Oh me, a lot of hard work…but that’s changed a lot too. They’re basically record keepers now and with serious procedures. Not like making beds and bathing people, now the nurse’s aides do all that. It’s much more serious. I’d have to think about it a long time now to go into it. I don’t know…I don’t know what I’d tell them.

Mims: Well if you were entering now, would you go into a specialty or would you stay just…

Dusenbury: Oh I’m so old now! I don’t know, I still like the happy parts. Like I said, obstetrics and pediatrics is happy. Industrial medicine is happy. I’m a happy person and I enjoy meeting and talking to people and, you know, I do not like feeding tubes, prolonging life, I’m very opposed to that. As a nurse I preserve life, but you have to have quality to the quantity or it’s not important at all. And, you know, to watch a person on a feeding tube, Alzheimer’s people, that’s just sad. I felt like my mother was trapped between life and death. I mean, you have to know that you’re alive. You have to be able to communicate to people or it’s not important. So I feel strongly about that. And people might think that’s strange since I am in the medical field, but that’s the way I feel. There’s a time to live and a time to die. Death is part of life.

Mims: Is there anything else that maybe we haven’t talked about…that you’d want to interject?

Dusenbury: Oh I can’t think of anything. I don’t think I have anymore secrets.

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

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