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Interview with Lillian Dixon Newton, January 30, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Lillian Dixon Newton, January 30, 2004
January 30, 2004
This video taped oral history with Mrs. Lillian Dixon Newton took place at her Wilmington home. This is the 2nd interview with Mrs. Newton focuses specifically on her nursing career. She was a 1946 graduate of James Walker School of Nursing. Soon after graduation she went on to train as a Nurse Anesthisist, one of the few so trained in the area. She became a loat at alll the local hospitals, James Walker, Community, Babies, Bullucks, Pender, Dosher, etc. She is currently the president of the JW Alumni Associaiton and has a large collection of artifacts form the school.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Newton, Lillian Dixon Interviewer: Mims, Luann / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 1/30/2004 Series: SENC Health Services Length 55 minutes

Mims: This is an oral history interview for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Special Collections at Randall Library. My name is LuAnn Mims, with me is Jerry Parnell.

Mims: Mrs. Newton, we've been talking about your nursing career and I want to get just a little more information about your time that you were a student nurse at James Walker Hospital. What year did you start out there?

Newton: 1943 in February, graduated in 1946.

Mims: The process of getting into the school, what was that like for you?

Newton: You filled out an application, you had to be 18 years old and have a few family references.

Mims: Was there any type testing that you had to take to see if nursing would be suited for you?

Newton: I don't think so. Were you willing to come and follow the rules and try to learn I think is what it was back in those days.

Mims: What were the rules like?

Newton: Well, you had to live in the nurses' home and the rules were for certain times to be in, your life was hardly your own. You worked eight hours plus your class time and that was usually four hours and, I think, I told you before that we worked the times that we were needed split shifts like 7 to 11 in the mornings and 7 to 11 in the night with the classes during the day. The doctors were our instructors and so when they could come to teach the various subjects so that's when we had our various classes.

That was back in the good old days when you had back rubs. You would go in the morning and give the bed baths and help them with breakfasts and then you would go off duty and come back at night and do the back rubs and put the people to bed. They were not up walking around as they are now. Most of the time after surgery you were in bed for 8 to 10 days, maybe a little longer than that.

Mims: So when you first got there, they gave you a uniform?

Newton: We were known as preclinical students. You had the blue and white chambray dress and over it you had a white apron and the whole collar and the white cuffs. It was short sleeves. That was your preclinical uniform. You went on all the floors. You had your supervisor there with you and I can remember the first patient I had to give a bath to. We had gone over the procedure how you were supposed to do this. The classrooms were in the basement of the nurse's home.

The first thing I walked in and said, "How are you and would you like to brush your teeth this morning?" and she said, "Oh Lord honey, I have false teeth." I was sort of taken aback. After all, I was only 18 and I thought- “ oh I started off wrong here.” But that's how we started off here with the patient.

At the end of six months if you had satisfactorily finished and accomplished what they wished for you to do during the preclinical period, you received a plain white cap. At the end of six months I was put on night duty, I think it was 40 patients and it was a men's ward. They had one orderly down there, but we had an excellent night supervisor and I think she stayed with me most of the time knowing that I didn't know how to do a whole lot.

Then at the end of the first year, you received your senior band was a narrow black velvet band which you put on your cap. That signified what you could do. As the doctors came up, we always made rounds with the doctors. I don't think they do that much anymore and as they came up they would see. They took such an active part in teaching us so you know they knew us quite well.

Then after the junior period of time, the last year you received the wide band to go on your cap and that designated a senior student. We always… as the doctors came up a staff nurse and we could tell by the cap whether they were graduate or a staff nurse, you always stood in a show of respect for them and you better not remain seated when a doctor came up because that showed a great disrespect.

Mims: Who were some of the early doctors that you remember at that time?

Newton: Dr. Jim Robertson, Dr. Charles Graham, Dr. David Murchison who was a medical doctor, Dr. McEachern, he always took great interest in the nurses, taught us a lot, Dr. Joe Hooper, his son later came as a urologist here, Dr. Anderson was the only eye doctor that we had at that time. Then there were medical doctors, Dr. Rodman I remember. He was a health department doctor as well as an internal medicine doctor. Later on Dr. G.R.C. Thompson came.

But mostly, Dr. George Johnston, he was OB/GYN and by the time you rotated through the surgery unit, you knew these doctors quite well because you had seen them on the floor with these patients. Dr. Mebane was one of the doctors that came, not only to Cape Fear but to James Walker.

Mims: Explain a little more in detail this rotation process.

Newton: As students?

Mims: Yes.

Newton: Okay, as a preclinical student, you gave the bed baths which you don't have to do very much anymore and did the back rubs, saw that the patients had water, but of course we had signs on the beds as to whether they were on a liquid diet or whether they were NPO which meant nothing by mouth. We had to be over in the mornings on time for the report and everybody went to the nurses' station and the night nurses reported to the day nurses about what the conditions of the patients they felt they were capable of taking care of.. This is at a preclinical level, what could you do at a junior level.

Mims: But your rotation like your first assignment was that like on a medical floor?

Newton: We didn't have so many…we didn't have medical floors, the medical and surgical floors were together. Back then I don't remember that we had the medical floors. The OB patients were in a place by themselves. Pediatric patients had their own ward and the women's ward, but medical and surgical patients were mixed in these wards. And see that was back in the days of the big open wards. The rates for the rooms were pretty expensive, something like $2 to $3 a day and I'm sure it's in some of this material that we have here.

Mims: Was your class all kept together?

Newton: Oh no, oh no, sometimes we would have classes from 11 to 12. We had a dietician that was there forever, Miss Boyd and she taught dietetics to us and whenever she was not busy, that's where we had it, maybe they would set that up for 2:00 and then sometimes we would have five to six classes, sometimes three to four, through the day. So other than work and go to class or to study hall. I believe on Wednesday night, we could stay out until 9:00. Other nights we had 7 to 9 study halls that meant you were in your room studying and you better not be out in the hall laughing because they did check to see if you were following the rules.

Across the street from the hospital there was a little hole in the wall, shop, Pappy Brown's Shop, they had candy bars and Coca-Colas, I don't remember if we had Pepsi's back in those days. We were allowed a few minutes to run over there and get a snack. We ate our meals at the hospital, we ate what was served.

Now during the war, we didn't have very much meat because Miss Boyd, the dietician, would say, "Well I ordered the meat, they didn't have it, it didn't come in" and that was back in the days before vegetarians. Most of the time people liked meat and potatoes back then, but we ate what was furnished us and that was it.

Mims: And meals were served three times a day?

Newton: Yes, we had the assembly in the morning at 6:00, it was kind of just a vesper service and we'd sing a song and as we came up the steps from the basement, first of all in the basement everybody was in a circle, the Director of Nursing was down there with you. Everybody had on the same kind of shoes with the same heel height. Your uniform as you were standing had to be the same level from the floor all the way around. As we went up the stairs, Miss Britt who was Director of Nursing would stand there and you had to have your scissors in your hand, your fountain pen, anyway whatever supplies you needed for that day.

They did have thermometers. We didn't have thermometers; I think later on each nurse had her own thermometer. If you didn't have these things with which you could be working, you were sent back upstairs to your room to get it. Then you went over to the kitchen and had your breakfast. There was no choice and then you were supposed to report to duty by 10 minutes of 7 and that's when you had to report from the night nurse as to the condition of what was expected and that sort of thing.

Mims: There was an emergency room department at the hospital?

Newton: There were two emergency rooms. The emergency room was right across, there was the colored emergency room and the white emergency room and they were right across the driveway from each other. Of course there was no air conditioner back in those days. You just put up the windows if you got a little bit wrong. You could look through the window and could see who was coming through the emergency room.

Did you know that the first hearse at James Walker Hospital was a horse drawn kind of a wagon? I had some information on that; I don't know where it is.

Mims: Hearse or ambulance?

Newton: The first ambulance was horse drawn and I guess so was the hearse I don't know. Anyway I had a letter and it might be in some of these things from Lossie Cotchett Lynch, I think was her name. She graduated in the 20's I think it was and she talked about, she said I predict that some day, I don't know how she worded it, but it was something about how computers would take over and you wouldn't have to do all this writing on the chart.

Mims: Charting I know takes up a big portion of nursing.

Newton: But they've gotten palm pilots now that they're trying with, with the students at UNCW. I went to the Nurse Advocate Board Meeting the other night and the students had the model that they use now to teach them. They had these palm pilots that they told us about and the fact that it had a little keyboard and they don't have to go to the nursing station now to see what the orders now. You can just pull it up wherever you are and they could enter whatever you are doing wherever you are.

Mims: But when you started, there was a lot of writing.

Newton: Oh yes, you had to write everything. And you had a temp book. There were two or three different ways they did things. They had a temperature book. One person was assigned to go around and take everybody's temperature and then you would put that in this little book you carried around with you. To clean the thermometers, you would put them in a glass of some kind of disinfectant; I don't remember what that was. Anyway it was kind of a pink solution.

Then you would put all of them in this little glass like this and as you were getting ready to put it in the patient's mouth, you would shake it down and you'd take an alcohol sponge and you'd wipe it off like this. I'm not sure it would be acceptable today. I think they have disposable thermometers. The way we did it for a while, you had a temperature nurse who would go, like anything, if the temperature was up, then you would report it to the charge nurse, what the degree was and follow up treatment.

Sometimes you needed to sponge these patients. We would put them in ice surroundings sometimes, alcohol back rubs, that was supposed to be very popular to bring down the temperature, cold cloth across their forehead, just many hands on things that now they give IV fluids and there are other ways that they reduce the temperature.

Mims: Did nurses do IVs then?

Newton: Oh no. Supervisors were the only ones that did the IVs. And of course you didn't, they would get the IV started, but you didn't have the fluid therapy that you have today. I can remember when we would take patients to the operating room and not give IV fluids. We would, on short procedures; we didn't have disposable tubing back in those days.

We had a central supply room where we had lay people who would sterilize the IV tubing and things. We had little pieces of rubber catheters that were about 6 or 8 inches long and we would put a little glass connector on the end and of course you had these horrible needles back in those days, these long needles, and you always got it in the bend of the arm. Now you can imagine how miserable that was because you were not allowed and finally somebody wised up that it would be pretty much to get down here in the wrist.

For a while the best place was on the back of the hand, but they found out there were many complications, that the skin on the back of the hand is very thin, especially as you get along in years. Many times on an older person, this vein would blow and the hand would be absolutely black and that would lead to circulatory problems. So at one point we decided that wasn't the way to go. And of course when the plastic catheters came in, we used to leave them in when they first came out for maybe a week, but now I think they change them every 24 to 48 hours.

Mims: While you were doing your rotation schedule, which department did you find an interest in?

Newton: Well, as you moved from one department to the other, first you started off in a general ward, like I told you I was in the men's ward. There were certain times set up for your OB rotation, for your pediatric rotation, operating room, dietary. As you're going through pediatrics, you would be studying in pediatrics and you would work with the supervisor that was her specialty. She would help you in patient care and at that time, you'd think, “Isn’t that wonderful, I'd love to be a pediatric nurse.”

As you were going through OB, that was kind of exciting. People didn't want their babies, they were glad to have it over with and all. Back when I did my OB rotation, they had big open wards for the mothers, like 30 patients in there and had bedpan hours. See they didn't get up and walk for 10 days after they had their babies. So you had to gear yourself to use the bedpan hours and of course the nurses on the floors used to take care of the babies in the nursery, that's a specialty now. You know the neonatal nursery is so popular nowadays. It certainly is a sample of very good care with the results that they get.

We go into the nursery and take care of the babies. Probably have one nurse in there to kind of look after the babies, but she couldn't take care of the complete number in there. Of course we didn't have medical and surgical. Our experience with the surgical patients on the floors was usually… that they were called as I told you before… ether patients and you would sit with them for hours and hours waiting on them.

I don't remember, it's so important now to get people moving after major surgery, I don't remember that we turned those patients too much. We might have just turned them on their side so if they threw up, we would put a towel around here so they wouldn't aspirate. I guess I knew very little because I don't remember anybody aspirating, but I'm sure that they did. You don't have to be half asleep to aspirate nowadays. I know a spinal patient, didn't give many spinals back in those days when I was a student nurse, but spinal patients sometimes will aspirate and that's a great problem for anybody. The acid gets into the lung.

Mims: So after you left nursing school, what did you do after graduation?

Newton: I worked in the operating room. I had made up my mind by that time I wanted to go into anesthesia. I had applied to several schools of anesthesia. The one I was accepted at was St. Joseph School of Anesthesiology in Joliet. Illinois. That was a Catholic hospital. We had no anesthesiologists when I was in school. Just the Catholic sisters were our teachers.

I was accepted at Duke, which was basically private school and at Charity in New Orleans. That was supposed to be a very good school but the waiting period was something like two years. So I worked in the operating room trying to save my money so that I could afford to go. I think it cost about $50 back in those days to get into a school of anesthesia.

Then they told me, I got a letter from Sister Hortense who was in charge of the school telling me that they had moved it up, the time they could take me in. So I quit the operating room and decided to do private duty because it paid me a little bit more. I had quite some experience with private duty. I had a wonderful time with that. I was fortunate to be…Dr. William Dosher was one of our OB/GYN doctors, one I neglected to mention.

He said to me that he had a patient. She was from one of the first families of Wilmington. She needed somebody young to go and do home nursing with her. She really didn't need a nurse. She just wanted companionship. I learned a whole lot. She had one of those big houses down on Wrightsville Sound right down on the curve. I had a wonderful time. She said to me that she'd like to have a Coke one day. So they had a butler's pantry and I go looking around and they had such an array of glasses and I thought no one had taught me about all these different kinds of glasses here.

So she had a maid that was there most of the time, Madeline I think was the name, so I reached up there and got an old fashioned glass, I thought it looked kind of pretty and put her Coke in it and the maid said, "Oh, that will never do. These are the glasses that she likes to drink Coke out of and you don't take it in your hand.” (Laughter) I was going to take it in my hand. She said there's a silver tray right here. She put a napkin on it and showed me how to take it in.

So I told her, I said, "Well you have too many glasses in there. I didn't know which one to use. When do you use all of those glasses?" Suddenly she was feeling better and she got out of the bed and went in there and went through all this array of glasses to tell me what each one was used for so I didn't have much nursing but at least I was learning more about the outside world.

Mims: Now would this have been somebody you would have known in the community?

Newton: The family was very well known in the community.

Mims: You're a local Wilmington girl. You went to what high school?

Newton: I went to New Hanover High School, graduated, went to nursing training at James Walker.

Mims: So you were already in the community, so doing the private nursing in the community I didn't know if you ran into people that you had known.

Newton: Many times you did in the hospital. Yes, I was in private duty. I stayed with this patient until I went to anesthesia school. I stayed with her for quite some time, six months or something like that. I would go out of town and they finally gave me a car to drive. That was back in the days of the war and nobody had a car. I had a chauffeur to pick me up and take me down to Wrightsville Sound and all of that and that's when everybody used to stand on the corner of 17th, that was the city limits. That was the city limits, 17th and Market.

And all these boys, I went to school and they would just yell and holler and I would pass by and wave like I was a customer sitting in the back with the chauffeur.

Parnell: Were you just there just during the day and go home at night?

Newton: I started off working 7 to 3 and Miss Blake who was one of the family who had the dairy I was telling you about, she was on 3 to 11 and she didn't really need a nurse, but she just wanted somebody with her. This lady's husband called me Dottie and I didn't know it until they asked me if I could come down there and live in and stay with them. I said I thought that would be ok. So I did, I went down there and had some experience.

They had a dining room table about as long as this room and when we would eat dinner at night, well he would sit at the head of the table and I would sit down at the head of the table and there would be this big flower arrangement and you'd be doing like this to see what was going on. I thought if this was what nursing was all about, I like it. But anyway I left there to go to anesthesia school.

Back in that day anesthesia school was only eight months. It is 24+ months now and you come into the job market with a Master's degree. I'm amazed that my first salary out of anesthesia school was $300 a month so you can figure that up what it is yearly. Now they're offering positions and I read my journals all the time, that maybe a starting salary is like $130,000 a year. Sign on bonuses; I'm amazed at those like $15 thousand and $20,000 a year, so many paid days off and continuing education days. It's a wonderful way to go if you're willing to go through what it takes to get there.

Mims: Now you graduated from that school in what year?

Newton: '48, early '48. I went to my roommate, who was really not very interested in anesthesia, but she was from Charlotte and she had to do something so she thought she would call up Sister Hortense and see if she would take her at the same time since she'd never been out of North Carolina. So she did and talked Sister Hortense into taking her at the same time. So we go to Chicago and Jody lives 40 miles south of Chicago and we went to school for 8 months there.

My roommate had visions of seeing the world. She just thought it would be just so wonderful to travel. There was an acute shortage of nurse anesthetists at that time. We rode everywhere under the sun looking for a position and finally decided that we would go to Honolulu, Hawaii. We went to the Kapioloni OB/GYN Hospital, which is now associated with the University of Hawaii [Community College] and is a big teaching center and pediatrics center now.

They had had many problems with anesthesia and they just welcomed us wholeheartedly. There was a nursing residence right next to the hospital. Some of the nurses would go over there just to spend some time in Hawaii and spend six months to a year. They had a big dorm room so when we got there, usually you started off in the dorm room and if you stayed long enough you'd get a private room.

When we got there I said to one of these girls, "What are you doing in that dorm room? You've been here for some time?" She said, "I had a private room until you got here" (laughter). I said I was sorry about that.

Mims: So you guys were treated very well.

Newton: Yes, we were and we stayed over there for two years and while we were there we got to go to some of the other islands. We took a trip to the orient, to the Philippines, to Hong Kong, Japan and had a wonderful time. Then we came back to the States in 1950 and it was St. Patrick's Day. She met her husband on the ship coming back and he was an engineer with the Arabian American Oil Company.

After a week he asked her to marry him. Well she said, "Why don't we stay here in San Francisco for a little while." So she told me they were going to go over to Las Vegas or someplace for a while and get married and I said, "Hey, you've been away from home for two years, I think you better go back and let Charlie meet your family" and that's what she did. So we had a job at Permanente Hospital in San Francisco and we were going to come back home and go back there and work and we decided not to go back to California and I had met my husband in the meantime.

That's the summer I worked at James Walker. Then I went to Sampson County Hospital the year before we were married.

As a nurse anesthetist at a brand new hospital. Dr. Kitchen was the surgeon. His father was president of Wake Forest College and they were opening a new hospital. He knew Dr. Robert Fales here in Wilmington. I guess they were all good Baptists. He said that Dr. Fales, I told Dr. Fales I was only staying there for the summer and I was accepted to go to work in Arabia for the Arabian American Oil Company until I met my husband and decided maybe he was worth staying home and I stayed home for that and that was 54 years ago.

So Dr. Kitchen came in and talked with me and wanted to know if I'd come to Sampson County and set up the anesthesia department which I did and that wasn't too hard because back in those days we didn't have any EKG monitors. This was in the last part of '50 because I came back in '51 and was married in November. It was just too expensive to do any kind of monitoring on patients. It was pretty new coming out at that time. So you just couldn't spend the money on that.

I understand from Dr. Kitchen that we did more surgery in the first year we were there than we did for the next 5-10 years. It seems like people were waiting to be operated on in their own hospital and everything. Clinton was a very friendly town in that we would go, there was a little square downtown where the post office was and that's where you went to meet everybody. So we would go down, I didn't have a car, but we had one other anesthetist and she had an Oldsmobile convertible so we used to chase the place down there, riding around the square. There wasn't much else to do.

Then my husband would come up. There was on place to eat, outside of Clinton or we'd go over to Raleigh. Then after the year there I came back home and Dr. Robertson had decided, he was one of our old time surgeons, he was going down to Florida and he was going to marry the nurses anesthetist who had been at James Walker for quite a long while and she had asked me, she was doing tonsils in Dr. Koseruba's office, she was going to Burgaw to do cases with Dr. Burt Williams and some of the orthopedic surgeons, Bruce Dorman and Dr. Wilson we had here for a while and she wanted to know if I would cover those two places if everything went well and they decided to move to Florida.

So I said yes and that's what I did for a while. We did two tonsils five days a week at Koseruba's office and then I would go to Burgaw and ride up with the doctors and if you didn't ride with the doctors, the hospital would have to pay you so much a mile, I think six cents a mile or something like that. Then they got a full time nurse anesthetist for Burgaw and we just went to relieve. I went back to James Walker to work and we went up there on our days off. It was strange, not strange but to show you what the shortage was, they called the anesthesia department and we didn't have anybody to answer the phone, to find out who was off for the day.

One day Dr. Dineen called me and he said, "I'm over here at Cape Fear Hospital and I have a patients on the table and I don't have anybody to put this patient to sleep and I want you to come over here right now." And I was giving him all these excuses why I couldn't do that. And he said, "I'm waiting on you!" and hung up the phone. And I happened to remember when I sprained my ankle he was right there in the emergency room to take care of me so I thought well I'll have to go. And so I did.

I went over there and you can imagine what it was like. I hadn't been over there in some time. You had to look at the equipment and here he's scrubbed up and the patient is waiting and I'm trying to check out the equipment and get everything together to put this patient to sleep. We finally got through the case okay and I said, "Don't ever do that to me again. Let me know the night before. You know I need to think about these things, not run into them unprepared." But many times that's exactly what happened.

Mims: When you were doing the tonsils, what kind of anesthesia were you using there in the office?

Newton: In Dr. Koseruba's office, we used a drop of ether. We didn't have a gas machine and we used insufflations ether. There was a suction machine they had to use as they took the tonsils out for any bleeding in the back of the throat which cleared the airway and you insufflated air through the ether in this ether bottle. There is an ether bottle I believe unless they've taken it off the display on display at the hospital. Nancy McClain had donated that or loaned it to them and that's what we did.

Then other nurse anesthetists that I worked with would go over to Dr. Koseruba's and one of them talked him into getting a little junior gas machine. That was about the time that _______, an easier induction agent came in. It was pleasant to smell, not like the ether was strong. So then we were really uptown. We put the patients to sleep and intubated. I went to Dr. Black's office many times. We used insufflations ether over there. Then Dr. Koseruba called me and said, “My boys are going to have their tonsils out at Dr. Friedman's office and I want you to go down there.”

I said well that Dr. Friedman did them all in his office and I don't remember who gave his anesthesia back on those days. I said I haven't done, and you have to get accustomed if you're going to do insufflations anesthesia and I did a lot of that for Dr. David Sloan Sr. at the Babies Hospital. As you blow the ether into one side of the mouth, occasionally you've got to clear the airway and you've got to be so you can see, you're sitting at the head of the table and you can look down in the throat and you can be sure that the airway is clear and a lot of times, it's not unknown, you take the suction, if the scrub nurses won't do it, you establish the airway.

Well, I thought I was unaccustomed to working with Dr. Friedman because he did working office cases so I go down there. First we go to Dr. Koseruba's office and he checks them out and all that stuff. At that time he was married to Bonnie. We go down to Dr. Friedman's office and Dr. Koseruba's sitting out in the waiting room and surgery is right over here and he's got the paper like this and I can see him looking over the top of the child, well we got that accomplished.

See all this ether goes out into room air and so you can imagine, you've got your hair covered and everything. It stays with you. I've gone to the grocery store when somebody would say, "Oh, I smell either" and I'd say, "Yeah, it's me." We got through that ok. When I went to Clinton, the year I was up there, I said to Dr. Parker, we'll do 10 and 12 tonsils a day. See there was a backlog of children who had no money and no place to go so the county would bring them in. So I said to Dr. Parker, "Would you like for me to intubate this patient, I can do it either way." He said he was so accustomed to watching the reflexes in the throat to know of the depth of the anesthesia of the patient.

Well, we had one child come in 12-13 years old. The child was as big as a horse. I said, “It's going to be very difficult. Why don't we intubate this one?” Which we did and he kind of got accustomed to it. He preferred the open drop either though; he was an older man. He had done them in his office. He was doing them a favor to come to the hospital. I think he was more comfortable in his office.

Mims: Well you talked about getting the ether on yourself. What kind of uniform did you wear when you were in the operating room?

Newton: Now you have to wear the attire they furnish for you in the hospital because of infection control. I had some white scrub dresses made and that was before the days of white coats because I used to put my white trench coat on over it and put the patients to sleep. They didn't wear scrub clothes back in those days. They put on clothes, sterile gloves and came in and performed the operation.

Mims: So people did wear gloves back then.

Newton: Now I notice, I went into have my cataracts done and to put the IV's, they put on gloves, as they teach them nowadays, they teach them to use gloves, but I think that would have a problem for me to learn how to use gloves to get an IV. I hadn't laughed at my husband until the urologist's office and the nurse was trying to get a vein. I started to say you want me to get that for you and she finally ripped off her gloves and she said I just lose my touch and I said I know about that. I think they have a difficult time, those that haven't been trained.

Mims: So as a nurse anesthetist you did the lines in the operating room or it came to you already with the IV's?

Newton: No, in the 50's, the patients came in the operating room, you established the IV and you had to be comfortable with the IV. You know if it blows in the middle of a case, you don't have hands to get around there to get another IV. So you want to be comfortable with the IV before you start to put this patient to sleep because it is a lifeline if you need to give fluids.

I believe now that they have IV nurses that might establish the IV to save time before they get the patient down in operating holding area. When I went in for my cataract, the nurse in the outpatient unit established the IV, so that saves a lot of time when you get the operating room.

Mims: Now tell me about some of your travels. For a period of time you kind of were the nurse that circulated around to do all the operating rooms?

Newton: The hospitals or the doctors would give us a call like when Dr. Sampson came down to Southport. He came and wanted to talk and I had been there for Dr. Brown who somebody came from Cincinnati to bring their baby down that had had this hernia done and they were 40 years behind the time and I thought you should really have looked around had it done up in Cincinnati wherever they had good facilities.

The baby did fine. The baby went home the next day and maybe I was just being critical. I felt like their equipment was not as up to date and to keep your equipment up to date, that's a fight. It's a fight with the hospital administration because it's like we just bought new gas machines five years ago, what do you want new ones now for. When we left James Walker, we had two EKG's. This was in '67. We used all these explosive gasses, I think I've told you about those and the EKG monitors, the gasses were supposed to go down and we used to wear what we called a Horton. You put a chain around your ankle here and around here and you grounded it to the gas machine and that was so they could use the Bovey unit and the electro-coagulation unit and we never did blow up (laughter). Oh, wet towels, you couldn't put wet towels on your machine when you were using gas, oxygen, things like this and ether.

As things moved along, they found out it was so much faster to use the co-ag unit than to individually tie off so you had to individually tie off your technique to what the surgeon has been taught to do. What was the question you asked me?

Mims: Well I was going to go back and ask you, so when you traveled to these different hospitals it was at the request of a certain physician.

Newton: Dr. Sampson came and he talked with us and he was going down there to do general practice. That was before he went into his general plastic surgery. He wanted to know if on our days off, and we were getting up in the world by that time, after we were on 16 hour night call, we had the next day off unless you got hung on a case and didn't have anyone to relief you.

So we had a little bit better hours, so after working 16 hours, we had a call room, we could take a nap and you learned if you needed you could run and take a quick nap. We would go to Southport and Dr. Sampson would go and call us what case he had to do and tell us a little about it and he knew who was available to come down there.

In Elizabethtown, the operating room supervisor would call and tell us and what cases they had. Well everybody usually had their own laryngoscope because if you're going to intubate a patient there are many, many different tools that you would use. I found out I liked the Miller blade so I bought my own Miller blade and there were certain things that you liked and a lot of times the detail men from various companies around and we'd say, "Oh we were going to do like that" and he would give you samples of things like that in hopes that you'd try them and then buy from him.

Mims: So if the hospital didn't have some equipment, you were able to bring in your own.

Newton: Yes.

Mims: Who paid you? Were you paid by the hospital?

Newton: You were paid by the hospital. You were paid $10 by the hospital for doing tonsils. Or $7.50 and finally it went up to $10.00. As time progressed and all, they paid us $25 an hour down at Southport. They got up to $0.18 a mile. They would give you your meals while you were there. They were so tickled to death to have you that a lot of times that as you walked into Dosher Memorial Hospital, the kitchen was right down the way and they had a lot of these black ladies then and they'd say, "Oh we saved something for you, we know you like to have a little breakfast you know."

Parnell: How many anesthetists were in town traveling like this?

Newton: When we over at James Walker, we had four operating rooms and we had four nurse anesthetists. Then these decided they would make the cast room into a surgical room so we had to add another nurse anesthetist that was five. Then we were going to minor cases so we got up to six. But we worked, we did the schedule 7 to 3 and we were on call that night and we would come back the next morning. We didn't have a call that morning. We'd come back and finish the schedule. A lot of times the doctors would adjust their schedules when we would get off duty and were able to come.

Like when I went to Burgaw, when Burt Williams first came here, he had to establish his practice here, so we'd go to Burgaw at 7:00 at night sometimes when he finished in his office to do this cases. Been there at many a time and do three pretty big cases and get home around 12:00.

Mims: You said you also did some work around Babies Hospital.

Newton: Right, there two or three of us that went down there. When my baby Michael, who is 50 now, I guess I forgot how old he is, when he was a baby, I guess a week after he was born, Sue Sutherland from Babies Hospital, she's the one that has all these pictures that you might like to see, Sue Sutherland Houghlin.

Mims: Okay, I've tried to call her.

Newton: She doesn't hear from well and is a little bit confused. Her son Freddie, she wanted him to have his tonsils out and she wanted to know if I'd come in and put the baby to sleep. That's when I was making excuses. Dr. Sidbury said just bring the baby on down here and we'll put him in the crib and we'll take care of him and that got to be a habit. I would go down there, do their tonsils and then pick up the baby and come back home. You didn't worry because some of the people you know, I don't want my baby going to the hospital because of germs, but they must not have h ad has as many germs around in those days because you don't remember them getting sick from going down there.

Mims: So it must have been difficult to juggle this kind of schedule with having an infant, you had two children?

Newton: I have two children. We had, my mother-in-law lived with us. We had a lady that lived in full time. And then I had a colored lady, a young girl that would come in as I needed her. But back in those days you would go back and pick them up and take them home, take them to pay their bills on Friday afternoon and all this sort of thing. You didn't have television to look at all night. So this is what you did for the people that worked for you.

Then we had Etta and she stayed with us for many, many years and she would always fix supper for Friday night and she would always fix enough for her family to take it home with her and that was just the way she did things. She brought her washing and…we didn't have a whole lot of washing. See my husband was in the laundry and dry cleaning business so when he retired we didn't have a whole lot of washing. I'm the only one that had dry cleaning of baby diapers, I think.

Mims: Let's see. You also said you worked at the Community Hospital.

Newton: Right. They would call and sometimes the doctors would call and send me on cases and he would sort of tell you how he felt whether it was a very difficult case or how long it would take. See they paid us by the hour. Seems at one point it went up to $40 an hour something like that and then you got paid in half hour increments after then and you were paid by the hospital. We had no bound practice and the hospital would pay you according to the time you handed in. I don't remember if we got paid travel time over there. They didn't offer us any food over there.

When we went to Burgaw, if we were busy in the operating room, they would see that we had a snack. Sometimes they'd sent it around to the operating room.

Mims: Also you said you worked at Bulluck Hospital?

Newton: Right and that was way, way back. I don't remember the year that they closed. It must have been in the early 50's.

Mims: It was '56 or '57, when they opened Cape Fear Hospital because they transferred the patients there.

Newton: Yes, I went down there and you see the hospital administration gave the anesthesia. I guess Dr. Sinclair must have felt this was a difficult case because he had called me to come down there. I remember that one case because it was a difficult one.

Mims: Since you got to see such a wide variety of hospitals, did you notice the difference in-patient care?

Newton: I thought when I went to Burgaw that the patient care in spite of a small facility was just really as good as I had seen. They took a great interest in the hospital there. They supported their doctors very well. I'll never forget Norma Dawson, she's a James Walker graduate. She worked in the operating room as well in the emergency room. Even in a small hospital, you know if you got in trouble with the patient here, those that were free would go to help with that patient.

They brought an aneurysm, I was up there with Dr. Wynell and rode up there with him and they brought an aneurysm in and so she said, “Can you stay away, Dr. Tinsley is on his way up here.” I said, “yes, but he has to take me back home because I didn't bring a car.” The patient questioned, "Now who is this Dr. Williams" because he had been the one coming up there and what Norma said to me and she was just priceless in some of the things, but if he didn't anything when he got here, he knows it now because he's been here constantly and I just laughed at that. Imagine, this is a way of reassuring people.

Mims: So some wonderful experiences. Any other questions? We're about out of time.

Parnell: We’ve got a few more minutes. What do you know about the beginning of James Walker Hospital Alumni Association?

Newton: I have several papers on it over here. I think it was started, I'll have to go those papers out, but in the 20's I think it was. By the time I got to nurses' training, we would be encouraged by Miss Britt, she had been there forever. She was a '29 graduate, to come to these meetings. Well nobody had a car back in those days. And Miss Ezell who was the one who gave the money out here to the college to refurbish Hoggard Hall, the lobby, she would come and pick us up and take us to these meetings to encourage us even as we were students to come.

There are several papers in here that tell you about the organization and who the officers were. The names of some of these people escape me right now but they were graduates in the 20's and then when it was reorganized, we still meet during the winter months on the first Saturday and sometimes we have as many as 20 people and that's pretty good when you think about school closing in '66.

We have a lot of local people that are too busy, but from time to time we make a point to invite them to come and they always support homecomings. Those that live here and the young ones are always the last ones to send their money in who come to homecomings. Just forgot all about it, mind if I pay you when I get there. You know what it is nowadays, if you are going to have food for a number of people, you have to let them know so many days before, that's what you're going to pay. So we make it very clear, we're not going to reimburse them after a period of time because we have to make our plans wherever we're going.

Mims: Thank you for talking to us today.

Newton: You're certainly welcome. I hope I've covered what you wanted to be covered.

Mims: Well, it's a lot of information. Thank you!

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