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Interview with Frances Orrell, February 17, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Frances Orrell, February 17, 2004
February 17, 2004
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Orrell, Frances Interviewer: Mims, Luann Date of Interview: 2/17/2004 Series: SENC Health Services Length 60 minutes

Mims: I’m LuAnn Mims for the Randall Library Special Collections on our Health Services series. Today I am talking to Frances Orrell and she was a James Walker graduate nurse.

Mims: Mrs. Orrell, can you give me a little bit about your background, where you were born, your hometown etc?

Orrell: I was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina which was a big tobacco town and thinking about that, I can remember, we talked earlier a little bit briefly about that, in the fall I was just thinking about smelling the tobacco because they have a lot of tobacco warehouses and that was the cured tobacco. We would be out sweeping the yards and it was that aroma of that tobacco which we thought was a really good thing then. But anyway I was born in Rocky Mount anyway a long time ago, 1927.

Mims: So you grew up in the tobacco area and you worked in tobacco as a child?

Orrell: I did and during World War II, the big war, anyway we worked, they asked all of the young men were in service, those that were able to do that, and they came into the city school, Rocky Mount High School and asked if we would go out and help what they call put in tobacco. Some of us did that. The farmers would come in and pick us up at our home and we would work all day. We called it handed tobacco.

Not only that, they asked us if we would go out, the high school kids, go out and work in peanuts. They called it stacking peanuts. We did a lot of that during those summer months, helping. That was our deal in helping with the war effort. Not only that, I think then a high school student during World War II was a really exciting time for all of us. There was a lot of patriotism and not only that, the music then, the jitterbug and that swing music, Glenn Miller and all that. It was a great time, it really was.

There was a lot of dancing and that kind of thing. But to my knowledge as I look back on my childhood, I was one of six children. My father, I don’t know whether you want this information or not, but anyway my father worked for the Coastline and mother stayed home and took care of the family, the children, that was her job and that was the way that most families lived. In thinking about the war years, we would go to school. We’d walk to school because we didn't have a car and not a lot of other people had cars. Not only that but you couldn’t get tires you know.

Some of the things were rationed then. Anyway it didn't bother us because we were young and spirited and I can remember leaving home where we lived and we would all be walking as we would go by the homes, you know walking to school, by the time we got up there, we’d have a crowd, 10, 11 people that would go along together just having a wonderful time. We would do the same thing in the afternoon. We formed a lot of really good relationships.

Mims: But by the time you graduated high school, what had you decided you were going to do with your life?

Orrell: I don’t know. In retrospect I can remember my mother and my father telling me that, “Frances, you’re going to need to do something.” Back in those days, I know I’m rambling around, but anyway, there were not a lot of opportunities that were open to young women. But my daddy said and I guess the mindset was a lot of people would get married then, but I wasn’t ready for that. I just knew that…I think I applied to East Carolina. It was a teacher’s college then.

Somebody said something about nursing. I thought well that might be okay. I didn't know that much about it or what really…I knew people thought a lot about nurses, but the other thing was that also as a high school student, I worked part time. A lot of us would do that just for spending money. I knew that I was going to do something ‘cause my daddy said even if I got married; I would need some education so that I would be able to take care of myself.

So in retrospect that was really good advice. So what I did was I sent an application into East Carolina and then I thought it was almost like a fluke, we lived inland and rarely ever got to the beaches and I knew that James Walker Nursing School was in Wilmington which was near Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach. So just like a lot of the kids now in coming to school at UNCW, it was almost like an afterthought.

Anyway I wrote, got an application and came there for an interview and was accepted there. That was in 1945. I’ve been here ever since (laughter).

Mims: What was the interview process like, do you remember?

Orrell: Not really. I remember the lady, well of course they got all of our grades and that sort of thing. I had taken a college preparatory course not knowing what I was going to do. Anyway I was accepted to East Carolina. I don’t remember, I remember her sitting there in her white starched uniform looking very professional with her cap on her head and to me then, she looked older because her hair was gray.

She talked briefly about how it was and that I can’t remember exactly, but I thought gosh, I can do that. Then I got a letter about two weeks later saying I had been accepted in that class. I think she talked also about what we would have to do briefly, I don’t remember that in detail, but anyway that’s how I got here.

Mims: Did you have to pay a tuition?

Orrell: No, we did not and I think she must have talked to us about or me about that. We went in, it was the end…it was in 1945 at the end of the war, World War II, and we went in, our class went in as what they called the Cadet Corps. I don’t know whether or not it was associated with the government to encourage nurses to go in training. That’s what they needed, nurses. So they probably paid the hospital something for us plus they gave us like $5.00 a month (laughter) for being in the nursing corps. That’ kind of where I was and how I got here.

Anyway thinking about nursing school, it taught, it was a wonderful time. It was an exciting time. We went in not having any idea, all of us. I made lasting friendships and three of us still live here and are still really good friends with each other.

Mims: And you graduated in the class of 1948.

Orrell: Yes, and what we did is so different from the way it is now. What we did was we worked, we did classes. We would get up; I think we would have inspection. Well, basically we were on probation for six months and we didn't have a cap or anything. Our uniforms were furnished for us. I don’t whether the government paid for that or not. They may have.

Mims: What was your uniform? Was it different?

Orrell: It was. We were, I think we were called pre-clinicals, but what we had, they were really neat. We were given three or four I don’t remember exactly. But our uniforms were light blue stripes underneath and then we had a half of an apron that was white and we had white cuffs and white collars. So we were recognizable in the hospital.

Anyway we went to school. We were taught most of the time by the physicians. Then we had a pharmacist who taught us pharmacology. We had one physician who was in a specialty about infectious diseases, had one of the surgeons who taught us surgery. But we were also taught nursing. It isn’t like nursing now. The aides do most of the nursing, but some of us from the old school are just appalled by what they call nursing. We had nurses who taught us different courses.

Mims: What would you define as nursing back then? Can you put it into words?

Orrell: We took care of the patient. We knew everything about that patient, all the medicine they were on, what they were being treated for, just everything. We knew everything that was going on with that patient. We gave them their baths, we stripped the beds, we took care of them. We did all of the procedures, all of that. We gave them all of their medicine. We just knew each patient and we would always…we would have to be at work at least 20 minutes, at least 20 minutes ahead of time because the nurses, like if we were working shift work, we would get there ahead of time so the people who had worked night duty would tell us, report to us everything about that patient or any new patient. Each shift turned over to the next shift everything about that patient. Those three years were exciting, but we really, we knew about hospital nursing.

Mims: After your pre-clinical was over, then what happened?

Orrell: Well, what we did if we were accepted, and I remember when we went in there at that time they said that some of you won’t be here in six months and we just thought we’re not leaving, but some of them did drop out. One thing was you couldn’t get married during that time. If you got married, you would have to leave so for that three years you were committed to that.

We were in school and working on floors and we would have three weeks off in the summer and that was it. So we were basically, it was called a three-year program. When we graduated, we went for boards which were held in Raleigh and it took us, it was two and a half days of exams that were written. If you passed all of that, then you would be a registered nurse.

Mims: Well let’s back up for a minute. You were required to live on site.

Orrell: Absolutely.

Mims: What was life like there?

Orrell: (Laughter) It was wonderful. It was restricted, but you know they fed us. We ate all our meals at the hospital. Do you want me to digress and tell some stories?

Mims: Sure.

Orrell: I remember we had just gotten our uniforms and everything and they had taken us over for a tour of the hospital. When we came to the delivery room, Dr. George Johnson, you’ve probably heard of him, anyway he delivered more babies than any other OB doctor in this town. He’s very skilled in that. So he said he had a lady who had already had four or five children, so he said would you all like to see this delivery. We had our nurses’ uniforms; we just thought we were something.

So here we were. We all gathered around. Back then I’m sure they gave her some ether. They did, that was just the way it was. Anyway he said oh, she’ll be fine. So we were kind of gathered around him, this new class. Anyway of course I had never experienced anything like that. I thought oh my Lord, this is the grossest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

In retrospect she had a very easy delivery, but we were all, when the baby’s head came out, we called it crowning, we were just gasping there because it was incredible. Not any of us had ever seen anything like that. And we heard this big kerplunk. We all turned around and one of the nurses had fainted. So it’s like oh my God, she’ll never last, but she did.

You know it was just a bunch of kids right out of high school, 18, 19 year olds, it was exciting. It was. We worked hard, but it was really something so different. It was a challenge.

Mims: In the residence hall you were living by yourself in single rooms or you had to share a room.

Orrell: We were alone and to me that was wonderful because I was raised in a three-bedroom house back then, a bungalow with six children and we always had to sleep with someone. And when we went to nursing school, we had a single room. We had a desk and there was a lavatory in each one of the rooms and a closet. So I had space and I really liked that.

But we were all out in the hall, you know, in the evening and we all got to know each other so well and the bathrooms were down the hall. To begin with, we were down on the bottom floor when you were in pre-clinical and a first year student. Then the next year as you came up, you went to the second floor. Then when you were a senior, you were up on the third floor. There was a basement also and that’s where we had our classes and that kind of thing.

Like I said, we were taught all of our nursing procedures by other nurses who were our teachers.

Mims: And you also said some of the physicians, can you remember some of the physicians who taught you?

Orrell: Dr. Koonce taught surgery, I think, I’ve forgotten who taught us medicine. I wasn’t into the physicians as much as some of the other girls (laughter). Some of the other women married the doctors and I think we had some interns. Dr. Reynolds taught us pediatrics. He was a resident. We all just loved him, he was easy, not easy, but he was likeable. Seemed like an engineer from the New Hanover Health Department came and taught us something. Some of the other girls you interview will probably remember that better than I do.

Mims: How about Dr. Fales, did you have contact with him?

Orrell: Yeah, he was one of our old doctors.

Mims: (Laughter) He was an old doctor then?

Orrell: Yeah, he was a sweetie. But see we would get to know them as we began to work in the hospital. You know we knew each one of those doctors. I know Bertha told you that when the doctor would come up to make his rounds, he always had one of us make rounds with him. You would always stand at the desk. You would be charting or working or doing something, but you always got out of that chair out of respect. That’s changed now.

Mims: How about Dr. Koseruba, do you remember him at all?

Orrell: I do and Dr. Crouch and Dr. Reynolds. Pediatrics was over in the old original part of the building. We rotated through every service that that hospital had. One of the services we worked pediatrics, I’ll never forget this. We had these big tubs that sat up so that we wouldn’t have to bend over and every child who was admitted to the hospital, you know, as student nurses we would have to give them their baths. It would amaze me that some of the children, the dirt was just in their skin and it would be about three baths before we really got them clean.

I can remember Dr. Crouch and his father. His father was still working, still practicing. Pretty soon while I was there, he retired and then his son practiced there. We worked closely with them. One of the other things that we did, we rotated, thinking about pediatrics. They had what was called a milk lab, I don’t know if any of the other ones talked about that. We had to mix all the formulas for all the babies who required, were on formulas. That was part of our job to do that and sterilize them.

Mims: And this would be for pediatrics, not nursery.

Orrell: It would be for both. They were almost together.

Mims: So mothers weren’t encouraged to breast feed during this time?

Orrell: Yes, they were. They were but not as much then as they are now. That changed. I thing everything changes over a period of time. It was a big deal.

Mims: Do you remember ever going down to the Babies Hospital to do any work?

Orrell: No.

Mims: Not when you were a student?

Orrell: We did because we had our own pediatric division. When those children came in, they were very sick.

Mims: What would they be coming in for?

Orrell: It would be pneumonia, terrible coughs, I don’t remember what the other things were.

Mims: Well during this time they came up with all the different immunizations for babies.

Orrell: I think DPT was already, I think that had been started, but the vaccine for measles was not or certainly polio, that didn't come in. Anyway I was thinking about that the other day. The two kinds of polio, Salk was first and that was the injection. Then Sabin was the oral medicine and that was in ’64.

Also I wanted to be sure and tell you about, I was working, I was a student nurse during the polio epidemic. I didn't give it a thought that I may get polio. You just didn't. You did what you were told and we just never thought about anything, I didn't. This is just what you did. This is what you were required to do. I can remember some of them were so sick that they were in the iron lungs, that’s what they had then.

The other thing that I remember, they did what Sister Kinney became famous for. We put hot packs. The packs themselves were like blankets, Army blankets, wool that had been cut to fit the areas that the child or the adult was affected with polio. They were put in this big container and we would have to take them out and put them in the sick areas for patients and talk about working. I mean we really did work, but it was good. It taught me perseverance (laughter). You just, that was just what we did. You could not help but learn about nursing because you were working in it.

Mims: And you were obviously thriving in this or you wouldn’t have stayed.

Orrell: Right, it was exciting. You were just busy every minute.

Mims: What about the colored ward? Do you remember having to rotate over there?

Orrell: Oh gosh, yes.

Mims: What was that like?

Orrell: It was everything. We as seniors, we had two seniors and that was pretty much throughout the whole hospital. Seniors pretty well staffed the hospital along with having supervisors. There was a supervisor for certain areas of the hospital and any time, if it was something we could not handle, we would call the supervisor. Not only that, she came around to check on all of us.

The colored ward, mercy, it was exciting, it really was. We had the males in one area and the females in the other area plus we had some rooms if they had something that was infectious. They were private rooms. Now keep in mind during all this period of time, there was no air conditioning (laughter). Remember that, no air conditioning.

But anyway we would be over there and then we had labor and delivery over there also. Well my hands are small so I was always nervous, we would have to do pelvics to see how much they were dilated. I was always nervous about that.

Mims: And this was before gloves, right?

Orrell: Yes, we did have gloves, but I was always nervous because you have to have pretty long fingers to figure that out. In the middle of the night, here we were. The black people, they were very sick patients because they wouldn’t go unless they were really sick. We had surgical patients, we had medical patients. We had it all. I mean I think about that responsibility. We were very busy giving medicines, maybe changing dressings or doing procedures or whatever.

In the middle of all of that, the screen door would open and we would hear it and in would come somebody in labor. It was like good Lord, here we go again. Usually they wouldn’t come until they were almost ready to deliver so then you had to get busy, set up that room. It was just like bam, bam, bam, talk about excitement.

My nursing career was never ever dull. I could leave my house after I went back to work and I’d be completely absorbed with what was going on. Then when I was driving home, it was like okay.

Mims: When you were in nursing school, did you ever come in contact with any black nurses?

Orrell: No, because they had their separate hospital. Some of the people still came. They felt that our hospital was better or the physicians were better. That’s just the way it was. I can remember though the ambulance coming between the colored ward and the main part of the old building, the original building. They had an ambulance that came and we could hear that coming.

I also want to talk a little bit about when we were in surgery. Talk about excitement. Has anybody talked to you about that? Now keep in mind this was probably 1947, but we would rotate through there. We would be dressed in our little uniforms. By then after six months, we had been given the top part to our apron. We also had a cap. We had a ceremony when they gave us that.

Anyway in thinking about the emergency room, I laugh about it now because what we did, the other nurses who were ahead of us time wise would take us and teach us what to do. What we were responsible for as new people in there, we would have to, after surgery, we had gloves and everything and we had to wash all the instruments that were used for that surgery. We had a big room and washed every bit of that stuff.

Each type of surgery, a certain package would be needed like for an appendix would be different from a T&A, tonsils and that kind of thing or major surgery or a hysterectomy or whatever. So we had a book that told us which instruments went in that thing. So they were all dried, they were all cleaned and all packaged up. We as students did that. Then we would progress to working with the physician.

What they would do, they’d put us with a physician in the beginning and I remember the one they give me was Dr. Coddington, Herb Coddington. He didn't use a lot of different types of catgut or thread so they’d put us with him, the novices, because he wasn’t very fussy. You would have an older nurse that is referred to as a circulating nurse and then we would be the nurse who would be assisting the doctor.

Not only that, we would have an intern that was with us also and with the physician. That’s kind of how we learned and did we learn it. As you stayed there, of course you got better. You anticipated what that doctor would need before he knew it. If you didn't know, you’d look to the intern because he would know. If he liked you, he’d whisper.

Mims: Who were some of the bigger surgeons? You said Dr. Coddington was easy. Who were some of the more difficult ones?

Orrell: Dr. Hooper, Dr. Hare, Dr. Roberson and Dr. Graham who recently died not too long ago, Dr. Lounsbury was OB/GYN, Dr. Walker. A lot of those, you know, we became good friends. You know you work with somebody so closely so many years. One thing I wanted to tell you, we would have this uniform on and we would have scrubs and you had all of your uniform plus you had to wear a net and a cap and a mask. You had on this long green thing that they tied in the back and then gloves. When we would come out of there, we would be wet and the doctors would be too.

Mims: No air conditioning.

Orrell: That’s the way it was in the summer. But that was like, I look back on that, I used to say if anybody had an emergency and you were on call to take emergencies, they called you to come and set up and work with the doctor and clean it up. You may be in there most of the night, but then you had to be there to start your duty. I mean it was like an endurance thing. I had been to bed and my knees would hurt so bad that it would be like oh, it was just fatigue.

Mims: One of things that you said brought you down here was the idea of being so close to the beach. Did you ever opportunity to go down to the beach and have fun?

Orrell: Yeah. No matter how hard you worked, when young people are young, you’re going to find…I met my husband there. They were home from the war, World War II, and one of the doctors who was a medical doctor, his name was Dr. Duncan McEachern, you know they’re all gone from here now, but he was sort of a general practitioner but he did some minor surgery. He was a good friend of my husband’s. They fished together.

He introduced me to my husband who was having an appendectomy and that’s what got that started. But we did, we had a good time when we were off, had a day off or night when we were working day shift. We would get together. We always had to be in at a certain hour. I mean they locked the door.

Mims: How would you get down to the beach?

Orrell: One of the pharmacists that worked for the hospital, we all became good friends with him. Everybody knew everybody. You really did. He would let us use his car because not any of us were allowed to have cars. We’d all go together. Sometimes when we were not working 3 to 11, we would go to the beach. We used to walk. When we were nurses, we would walk from James Walker downtown to Sanders Rose Store or Sally’s Dress Shop or whatever you know just to do something. We’ve got some pictures, I don’t have them, but there are some pictures of us doing that sort of thing.

Mims: When you were out there, you weren’t in your nursing outfit at all.

Orrell: Back then it was like saddle oxfords, loafers, skirts and sweaters and that kind of thing. Back then there were still some, if you wanted to date, there were dates out there. The Dutch people were here. The Dutch soldiers were here and I don’t remember that much about they were doing, but they were always looking for dates. Some of the nurses must have met them downtown or somewhere or maybe it was the USO.

I never did do that because I got in, met my husband and also met a young man who had had an accident and he was cute and funny and knew everybody. We’d just get together. We were all just young.

Mims: What was your husband doing in town?

Orrell: This is his home and he came home from World War II and went into business for himself, developed his own plumbing business at that time. He later went out of business with his partner and went into the sporting goods business so he owns Canady Sporting.

Mims: Whenever you graduated from Walker, what was your goal then?

Orrell: Well, he was ready to get married so I graduated in August and we got married the following March. At that time I was still working over in the polio area then and I don’t know whether any of them talked to you about the contagion ward.

Mims: No.

Orrell: We did, there were children and adults over there and sometimes they would come and they would have the mumps or measles and those kinds of things or different wounds that were infected and contagious so we did do that also. We rotated through there. We had to boil all of the utensils. They would bring the food over and we would put them on trays and then we would have to…there wasn’t any plastic then so you know everything had to be boiled and sterilized. We’d wear gowns. I remember some of them would be very, very sick. Some people would come in with meningitis. I don’t know why we didn't get sick.

Mims: It’s incredible, huh?

Orrell: Evidently we were just very young and strong. But you talk about having fun, my husband and two other guys after they were all good buddies, they had a fraternity here in town and all those guys would get together and they were just really, really close good friends. Almost every one of them had been in the service. If we were off on a Saturday, they would come and get us and we’d go to the beach and we would ride, I don’t do that anymore.

I don’t go out there, but they would take us fishing and just stay all day and get sunburn. And if we didn't have to go to work until 3:00, I think we probably rode the bus or something down there and would stay all day and would catch the bus and come back and work, burned up.

Mims: From the time that you graduated in August until the time that you got married in March, where were you living at that time?

Orrell: We were living in the graduate nursing home. It’s been torn down, but it was attached to the original nursing home. I think it was two-story.

Mims: This was specifically for people who had finished the program?

Orrell: Who had finished and were graduate students.

Mims: Did you get a better pay than the $5.00?

Orrell: I think, well they furnished us room and board and I think my paycheck was $94.00.

Mims: For a month or a week?

Orrell: A month. I mean think about it. I mean we were dating and our dates, they took us out and took us to the movies. I wanted to tell you though. We went to some of the dances down at the Lumina. It was still there and that was still a big deal. We would go dancing, that whole bunch, 15, as many of 15 of us down there, I mean guys and their dates. Some of them, we would dress up in evening dresses. It was wonderful. The music was wonderful.

Mims: Did they still have the trolleys at that time?

Orrell: No, I think they had busses. But the guys, you know, they had cars then after they got back out of the service. It was a great time. It was an exciting time.

Mims: Well what did your parents think about your decision after you finished your nursing program? Did they think it was a good thing you had done this?

Orrell: Oh yeah, they were just thrilled. They were very proud. In fact I was the first person in my family to go onto anything past high school. I graduated from high school, we had 12 years then. In thinking about, and I’m flipping back, in my childhood and in the latter years I became a public health nurse, as a child I could remember people from the Health Department.

If some of us in the family had whooping cough, see there was no vaccine when I was a child. They would come and tack up this yellow piece of paper that said ‘Contagious’ or something like that and you were not supposed to go there. You were supposed to be isolated. I can remember that happening, that was a bad thing you know. We couldn’t have anything to do with the neighbors.

Mims: Once you got married, you quit nursing at that time?

Orrell: I did after I got pregnant with our first child.

Mims: But you continued to work at Walker up until that time?

Orrell: I did and working in the polio part. Pretty soon after I was three months pregnant and stayed home. That was a full time job. Back then you know the women stayed home, took care of the children. My husband was developing his business. He was in a partnership with somebody else.

Mims: How did you get back into nursing?

Orrell: Well as I said early on I knew Miss Daphne Jeffers, she’s pretty well known and when I realized that I wanted to go back to, was gong to need to go back, there were not any courses available at that time to renew your license or anything. I went back out and told her I wanted to start working part-time and that’s what I did. It was like learning again. They put me the female ward, south wing 1.

Mims: This was at Walker still?

Orrell: This was at James Walker. It was still there.

Mims: What year was that?

Orrell: Gosh, it was probably around ’64. I started back just working a couple of days a week. She would move me around like I was working what they call PRN- which means as needed - into different areas of the hospital. You pick it up and then we were still nursing. We were still doing all the procedures. There were a few LPN’s then, licensed practical nurses. I worked with one down on the women’s ward that was absolutely excellent. It was exciting there.

Mims: How were the LPN’s utilized at that time?

Orrell: They just helped do bedside car and we would just work together. We were assigned like X numbers, it just depended on how many nurses you had working. We would just do our patients together, giving them complete baths, always changing their beds, giving them their medicines or any procedures that we had to do for them in preparation for different types of surgery.

Mims: Did you have to renew your certification?

Orrell: Well, I have always kept that up throughout all these years and I still have not let it go. It’s just a matter of principles. I worked too hard for that. I’m very proud of that. I was trying to think; I think that’s how I got back into nursing. What I did was work PRN like that for about three years until they closed the nursing school in ’66 and they had already started building New Hanover Memorial. I worked in the transfer to New Hanover and it was chaos.

Mims: What floor did you go on?

Orrell: Medicine and they had a whole new thing of getting your meds up and the doctors were, some of them were unreasonable. They thought it was going to be just like at old James Walker, but it was so much bigger and different and there were a lot of things to be ironed out. So I did not work there long. I was still supposed to be working PRN, but I had four kids and a husband. It was not conducive because they would need me working and I was a part-time person. They would post me like Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That was like five days, I couldn’t do that.

Anyway I started looking for other work and I applied down at New Hanover County Health Department and I was hired there in ’67 and I worked there full time for 23 years in public health and that was a whole another area of working.

Mims: What was your job like there?

Orrell: Well, it would change. We were under the local government employees, which was really nice because I would end up having a retirement. When I first went there, they hired me as a part-time nurse to work with the aging and set up clinics in the different communities. Primarily they were in the housing, little community buildings. When we first set it up Dr. Armstead came and did medical exams for them. Also Dr. David Murchison, as he retired, he was wonderful, he wanted to just come and do volunteer. So he came and did that.

Then we had another doctor, I can’t remember his name, this is what happened when you start getting old, the names go first.

Mims: Well, what would you do in these clinics?

Orrell: Well, we would do physical exams. I would go out in the different communities and see who needed care, who couldn’t afford care. They would come and we would set them up to see a physician and it was sort of like Tolliston, a lot of drug companies would give us medicine. Some of the people could not afford their meds and that’s what we did and that was my function to set that up and coordinate that and that kind of thing.

After I had been there, I think it was six months, money came available through the county for me to work full time. I worked in all aspects of that. I worked in the maternity clinic. A lot of times I worked in the TB clinic, in the epidemiology part of the department. One of the things we set up, they wanted me to go back to school and learn to do…I went to McPherson’s Hospital which was in Durham and I’m not even sure its still open, but that was a big ophthalmology clinic.

I went there for a week. In thinking about it, we had to go to Chapel Hill for a week and then we did follow-up I think it was for three months I went to Fayetteville very week for additional learning, education as it related to public health. That was a whole different teaching area in nursing. It was into prevention and that sort of thing. They wanted to set up a clinic in the health department where they would do physical exams. One of the things they wanted to offer was glaucoma screening.

I had forgotten that that I had to go to another thing to learn how to do breast exams and pelvic exams. All this was in different areas at that time. So as public health nurses, we learned to develop a lot of different skills. It was something.

Mims: Well, if you had to do it all over again, would you take this same path do you think?

Orrell: I think so, probably. I have always loved what I was in at that time. I ended up, I sort of inherited the TB program for this county at one time. To me the TB program at the state level gave us the money, gave New Hanover County the money to pay for a part-time LPN. So I had an LPN with me and we did all of the TB program in this county. We did a lot of prevention. To me that was like doing detective work. We’d get a new case of TB. Do you want me to talk about that stuff?

Mims: We have just a few more minutes.

Orrell: It was like we were detectives. We had to go by law, that person was required to have treatment and we had to get them in, get them on treatment, investigate and contact every person who had been…who had contacted that person, skin test them, x-ray them, get them on preventative TB medicine.

Mims: What if they were uncooperative?

Orrell: By law, I remember two different times we had to go to the courthouse and take out a court order. That evolved and changed over a period of time, but when I first started doing that, they would have to have treatment. There’s so much history in just that area. It was fascinating work. We’d had TB, we thought it was time to go. We had TB in the school. That was a big thing, doing big screenings there. We had it in industry. We had a patient in the post office. Everywhere.

It’s still, you know, there’s a lot of that going on still. But I ended up, I retired as the Clinic Coordinator in all that whole clinic area and it was great. The last part of my work was just general working in the epidemiology part of public health. It was fun.

Mims: What advice would you give to someone coming in new to public health? Your wisdom.

Orrell: Well I have a granddaughter who’s graduating from Chapel Hill. She has applied to the nursing program. She will graduate in May with a BS degree in Biology, but she has applied to the School of Nursing. I also have a daughter who graduated from Chapel Hill. There’s just so many options for nurses, you can become an anesthesiologist. My daughter works in hospitals in the surgical area. She has a B.S. in Nursing. You can work in industry, public health, all of nursing in the hospital. I was in awe of the nurses in the hospital.

My husband was hospitalized like March a year ago and I was in awe of what they had to do. Go for it. It’s an exciting career. You’ll never be bored.

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

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