Interview with Roxana Barefoot Miller (Part 2), May 3, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Interviewee: Miller, Roxana Barefoot (Part 2) Interviewer: Mims,LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 4 May 2005 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length: 52 minutes
Mims: Okay, this is the second tape with Mrs. Roxana Barefoot Miller. And we're continuing to talk about her father's career as a physician in Wilmington. You mentioned at the end of the other tape that he was the Stockyard...?
Miller: No, it was called...
Miller: Stockade. He went to the Stockade...I'll have to tell you a story.
Mims: Where is...where was that, do you remember?
Miller: The Stockade was out on Blue Clay Road, about right near where it...where it...where the airport is.
Miller: It was right there, because I remember David and I would go with him a lot of times. But he...my brother Murray, when of course we lived...moved out to Forest Hills, Mr. Newman lived...Harry Newman lived about two houses up, and of course Mr. Newman loved Murray cause Murray was, you know, very verbose and whatever and Mr. Newman, of course knew what daddy did, but he...Murray walked up one day and he...and Mr. Newman said "Murray what does your daddy do?" And he said "well, he goes to the A&P, and he goes to the hospital, and he goes to the Stockade and he's a dog doctor." (laughing) Because he had just sewed up a dog in the neighborhood, you know, they brought dogs and animals, and you know, back then, doctors did that!
Mims: Yea, they didn't worry about being sued.
Miller: Sewed up people, sewed up dogs, sewed up everybody, you know. And, but he went to the...for years he was the...and, and then see, because he was in Pathology and my Uncle J, John Burney, was District Attorney.
Miller: They were out...that story I'll never forget. The...the Smoak case, which was a...the Smoaks lived in Airlie and he poisoned his wife.
Miller: And Uncle J knew...knew that he had, or felt like he did, so he and daddy, when daddy was pathologist, daddy was also coroner for, you know, I mean, you know, I'm sorry but that's just...(laughing) it's ridiculous!
Parnell: Small town.
Miller: It was very small town. They went in the middle of the night and dug up this woman, took her to New Hanover, and daddy did a thing on her and found out she had strychnine in her bones. And of course, and that's how Uncle J convicted him. It was a big case written up called the Smoak case.
Mims: You don't see that on a television...these forensic files!
Miller: I know, that would be a really good forensic file thing...you know!
Mims: Incredible. So he was also the coroner for the county?
Miller: Uh huh, um hum.
Mims: He had no time!
Miller: I don't remember...he had absolutely no time. That's why mother had no time...she had to nurse us and take...it was never "Wait for your daddy to come home." Man, she handled it right then.
Mims: And again the nursing school provided that decision making...
Miller: Oh yea!
Mims: ...that she probably needed.
Miller: Just...and did...and that did, it did pro...provide her with so much. You know, a wonderful background! And when I...when I was coming along, I...you know, I always said, "I...I'm gonna be a doctor, or I'm gonna be a nurse." And daddy said, "You can't give a shot, there's no way!" Bad as...he used to have to chase me down to give me a shot cause I hated shots, you know. I couldn't even take an aspirin. I remember one time, he didn't...he couldn't have swallowed that many aspirin to show me how to swallow a pill...he was trying to teach me how to swallow...you know, a pill.
Miller: Until finally, mother came in there and went "Swallow the pill!" Man I did! (laughing) And that was it.
Mims: Well we were also talking off camera, we were looking through one of the annuals and it had photos of people listed as Radiology Assistants. And you recalled some of these, cause one of 'em was your sister.
Miller: Um hum. My sister worked with daddy right after the war. She...in like forty seven, forty eight. It was just for one year I think and after she went off to college, because then she got married in like nineteen forty eight. But she worked for a year with daddy. But she worked for him when she was in high school.
Miller: You know, he taught her how to do the machines and all that, so she worked then. But then she really worked, you know...
Mims: Who were some of the other people that helped him?
Miller: Um, I'm trying to think, I need to.
Mims: Yea I don't know where that book went...I'll try to find...
Miller: Um, Ms...oh yea, we should have had this book...I have it.
Mims: Well here, this is...this is where it...the one with your sister's pictures in it and there was another name...
Miller: Okay, and Ms...and Ms. Elliott.
Miller: Ms. Myrtle Elliott. She was not only a...a...she was the anesth...anesthetist, that's what they...wasn't anesthesiology, but anesthetist.
Miller: Because Dr. Hair had his fluoroscope, all of his...he was a urologist...
Miller: ...and he did all of the...the fluoroscoping and everything right there in the X-ray. He had is own room and of course daddy would go in with him and run the...
Mims: The machine.
Miller: ...the machine and all that, and...and Ms. Elliott would put 'em to sleep. Cause they had to be put to sleep. Total different from today. Can you imagine?
Mims: Cannot even imagine this. Cause I was wondering, you know, what kind of training was required to be like a radiology, like assistant. Was there any required?
Miller: Now...I know Ms. Williams...Elizabeth Williams who was a X-ray technician and John Perritt both went to...into training. I think it was like maybe a year's training to...for X-ray, you know, before they came. And I'm sure daddy taught 'em a lot, because they had to develop the films. That's what they did. I remember the darkroom when I was little...going in, you know, and you cut the lights off and they would move from vat to vat. I still have the...um...the pans.
Mims: The developing pans.
Miller: I have four developing pans that they had...and that I used when I can. In the summertime they're wonderful for canning, you know.
Mims: Oh, okay.
Miller: Um...that they used. I mean it was really basic, you know, and it was like photography.
Miller: So they had to learn photography in order to do the films.
Mims: Plus he also read the X-rays right?
Miller: Right there.
Mims: And he did the reports?
Miller: He read the X-rays, he...at that time, a long time ago, I'm sure he developed his own films.
Mims: Before his assistants.
Miller: Uh huh, but then...then as the time went on he had X-ray technicians that he taught to develop the films, you know, and everything. But I remember they had a little sort of closet in the X-ray department where it was just a little room...was the darkroom. You know, when the light was on...you, of course, you couldn't go in. But I remember daddy going in right after and picking them up out of the...and reading films, you know, right then. I also remember the fluoroscope machine was a long big thing and you could put it straight up, I just thought it was the neatest thing. And you could see your skeleton in it.
Mims: Right there.
Miller: Oh...oh yea, David and I just...oh...we'd go in there on Sunday and make daddy turn it...I don't know why we're...I'm not full of radiation (laughing) because you had not clue then!
Miller: You know, David and I'd take turns on that machine to show your bones, you know, but it was fascinating!
Mims: It still is fascinating.
Miller: Oh yea. And then he had two deep therapy machines which was in the back. And that...when Dr. Brouse came in with him, Dr. Brouse did most of the fluoroscoping and that end of X-ray and daddy did most of the deep therapy. You know, keep therapy was the same thing, what you might call...it's not radium or any...that was before that. Dick can tell you more about that.
Mims: Okay, we'll make sure...
Miller: But he had two deep therapy machines which he treated cancer...and I remember working...I worked with him when I was a...for two summers between my freshman and sophomore years in college...that summer. I came home, my aunt Effie Burney, Judge Burney's...John Burney's mother, after Uncle J died, and Effie went in and daddy...she was daddy's assistant for years and years...worked with him.
Miller: And when she was on vacation in the summertime, you know, she would take off so I would go in. Daddy showed me how to run the machines or at least watch the machine. He would set it like he, you know, and I remember so well, he used lead. You know, it's like soft lead and like if you had a cancer here say, and he was gonna treat it. Then he would cut it out exactly the size of whatever the lesion, or whatever it was and then he would put lead all over, you know, it was like a...it was like it wrapped around. It was real...
Miller: ...real soft.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: You know, and he would cut out the middle, just where that was. And then he would cover 'em up and I remember putting the aprons and whatever on...on parts that, you know...
Mims: Were exposed.
Miller: Uh huh. So we...so at that time he realized...
Mims: That you had to have the protection from the radiation.
Miller: Exactly, exactly. And when he would go in...of course then later when Olin Perritt came, I mean, he'd wear the goggles and he looked like he was a...
Miller: Uh huh, an alien, you know!
Mims: Incredible. Off camera, also we were talking a little bit about Beadie Britt. You said that you recall her? She was one of the nurses.
Miller: One of the nurses there. And when my father was sick, the summer that he was sick, Mable Brice and Ms. Britt both did private duty with daddy.
Mims: And they just weren't anybody.
Miller: They loved daddy...uh uh.
Miller: Ms. Britt then was big time.
Mims: She was, you know, direct...
Miller: She was like...
Mims: ...the school of nursing and...
Miller: Oh yea, she was in the school of nursing and in the, you know, was big time.
Miller: She was wonderful.
Mims: Not typically your private duty nurse.
Miller: No. But she did. She came in with daddy and so did Mable Brice, she was the same way.
Mims: When they came in did they wear their uniforms?
Miller: Uh huh. A hat, the whole thing...caps. I hope I can find mother's cap. I had her cap so that, you know, you can see...you know the thing that's so neat is that every nursing school had a different...or every class had a different cap.
Mims: Yea, and then the whole ranking of the cap so they go along through the...stripes...
Mims: ...yea and then the graduate cap. Yea we...we're very interested in caps and uniforms and pins and cuff links and all the other stuff that came along. What was Ms. Britt like as a person. You said she was pretty friendly?
Miller: And very nice. You know, I was like...when I was little, you know, I remember seeing her and talking with Ms. Britt, but I...I don't...you know, and then as an older...she was older by the time daddy was sick.
Miller: The most caring, you know, woman in the world.
Mims: Well when she was at the school of nursing, she was all business. So a lot of the memories we're getting is that she's all business.
Miller: Yea, she was, man, tough.
Mims: Right. You did not cross her.
Miller: But see and that was the difference in with being with daddy.
Mims: A patient.
Miller: Uh huh. Just the most loving, caring, you know, she was...she did like from seven to three hours.
Miller: Seven or three...she didn't do much. She did it maybe once and then Mable did it too...private nursing.
Mims: Well this is making sense because the school of nursing...they graduated their last class in sixty six and I don't then she went to New Hanover. I think Ms. Britt retired.
Miller: She did retire. And she had retired when she came and did with daddy.
Miller: Because she was at home with daddy before he went to the hospital, she was at home. And I...she did seven to three. I think she did more to help mother and to...you know?
Mims: Be there for her?
Miller: Uh huh.
Mims: This is before Hospice.
Miller: Oh yea.
Mims: So, but she was kinda doing...
Parnell: Early Hospice.
Mims: ...you know, early Hospice.
Miller: And this was in June of '67. He had like a...a athletic knee.
Mims: Right, the tendons, or...
Miller: Tendons...and he went in and mother went in with him...went in the operating room with him. And they did not put him to sleep. He would not allow anybody to put him to sleep for anything. And, you know, I guess that stems from back then, he used to say "pick you anesthesiologist, forget your surgeon". I mean, you pick your anesthesiologist because he's the one that's going to put you to sleep and wake you up, you know, so...and after he had...when he had that knee operated on, Ms. Britt came just for...for a...a...it was a short period.
Miller: Cause we were at the beach. We had a house at Wrightsville Beach and we'd move to the beach in the summer, you know, and then lived in Wilmington in the winter. And she came down for a little while, I guess, to help mother then. Because see I was married and gone. I was living in Spartanburg then. And I was pregnant with Player, my second child. Then daddy was all summer at the beach because they moved a chair down there, and I remember Dr. Fales coming and Dr...all of 'em came down there and visited him, you know, every day.
Mims: Dr. Fales, that's another.
Miller: Robert Fales. He...daddy was like his mentor.
Miller: Oh, he loved daddy. He was younger than daddy. He was like twelve years younger than daddy. In fact, he talks about daddy in his two...both of his books.
Mims: Yea, probably we also have it on that transcript.
Miller: Uh huh.
Mims: We have a transcript from one of his slide presentations. So we have to review that. What was Dr. Fales like?
Miller: Oh, he...I loved Dr. Fales. He was um...until you got to know him he was kind of quiet. But he had a wonderful sense of humor.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: You know, and he and daddy were very close. Although daddy was about twelve or fourteen years older than Dr. Fales. And when daddy was sick, Dr. Fales came every afternoon to see him.
Mims: Was he your daddy's physician, or...?
Miller: See, daddy's era...
Mims: Who was your dad's physician?
Miller: Um, he's retired now. Um...man you can tell my age! Wait a minute and I'll...give me a minute and I'll think of it.
Mims: Was he a young doc...younger?
Miller: Uh huh, was young and he was...he is now retired from here and it...he was brand, you know, really young. It was...
Mims: Was he a surgeon, or was he a...?
Miller: Uh Uh.
Mims: General practice.
Miller: And he, gosh, he lived right over there on...his wife just died not too long ago...why can't I say his name?
Mims: It'll come up to you in a minute.
Miller: I can see...
Mims: Then just shout it out.
Miller: I will. Um, and see the era, when I grew up...cause I grew up with most of the daughters or, like Dr. McEachern...Drew McEachern was my age, there was...there was a whole group of us. Connie Farthing, Dr. Watts Farthing, who daddy said was one of...probably one of the smartest physicians he'd ever known.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: Dr. Farthing, Dr. McEachern, Bobby Lounsberry...Dr. Lounsberry lived right around the corner from us. Charles Graham...Charles was about eight months older than I was, and I grew up with Charles right across the street. Dr. Graham was...you should have known him, he was a character.
Mims: We've read his...he wrote a brochure about history of medicine in the area.
Miller: Oh yes, he was very smart man, but just delightful.
Mims: How about Dr. Koonce, did you know him?
Miller: And Dr. Koonce...I...I didn't know Dr. Koonce as well because, um...his children weren't my age, you know.
Miller: Which made a difference in...his son was younger than I.
Mims: Uh huh.
Miller: Dr. Koonce and Dr...well, and Dr. Walker, Dr. E. B. Walker, he was obstetrics. He and Okey O'Quinn...Dr. O'Quinn.
Mims: Haven't heard that name in a while either.
Miller: Alright and Caroline, their daughter, was my best friend. And she died of cancer about in nineteen ninety seven. There were like eight of us that grew up together in Wilmington and we've stayed very, very close, all of us, you know. Caroline's daughter is still here and is like my daughter. She is my daughter's age. But Caroline...Dr...Dr. Walker, Dr. O'Quinn, they were in together and they were at Bullucks.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: And they did both Bullocks and New Han...I mean, James Walker. And then Dr. Johnson, who was Dr. George Johnson.
Mims: Oh George Johnson.
Miller: George Johnson was my father's...one of his very best friends.
Mims: Cause there was Heber Johnson too.
Miller: Now Heber Johnson was at Cape Fear more than he was at...they had a split. Now I'm not sure exactly what happened. I...I was young.
Mims: Right. We've got a little handle on it.
Miller: But there...there was a major...and see Dick will...has...has another side.
Mims: Sure. We can't wait...!
Miller: Which is really...it's really neat.
Miller: Because he has a total different side.
Miller: When he came back to Wilmington in '62, he and I dated.
Mims: Oh really?
Miller: Uh huh, for a...and then it ended up that he wasn't back in Wilmington yet. He was still in the Navy. But we dated then, and then I ended up marrying Doug Miller and he ended up going with Cape Fear.
Mims: So different.
Miller: It's just, you know, it's all intertwined.
Mims: Well, while we still have a few minutes left, um, I want to talk about your career. You said that initially you got a degree in early childhood education...is that...?
Miller: Um hum, primary education.
Mims: Primary education.
Miller: I taught first...the first year I ever...I taught, I taught at...at...here, at Winter Park. And I taught first and second combination. How in the world they would let a brand new teacher...
Mims: Cause you don't know any better!
Miller: I didn't know any better! I really didn't. I remember when my...when...when the children starting reading, I went "this book has taught them to read," I mean, you know, it was like the manual had taught 'em to read. And I taught then...then I taught...then we got married, and we moved to Germany, and I, um, taught troops remedial reading.
Miller: Which was like, oh, it was the pits because they would go...I would say, "You all don't cheat," and they would go "We have to cheat, we have to pass", I would go, "but you're not learning when you cheat, don't cheat!"
Mims: Yea...but their jobs depended on it.
Miller: And here I was a twenty three year old teaching these old guys remedial reading. It was just...and then we moved back...then when we came back, Doug went to pre-law at Wake Forest and I had Scott, my oldest son. I had him in Germany, but he was a baby.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: But then we moved to Spartanburg and I taught for about three, two or three...while Scott was little until Player, my daughter was born.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: And then I had Warren, my youngest, and I taught another...I taught in between each child...
Miller: ...then after Warren was born I did not teach anymore but I substituted, you know...
Miller: ...I would do substituting, especially when they were all three...started school. Then when we moved back here in nineteen seventy nine, um, we moved back to Wilmington. And when Scott, my oldest son graduated from high school, he was going to UNCW...it's really funny. I had come...I came to UNCW, and I decided, "well, I'll...I'll take microbiology," cause they...all my friends said "you nurse people all the time, why don't you go get a degree and get paid for it?" And I went, "Well, you know, I don't know whether I could pass, I'm sure I couldn't, I mean, I'm 44 years old! There's no way I could pass!" But...so I came and took microbiology.
Mims: Which is not an easy thing to...
Miller: And I made an A, and I thought "Well if I could pass microbiology, then maybe I can go to nursing school." So...and I knew all the instructors, and I knew everybody in the nursing school, you know, so I went and said...
Mims: Was this still whenever Luetta Booe was still here...was she here? Dorothy Dixon?
Miller: No, um, Rosenketter had just...
Mims: Just came.
Miller: She came when I started.
Miller: And she despised our two-year, but anyway...that's another story.
Mims: Yea, we...we heard there was some...
Miller: Ah, but then we had Mary Majeet and Ms...and Mary Majeet lives here.
Mims: We're going to be talking to Adrienne Jackson real soon.
Miller: And I have Mary Majeet's telephone number.
Miller: She was an excellent instructor.
Mims: That would super if we could get that.
Miller: I'm trying to thing who...where Ms., um, well, and Betty...Betty Lowe. And she instructed me.
Mims: Did she go by Jane Lowe?
Miller: Jane Lowe, yea, not Betty Lowe, Jane Lowe.
Miller: Jane Lowe's another one to talk with.
Mims: Right, and I have...I have a lead on her through Adrienne. And then there was somebody else...
Miller: Toni Barfield. And Toni Bar...
Mims: Yea, we just got her name...
Miller: Okay, Toni...it's so funny because Toni stopped teaching in nursing school the year that I started in '84 and went to New Hanover. Well she and I worked together for 18 years at New Hanover...and in OB/GYN. I mean in OB.
Mims: Somebody's last name is like Knightstone, or something with stone...night...or...
Miller: Ms...wait a minute...
Mims: Cause Adrienne's going to get me those telephone numbers once I connect with her.
Miller: Okay, I'm trying to think...I don't even...I think I had a...a...an al...a...a
Mims: An annual, yea we've got Fledglings.
Mims: Yea, I didn't think about bring the Fledglings out, so...
Miller: I...I hadn't even thought about that.
Mims: But, anyhow, so you come into the...
Miller: So, I came back...when...when my son...he came...his first year in college, he came to UNCW.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: And I remember, when I said, "I'm gonna go to nursing school." And he went "Mom, if you happen to see me on campus, just play like you don't know me." And I said, "Great!" (laughing) So, if, I mean I hadn't been in nursing school a week when he came in one day and went "You wanna go to lunch?"
Mims: Cause you had the money probably!
Miller: Right on!
Mims: But you...you entered into the last...
Mims: ...of the two-year...
Miller: ...of the two-year program.
Mims: ...associate degree...
Miller: Associate degree program.
Mims: And that's in 1984.
Miller: In 1984. Graduated...and we had the caps. We had the last caps. We had the pinning service. It was wonderful! And I have pictures of...of our whole class, and the pinning service. Um, all my friends gave me a surprise party when I graduated. I had no clue. They all dressed up as doctors and nurses, and Harry Van Velsor, and all...there were bunches of people there!
Mims: I'm going to talk to him soon too.
Miller: Oh I love Harry...um.
Mims: But when you were in school here, do you recall what your uniform looked like?
Miller: Oh yes. We had...our uniform that we...our student uniform...
Miller: ...was striped with...with white and then it was blue...plain blue.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: ...and it was striped. And we wore our caps.
Mims: While you were on the hospital.
Miller: Yes sir, we wore them every day.
Mims: But did you have to wear them to class?
Miller: We did not wear them to class.
Mims: Okay. So it was strictly a clinical...
Miller: No...it was all clinical. And we wore 'em to clinic, you know, and anytime...then, like you say, when you graduated you'd have...and it was so neat to be capped, because we had a capping service.
Mims: Did you have the Florence Nightingale lamp?
Miller: No, we did not. That was, you know...
Miller: Long gone...well Dr. Rosenketter didn't want us to even have this, but...
Mims: Cause we see evidence of it still into the seventies, so it must have been drifting off by then.
Miller: Yea...it...it had. But we had the pinning and capping service.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: Which was...really meant so much...and I wore my cap at...when I...I graduated in May and I went right to work at New Hanover. It never entered my mind, you know, it's so funny, cause back then, I mean, I had an interview with Nancy...um...that's somebody else you need to talk to, Nancy...oh...she was red headed, she was head of nursing at New...but she was dean of the nursing school right before. Nancy...
Mims: Before Rosenketter?
Miller: Um hum.
Mims: Did it start with a K?
Mims: Like Kohl...or...
Miller: Wait a minute and I'll tell you.
Mims: I'm going to confuse you.
Miller: It...it'll come.
Miller: It's just, I'm getting old.
Mims: Cause I just found...Rosenketter is actually the first dean, but there was a director.
Miller: Yes, was director nursing, Nancy...
Mims: It seems like it starts with a K...
Miller: Nancy...why can't I say her name? Then she went on to Wilmington...to New Hanover and was head of nursing at New Hanover. She hired me, in fact, um for...when I graduated I went into Women's and Children's Services. So when I graduated I did...not only did swing shift, I would do two weeks nights and two weeks days. But I did Pediatrics, OB/G...OB...GYN...I did Pediatrics, GYN, NICU, um...um...the nursery, what they called the nursery wasn't mother/baby like it is now.
Miller: ...the nursery, and I...I did not do...of course you had to be trained to be OB, but I was up on the floor and I helped many times.
Mims: What was your graduate cap like, cause we know that there was a change...
Miller: It was white...I have it.
Miller: I have one, I'll bring it to you.
Mims: Does it say UNCW on it at all?
Mims: It does?
Miller: Uh huh, I should've brought it today.
Mims: Like I said, we really like caps. We have quite a collection and we are trying to get them for...for loan for our exhibit.
Miller: I'll be glad to.
Mims: We would...we would love that!
Miller: I want to find my mother's cap because it was unique.
Mims: Well it would be so great to have those two together too.
Miller: It would be.
Mims: Yes, mother/daughter.
Miller: Well, I can't find...I had her whole nursing uniform and her cap...
Mims: You'll find it. We have faith, you'll find it. Well, what was the program like. Now they already knew that a four year program was going to be starting. Was there any...
Miller: It did not change...
Mims: You're curriculum.
Miller: ...our program. In the two year program...one reason why I went in the two year program is...because I already had a degree.
Miller: And, they allowed my chemistry. They allowed everything except micro...I had not take microbiology. So I had...I'd done that as a prerequisite. I did have to take anatomy and physiology which I took along with my first year of nursing.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: And I was scared to death. I mean, you know, I thought my brain is too old...I'm just scared to death! I knew I was gonna flunk the whole time, but somehow or another I made it, you know.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: And they were very strict. It's so funny to see the difference in the nursing students today and the nursing...even when I was there, and that was in nineteen, what, seventy...I mean...
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: When we were going to the hospital, you went the day before, were given your patient, and you...every drug that patient was on, you went home, and you looked it up, and you made a card for every single drug. And by the time you got to the hospital the next morning, you had to know by memory everything about that drug, the side effects, everything.
Mims: Who was your preceptor?
Miller: Um...Ms...well see you didn't have preceptors. The...the instructor went with you, and the instructor did everything.
Mims: So who was your instructor?
Mims: Was it Mary Alice Whitfield? I know she did some.
Miller: Um-um, um-um, um-um.
Miller: It was Ms. Otto. Well, for different fields...Jane Lowe was for, let's see, Jane Lowe taught med-surg, so she did the med...medical-surg floors. And then Ms. Otto did medical-surg too, both of 'em did. And I remember...when I...the first time I went on the floor with Ms. Otto, um, I had...it was Demerol which is my parenting, you know, and I was saying Meperidine. And she went "that is not right," and I went, "Ms. Otto, it's Meperidine," and she went, "go look at the pronunciation." I mean, I was like...I thought I had looked up the wrong thing! And she said, "it's Meperidine," and I went, "Yes ma'am!" I mean, you know, you had to know your stuff! You...I mean, you know, and they did nothing. That instructor was with you when you went in to do, you know, you could make a bed by yourself.
Mims: Right, they checked you off...
Miller: But they checked you off on that.
Miller: But...and I mean it had to be spotless. And...and...even like my mother, if you could have seen the beds by mother made up, they were so tight.
Mims: I can imagine.
Miller: They were...they were tighter than this table. And she would not even think of sleeping in a bed that was not tight...and you did corners. So I learned corners when I was a child. We had to always have corners, you know, in the bed...they had to be just right. And they were the same way in '84 when I went. And bathing patients...you know, nurses today don't do that. Man you gave...I remember the full bath I had was Mr. Cross from the beach, and I knew him, and I went in and went "oh my Lord", I mean, I went back out and went "Ms. Otto, um, I know him." And she said "Good!"...you know, and it was like, man you really did have to be professional and, you know, it...there was no mess. It was totally professional.
Mims: Now you keep bringing up professionalism. Described that...that concept to me, because the old terminology that we're hearing from the older James Walker nurses, this meant standing up for physicians, this meant respecting senior nurses...graduate nurses. Did that...any of that fall into your...definition?
Miller: Some, but not...I mean, yes, the doctors still were, you know...
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: ...a doctor was a whatever, but not as much as...as when I'm saying professional...was knowing your...knowing what you were doing, knowing the patient, you know, that type of professionalism I'm talking about. You know, having your homework done, knowing exactly what was wrong with that patient, knowing the drugs on that patient, knowing how to take care of that patient if it was a...if he had a tracheotomy, what you do with a tra...trach...how you do...you know, everything to do when you went in with that patient. You knew that...you knew everything about that patient.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: ...you know, and you had to tell the instructor before you went in there exactly what you were going to do, how you were going to do it, you know, it...it's just a total difference in the nurses...the nursing students today who come in, and the instructor comes in, and the nurse on the floor has like two or three students, and the instructor's doing homework, you know. With us, man, that instructor knew exactly what you were doing at all times.
Mims: Was there any, um...
Miller: You didn't give a shot without the instructor, you gave no meds without the instructor...
Mims: But once you...once you showed confidence and ability was this constant? I mean, once you exhibited you could do a shot...
Miller: Then...then she would...she would allow you, but you had to go through...I think it was four...giving four before, you know, with her.
Mims: Um hum. And if you messed up what were the repercussions?
Miller: Then you went back to, you know, you didn't give another shot until you went back and...and practiced and did it until you did it right.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: You didn't mess up number one! (laughing)
Parnell: You knew better!
Mims: I'm just asking...I'm just asking!
Miller: I mean, you know, you never mess up! The first shot I ever gave I was just like, you know, but I didn't...the patient never knew that I'd never give a shot.
Mims: Cause that was part of the professionalism.
Miller: That was part of the professionalism. That patient had no clue until after I gave the shot and I went "how was it?", and she went "that's the best shot!", and I went, "thank you very much it was the first one I ever did!"...you know...
Mims: But you wore your cap and you were in uniform.
Miller: You wore your cap and you were in your uniform.
Mims: Um hum. And people expected once they say that hat and uniform...they expected that you knew what you were doing.
Miller: What you...I was doing. I remember so well one day, Candy Sancilio...and she's another one that...she was in my class.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: Uh...she and I were...had two patient's in the same room, you know, and one patient...my patient had dementia really bad and she was seeing chickens, you know, how many, you know, and she'd go "Don't move there's a chicken!" And of course, the worse thing you can do is say, "oh okay!" Well, you know, I blew that to start with, you know, thank the Lord the instructor wasn't in there, you know, but Candy was the same way. She had to do an NG tube, which is really...you know, and she did...I can't think of the instructor's name. But I mean, she kept saying, "Now push it, push it, push a little harder." And Candy went "chonk" and it just hit the instructor right...the whole stuff back up and just went... "plfffft." (laughing) And I mean the instructor left to go get...and Candy went in the bathroom, and I went in there and she said, (crying voice) "I cannot do this!" I mean, you know, it was like nervous breakdown.
Mims: But you did it away from the patient.
Miller: No...yea, the patient had no clue. And I went "Get back out there!" "I'm not going, this is it, I can't..." I went, "you have four months, you can do this!"...you know.
Mims: So it was a good support with students in the class.
Miller: Oh, wonderful support. And even with all the training and...you know, that I had for the...the two years that I was there, when I went on that floor, when I, you know, became a nurse, and was hired, I was like...I was scared to death! You know, absolutely scared to death! I didn't...I went, "Why did I do this? You know, I 'm not sure I can handle this! I don't think that I'm good enough to be out here on this floor!"...you know?
Mims: Well we...
Miller: And it took an older nurse to say, "Look, you know, just chill, you gonna be alright".
Mims: We know that in the eighties that this program was so well that year after year they had one hundred percent of passing of the state boards.
Miller: We did too in our class.
Mims: Yep, I...matter of fact I just pulled that article cause it's in the nineteen eighty seven Seahawk, it said "we did it again".
Miller: Um hum.
Mims: And...how fabulous! I mean...
Miller: Well it was really neat. And we only had...we started off with thirty...it think may be 34 students in our class. We ended up with nineteen. And I mean, man, they weeded 'em out. I really...and of course, I was older and...and I was there to learn, you know, I want...I wanted this more than anything in this world. And a lot of the younger ones, you know, the Lord knew what he was doing, cause I probably wouldn't have passed had I gone to nursing school right out of high school. There's no way, you know.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: It was really, really hard.
Mims: Did you think of your mom a lot when you were doing this?
Miller: I did. I did. And of course, you know, it's amazing to me how those nurses back a long time ago did pass. Because they were ten times harder on them than they were on us and they were really hard on us, you know.
Mims: But they didn't have the amount of medications that you guys had to learn...
Miller: Noooo! No!
Mims: ...you know, simpler type, you know, treatments...
Miller: Oh, and utensils, and everything...
Mims: You're talking sixty years difference.
Miller: Oh yea! And...and it would be, you know, when I graduated...I...I thought "you know, wouldn't mother be proud".
Miller: You know. And I read a poem...that Edgar Guest
poem...Couldn't Be Done ...somebody said it couldn't be done, but he with a smile replied, "maybe it couldn't", but he would be one that wouldn't say it until he tried. So he buckled right in with a bit of a grin, if he worried he hid it and he started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn't be done, and he did it. That was my father's...one of his mottos. It goes on and on and on, but it's really a...it's a....you know...
Mims: And you read that at graduation?
Miller: I kept...uh huh...and I kept thinking, you know, it can't...maybe it can't be done but I'm not gonna be...you know, I'm gonna try. And I did.
Mims: Was your...um...were you...did you graduate with the regular...um...
Miller: I graduated with UNCW.
Mims: With a regular commencement?
Miller: And the funny thing was John Burney was the...John...he was the speaker! And I was like...I said, "John, if you say one word..." (laughing) you know, here I am the oldest in the graduating class! Then we had a ceremony.
Miller: At separate.
Mims: At Hoggard Hall?
Miller: No, at...at...um...at...right here...at...
Parnell: The nursing...?
Miller: ...at the...
Mims: Like the student union, or...?
Miller: No, no, no, no, right at...at...um...
Mims: The commons area...was it outside or in a building?
Miller: It was the auditorium right here.
Mims: Or Trask?
Miller: Kenan...Kenan, because there were only nineteen of us.
Mims: Ooooh, okay.
Miller: And it was...I'll have to bring you pictures because we're all in our things and we had a flower...each one of us had a flower, we have a hat...I have all the pictures from that. You know, and they took a picture of us walking, you know, all of us on the steps.
Mims: I can see that placed beside her mother's picture...60 years.
Parnell: Um hum.
Miller: Oh yea, and they took pictures outside professionally of our class.
Mims: Yea...if you have their cap and flowers...
Miller: ...cap and the flower...
Mims: ...exactly how their graduation...
Miller: ...but her's was bigger...
Mims: ...oh I know...huge!
Miller: Mine was one rose.
Parnell: They had a bouquet.
Miller: Yea, they had a big bouquet.
Mims: That's cause the doctors sponsored that.
Miller: Oh yea.
Mims: Yea. Well, that is just incredible.
Miller: But it was neat and...and I was glad that I was in the last, you know, graduating...I remember Dr. Rosenketter said, "now you'll have to get your BS". And I went "Dr. Rosenketter, I have two...that was not my purpose! I came into this program because I wanted to nurse, and that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Mims: Um hum. You're not in for the management...all the...
Miller: I'm not it...well, of course, I ended up being in management...
Miller: ...for, you know, years...a couple of years, um...and then when my son had his accident, he...um...I went back to regular OB.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: ...to labor and delivery. I gave up being assistant director because it was just too hard.
Mims: Did your other degree help you in that? Cause I know they look for...
Miller: Oh yes, it did. And it especially helped cause one of my favorite things is teaching.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: I loved...I love teaching! I really enjoyed...the two careers that I've had in my life, I enjoyed both of 'em, you know.
Mims: Well at that nurse advocate board the other day...talking about the shortage of nurse educators.
Miller: See I would love to teach. I would love to be...if nothing more than be...be in clinical.
Miller: But see I don't have a...a masters, and I don't think they would allow that any more. It's sad.
Mims: It is.
Miller: Because that's why Cape Fear, you know we have a nurse right now that I worked with at the hospital, she does their OB clinicals.
Mims: You're talking about Cape Fear Community College?
Miller: Uh huh, yea. She does their...nobody knows better than an OB nurse...what's going on, on an OB floor. And can teach it much better.
Mims: But because university standards require instructors have the elevated degree...
Miller: Yea, have a masters degree. And I think that's...that's so sad.
Mims: It seems like it would be detrimental.
Miller: It is detrimental. I really believe that it is detrimental, because its' holding...you know, they're being held back when they could have excellent...and the student nurses will tell you that, you know. I know when the student nurses came up and I...and, you know, and they would follow, you know...I would take like two of them, you know.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: And they said, "You know, we've learned more from following you for these two days than we've learned..." you know, but of course I loved to teach, so I would get all into, you know, and showing 'em strips, you know, just because I enjoy it, you know. And...but...and I can understand instructors...they don't have enough. You know, like this one instructor had fourteen students there. There's no way...
Mims: You can't oversee that...
Miller: ...that one instructor can over see it. So she would give them to the nurses and that's where you talking about, you know...
Mims: Some hard feelings.
Miller: You had some hard feelings because, you know...
Mims: You're not being paid to do...
Miller: No, they're not being paid, plus they have their job to do. But I think most of 'em...most of 'em will take...be willing to take one...
Miller: ...or two nurses, you know.
Mims: But not...
Miller: No, that's not their job.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: And I think that's a big drawback with...and...and that's what the students told me more than anything else.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: Was, you know, they didn't feel like they were getting the hands on nursing.
Mims: Cause if they were watching you guys do procedures times four for adequacy, then how can anybody supervise that in that...that setting.
Miller: They can't.
Mims: Well that's, you know, that's the bottom line there is that how we move so technologically advanced that we're...
Miller: We have...we've left the...and you know, I feel like...and I can say this now, but the year we graduated was the year they lost a lot of the...of the...
Miller: ...bedside manner. Because that's what meant more to us, was the bedside...we were in there to nurse. We were in there to help to heal, you know.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: After that it became more of...more like public health, I mean, they changed the uniform, they looked like airline stewardesses with black shoes. I mean, you know, it was like...they didn't want anybody to know that they were student nurses. I mean the nur...the students had nothing to do with that.
Mims: Right, it was administration.
Miller: It was administration that did that. You know, it was like, we have to change the look, you know. We have to upgrade the nurse. Whereas in a way they downgraded the nurse.
Mims: One of the controversies we have heard regarding wearing the cap, other than the possibility of sanitation issues, is that it makes the nurse subjective. That it puts them in a...um...lower status when you put the hat on, it becomes demeaning. And this is why some people don't want to wear it.
Miller: See that doesn't...I've heard that...
Mims: Have you heard this already?
Miller: ...but that does not...
Mims: It does not reflect...
Miller: ...in fact, it made me proud, you know.
Mims: I haven't heard anybody who has said anything negative about it.
Miller: I was so proud when I got that nursing cap...it meant so much to me because I...I worked so hard...
Mims: You earned it.
Miller: ...for it that, you know, I was really proud to wear it. And I wore it. The first year, as I say, I was in, you know, I went to all floors. Then, when I went into OB, of course, you can't wear a nursing hat in labor and delivery, there's no way, because you're in scrubs.
Miller: ...you know, so once you put on the scrubs, and then, of course I saw a total involvement of...you know...we went from labor and delivery, nursery, you know, mother...postpartum, to you know, to all of it together. So I was trained in all three fields and did all three, which is what they do now. You know, it's totally different. But in the field I was in, you couldn't wear a white uniform and a...and a...I did when I worked on GYN.
Mims: Um hum.
Miller: I did when I worked on Pediatrics, but in NICU you had to wear scrubs.
Miller: And in labor and delivery you had to wear scrubs.
Mims: But this became a practical issue because...
Miller: It was a practical issue. That's why they have evolved more in the hospital. It used to be when I first started your OR had scrubs. Labor and delivery had scrubs. NICU...well, of course, NICU isn't even that old, but NICU had scrubs. But those were the three places...everybody else wore uniforms. You know, white uniforms and I, you know, and I...of course, I'd have to play three hats, because it...I'd have to call and say, "Where am I," and they'd say "you're GYN", and I'd say "Okay." So I'd come in in my white, you know, white nursing...or hat and if they'd call me and say "we need you on so-and-so", well, I'd take all that off and put on scrubs and go, you know.
Mims: Kind of impractical.
Parnell: How long did you work at New Hanover?
Miller: Twenty years.
Parnell: 20 years.
Miller: Well, I worked from 1986 to nineteen...not quite twenty years...eighteen, nineteen, eighteen...
Mims: You just retired.
Parnell: You just retired.
Miller: I just retired. I just retired.
Mims: When you were a student was the cape part of the student uniform?
Miller: No. The cape was gone...
Mims: Cape was gone.
Miller: ...by then. Of course the cape was with my mother.
Miller: And I hope I can find hers.
Mims: Um hum. I'd like to see what a nineteen twentyish...
Mims: ...would look like. Cause he have one from the forties and one from the sixties...fifties and sixties. I thought Marlene's was...
Parnell: All fifties...
Parnell: We have three.
Miller: You have three.
Miller: I tell you somebody you need to talk to...Faye Peterson.
Mims: Faye Peterson?
Miller: Faye Peterson worked with me. She just retired right before I retired from labor and...OB/GYN...OB...she was a nurse. She graduated from James Walker in 1961.
Mims: Hum. I'll try to find her then.
Miller: I will call you and give you her telephone number.
Mims: I want the other telephone number too, Ms. Majeet's.
Miller: I'll give you Mary Majeet's telephone number too.
Mims: We are kind of...
Parnell: We're running out of time.
Mims: ...kind of running out of time. I just cannot emphasize how great this has been for us.
Miller: Oh, it's been great for me!
Mims: Huge, huge piece of information that you know...
Miller: It's been wonderful and...and you know, we can talk again.
Mims: Well I think that what we might do...you gonna cut Jerry?