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Interview with Jeanne Kemppainen, December 14, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Jeanne Kemppainen, December 14, 2005
December 14, 2005
In this interview Dr. Jeanne Kemppainen, faculty member of UNCW's School of Nursing, uses her own background as a student in one of the country's first nursing degree programs and her experiences in nursing education to discuss growth and change within the profession. Dr. Kemppainen addresses topics such as: the shift from diploma programs to degree programs, the phasing-out of traditional caps and uniforms, advancements in classroom training, alterations in the hospital environment, and her experiences on the nursing faculty of UNCW.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Kemppainen, Jeanne Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn and Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 12/14/2005 Series: Voices of UNCW - Faculty/Staff Length: 60 minutes

Q: I'm LuAnn Mims with Jerry Parnell with Randall Library Special Collections, continuing our series on nursing in the area. And today we have the benefit of talking to a nursing faculty member, Dr. Jeanne Kemppainen, and she's going to talk with us today about her career here and her experiences in nursing. Thank you so much for joining us today. If we could get a little personal background; where you were born and raised, and give us some history about your family.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Actually, I'm the daughter of a Finnish immigrant family and I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and actually went to school at Wayne State University in one of the very first Baccalaureate programs in the nation. I went to school from '58 to '62. Wayne State had just started a Baccalaureate program, so it was the new innovative trend in nursing university training. I lived in Michigan a good while and traveled with my husband, who was with General Electric, and that's how we came down here. I arrived in Wilmington in 1976 and was really privileged to be asked to join the faculty at a time when the school was in the ADN program. Dorothy Dixon was the director of the program and she's the lady that hired me. I think there were probably seven or eight of us on the faculty. It was a small school. We were in Hoggard Hall. It was just a special time in nursing, because the old ways still hadn't disappeared and a lot of the traditions were still so evident.

Q: Let me back up just a minute. What led you to go into nursing to begin with?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Believe it or not, it was a really strange circumstance. It's almost peculiar. I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was a product of the "Happy Days" generation and women didn't have that right and privilege. When I went to do my career interview with a veterinarian, he actually counseled me out of it and said it would be very difficult for a woman to pursue veterinarian medicine, that I should be a nurse. That's where women belonged.

Q: This is at the high school level?

Jeanne Kemppainen: This was at the 9th grade level, 9th-10th grade level in high school, so I really set my sights on nursing, which seemed to be the place to go. I was kind of reluctant, because I had really wanted to go into medicine. As I got into nursing, though, I realized it was a wonderful career, so I was glad to do that.

Q: And then you said that the program that you entered into was a degree program.

Jeanne Kemppainen: One of the first in the nation. I think Wayne was either the fifth or the sixth Baccalaureate program in the whole United States. There was a really new idea in nursing. Most of the schools of nursing were in the diploma programs. And actually, we felt kind of like we were new, or maybe even innovative students, and most of us were pretty longing to be in diploma programs. We would watch the diploma nurses and think gee, those are real nurses and we have just all this university training. And we worked side-by-side with diploma nurses and actually went to school as long as they did. Our program was five years long, but it incorporated a lot more basic studies and university training than they had.

Q: Was there a diploma school that you looked into at all, or was it all the time you wanted to go to this program?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Actually, I wanted to go to a diploma school, Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing in Detroit. I was told I couldn't be a good nurse, because I had allergies and was declined from the program. I can remember crying when I got the letter. My mother happened to have read about this innovative thing at Wayne State University and took her drippy-eyed daughter in the car down to Cass Avenue in Detroit and sure enough, I got enrolled. I've often thought of that, that I probably wouldn't have been a good nurse because I had allergies. (laugh) It was just by a fluke that I happened to go to a university program, and I really mourned the loss of the organdy cap and the blue cape for an efficient university, but it turned out that that was good direction in life.

Q: It sounds like you had your parents' support in entering into the field.

Jeanne Kemppainen: I sure did. They were solidly behind me and actually gave me the chance to go. And had it not been for my mom, I don't know what would have happened. (laugh)

Q: Any other brothers or sisters interested in medicine?

Jeanne Kemppainen: No, just one brother and he's a teacher. And in fact, in my family, no one is a nurse. I was one of the first in my family to ever have a chance to go to college, so for my family, that was a big event.

Q: You said you looked longingly at some of the regalia of the diploma nurses, the caps and the capes.

Jeanne Kemppainen: I did.

Q: So you did not have that cap until when?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We actually received a cap. We had just a plain white cap with two buttons on the back. Instead of the lovely diploma uniforms, we had just a very white, short-sleeved with just a small collar and a green patch from our university. We worked alongside these diploma students that had the lovely white aprons and the scissors tucked up in there, things. They had caps with stripes. We kind of looked more impersonal, I thought. (laugh) Most of us were very envious of the tradition and the richness of their program.

Q: Now diploma nurses, from what we understand, they have just a very few months of clinical training in a classroom, and then they go and start doing hands-on. In the degree program that you were in, when did you actually start training?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We actually had an awful lot of classroom training in theory, the underlining theory. We just went to the hospital two days a week. We started that probably at the beginning of the sophomore year in the university and went for the next four years in the clinical setting. We didn't go to school in the summer. It was much more of a balance. We didn't work the floors. We always were there just with a teacher for our 8-hour day, so it was a really different focus. I could feel the difference when I worked alongside of a hospital diploma nurse. I could feel the gap in experience and confidence. We were so smart book-wise, but we didn't have nearly the skills that they did.

Q: How many students were in your class?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Actually, 80 or 90 started out and 22 of us finished. It was a hard program. We were still losing people in the last year. We were being told we would be the leaders of the future and we had to be the best. It was so difficult that many, many people just kind of gave up. Those are the days when your grades were posted on the wall at the university, next to your social security number and your name. It was a different time.

Q: So it was hard academically.

Jeanne Kemppainen: It was extremely hard. You had to have really good grades to get into the university, and then once you got in, you really were held to a very high standard. An awful lot of people, by the time we were entering our junior year, weren't there anymore.

Q: Probably a lot of real life crept in, because the diploma nurses that we've talked to at their schools, they had to remain single. They couldn't be married. And of course, living in a residence hall, there were a lot of restrictions placed on their social activities outside of the hospital setting. In your situation, did you have to stay in a residence hall?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We didn't, but we weren't allowed to join sororities. Even though we were university students, we lived by a lot of the rules of the diploma programs. We couldn't be part of any social club. We had to really study hard. We were required to do an incredible amount of homework. There was still a lot of kind of very tight control over our schedules and such, even though I rode the bus home every night. But I have to tell you, I wasn't allowed to get married. I did anyway, and the Dean almost died. I had to bring my husband in to have a personal interview about the seriousness of the grave injustice we had incurred, and actually, they tried very hard to fail me out. They asked me not to wear my wedding rings. Once we passed one semester, then the cat was out of the bag, and after that, there were 12 girls that got married, so it was kind of like I guess what you'd call being a wave breaker. I didn't plan on it, (laugh) but that's what happened.

Q: They didn't tell you beforehand you could not be married?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Yes, they did. They did, but that was the way it worked out. (laugh)

Q: Of course, during the world war period, a time when we talked to some of the James Walker Community nurses, the attrition there was due to marriage. They started dropping out because they put the rule in you couldn't be married. I'm sure when you discuss this with current nurses; they look at you like--

Jeanne Kemppainen: I know it's really different from our world today.

Q: It is. And you were willing to do what you had to do to stay in, compliments to you, so that you did remain in the program.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Everybody that was leaving our program left because of the rigorous academics. And also, even though we were in the hospital only two days a week, we had teachers that could freeze water at 60 paces. It was very stressful. I can remember being lined up against the wall in the dirty utility room and asked how many cc's in an ice cube for a pediatric patient, because I was calculating and taken out for it, and I didn't know. And the teacher was really yelling, (laugh) and made me go back and measure ice cubes and measure the milliliters in it. I got a demerit because I didn't know. It was almost harsh, militaristic training. We were kind of likened between the old world and the new world, but we were held to many of the same standards.

Q: Another thing that the diploma nurses have told us is the respect to the graduate nurses that had to be held, changing places in line, and of course, standing when doctors entered the room.

Jeanne Kemppainen: We also had that. I had a class called Professional Adjustments. We were taught that you walked along the side of the hall so that the doctor could walk down the middle, and that you walked very politely and demurely, with your eyes down, so that the physicians would have the full access, or other professionals. And we were also taught to stand up when the doctors came into the nursing station, and best of all is that you had to get off the elevator if a doctor came on and there was no room. We learned all about how nurses acted in those eras. You learned never, ever to question the physicians, ever. We also had an interesting class called Flower Class where we learned to take the flowers out of the bedside at night, because they felt that the flowers would absorb the necessary oxygen that the patients would be breathing at night. We always had to take them and put them on the floor outside of the hallway at night, trim them, put fresh water in them, put them back in during the day. You could see, even though I was a new, modern nurse, our training was still the old school. I look back really fondly at so much of it. I really do.

Q: So it took you five full years to finish?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right. We essentially did four years. We had one year of general college studies, and by the sophomore year in college, we were already learning the fundamental bed-making skills and bouncing the quarter with a tight sheet. And then we started going to the hospitals and spent a year in medical surgical nursing. The fourth year, we were still doing pediatrics and maternity, and then we did some leadership after that. It was a long intense program. I think it was one year of college studies and the diploma program connected with summers off, somehow. They shortened it after that. So it was a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new.

Q: I understand that leadership was the largest thing with getting your BSN.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right.

Q: Once you graduated, were you able to move into a position of leadership?

Jeanne Kemppainen: My first job was as a public health nurse in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, a kind of a very poor area.

Q: How long did you stay on that job?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Just one year. The challenges were so difficult. I had a little piece of paper that said you have to go give a baby bath demonstration to a new mother. I went to this home and there was no floor in the home or running water. There was a very poor woman with a tiny baby and I thought my goodness, what do I do. I just checked the baby to make sure the baby was okay, but there was no way I could give a bath demonstration in a home without a floor. They had dirt where they lived on. That was a very interesting year. I learned a whole lot and I think I matured a whole lot as a nurse and had a lot of compassion for the folks. The reason I left the job was when I was asked to teach on the faculty at Wayne State and I did that. I guess that's how my leadership in teaching came into it. I taught for two years in the mental health nursing.

Q: That's interesting, because during this period of time, a lot of diploma schools are closing and the move is towards academics. With you holding the Bachelor's degree, you were set up for that. Did you have that as a long-term goal to be able to do that?

Jeanne Kemppainen: You mean to teach?

Q: Teach, uh huh.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Actually, it felt really exciting to be asked. I guess we had been exposed to the idea in undergraduate school. And actually, until I was asked, I never thought of that idea. I went to work and my faculty appointment was at a state mental institution, and I taught diploma contract nurses from all over the state of Michigan mental health nursing. So for being somebody who wouldn't be a nurse to the irony of teaching Henry Ford Hospital student nurses as a faculty member was just kind of a special moment. I thoroughly loved teaching. I found out that was my niche.

Q: Was nurse education something that people thought about, or did it just kind of happen? We've talked to several people who it seems like this just kind of happened.

Jeanne Kemppainen: In my case, it just sort of happened. They had some beginning nurse education Masters programs, but mostly, they were just clinically focused. I don't even recall having a nursing education Masters available to me at that point. I didn't get mine until 1985. It just kind of happened, and I think it was based on whether you were happy doing that or you felt comfortable, or that that was your calling within nursing. Once I taught with the students, I found out that I really loved it.

Q: Were there African Americans taking this program too?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We actually had two African American students of the 22, and I've still kept in touch with them.

Q: The reason I ask is because it seems like during this period of time, a lot of opportunities were not made available, and that so many of them found other roles, other than nurse education. When we were interviewing the community hospital people, it was hard pressed to find nurse educators for their programs.

Jeanne Kemppainen: I guess Detroit was at a different place in history at that point. The beginning opportunities were starting to appear, so I did teach with an African American nurse.

Q: You said that you had that one job for one year, and then you went to teach at Wayne State. How long did you remain there?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I stayed there two years, until my husband graduated. He has a Doctorate in engineering. And then we started to move corporately with General Electric. We lived in Schenectady. We lived in California. General Electric transferred us here and that's how I came to be familiar with UNCW, as a trailing spouse, I guess you could say.

Q: That was in 1976?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Mm hmm.

Q: Had you heard of Wilmington College or UNCW?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Actually, I remember driving by College Road and it was two lanes, if you can remember. (laugh) It's hard to believe that now. I saw the college and I read in the paper that there was a School of Nursing so I thought, well, I'll just try to go see if that's an opportunity, and it turned out that they needed a nurse with former teaching experience in mental health nursing. Dorothy Dixon hired me and she was the loveliest lady. She was very stately and elegant, and very quiet-spoken, but very much a powerful leader for the School of Nursing. I was so delighted to get hired. I stayed with the school until 1985.

Q: And you left due to a transfer?

Jeanne Kemppainen: My husband was transferred.

Q: Where did you go from here?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Jackson, Mississippi.

Q: Were you able to secure a job there?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I worked as a VA nurse for the next 17 years. I worked as an advanced practice mental health nurse, and from there went to California and did my Doctorate work.

Q: What school?

Jeanne Kemppainen: The University of California, San Francisco, and after that, applied for a postdoctoral fellowship through the VA system and did, I think it was a postdoctoral fellow for three years. It was a national appointment. In all of those years, for all of those travelings, I came back to UNCW once a year to visit the school, to look at my colleagues, and to just think gee, I enjoyed it so much here. I was very tightly tied to the school. And as I finished my postdoctoral work, I was sitting in my office one day wondering what direction my career would go, and lo and behold, on our computer at the VA Medical Center appeared a want ad for a faculty member at UNCW in mental health nursing. (laugh) I called Dr. Bettie Glenn and one thing led to another, and I just thought I have to come back. I just enjoyed it so much.

Q: What year was that?

Jeanne Kemppainen: That was actually in 2002.

Q: Really?

Jeanne Kemppainen: So following a 17-year hiatus, I am now in my 10th year, seven in the first, and now three. It's been really special, because I've seen this school grow from the two-year point where Miss Dixon was in charge wearing her fine little organdy cap and going through those lovely elegant pinning ceremonies, all the way to watch it where it is currently. It's just been wonderful to see the whole perspective of the school grow. But to come back each year and watch it progress has been really a thrill. And needless to say, when they offered me a position, I crawled through the phone and said, "How fast do you need me?" (laugh)

Q: Had your husband retired by then?

Jeanne Kemppainen: He was at a point where he was telling me to go in and take the position. He was sort of phasing out of his job and he said, "I think this would be fine." He's trailed after me so I could come back and be a teacher.

Q: Where did you get your Masters from?

Jeanne Kemppainen: East Carolina.

Q: Oh really?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I got my Masters Degree in the early '80's. The school was at the point of planning the Baccalaureate program. We were all encouraged to go back and get a Masters Degree. I actually commuted to East Carolina with Adrienne Jackson.

Q: I was going to say, Adrienne talked about getting hers from there, and it sounded like you had full support of the university to make that transition and do the next step.

Jeanne Kemppainen: We really, really did. We took some of our earliest courses here on campus through the School of Education, and then for the clinical courses, we commuted to East Carolina. We really were supported so well. It took us three years. By then, the Baccalaureate program was up and running. We finished just as that started, and so we were part of helping to develop that, too.

Q: When you get the BSN program into a school, making a change from the Associates Degree, it also changed faculty requirements. Is that correct?

Jeanne Kemppainen: It did.

Q: Can you go into that a little bit more?

Jeanne Kemppainen: That's why we were being asked to get our Masters in nursing education, because of the Baccalaureate program. There were new state requirements. And actually, those that didn't progress didn't stay on as faculty.

Q: Was the Masters considered terminal?

Jeanne Kemppainen: It really was, and that was like in the middle '80's. There were some doctoral programs. Chapel Hill was just in the planning stage of doing a doctoral program. I would have gone on, except I would have had to have moved out of state, away from my family. There were very few doctoral programs in nursing, so it was the terminal degree at that point.

Q: What is the justification for getting your Ph.D. if the Masters is the terminal?

Jeanne Kemppainen: That was true in the '80's, but with an increasing move toward academic preparation in nursing, the Doctorate has become really the standard for nursing faculty. It's really to pursue the scholarship and to move nursing into the realm of university education. That's happened within the last 10-15 years.

Q: We understand that when Dr. Rosenketter was brought on board, she had a Ph.D. in education. It wasn't in nursing.

Jeanne Kemppainen: No, it wasn't in nursing. She carpooled with us a couple of times and was a delightful lady to know. She did not have a Masters Degree in nursing education, and that was a requirement by state policy that in order to teach in the School of Nursing, you had to have a Masters in nursing education. Many of the early faculty in those years, the '80's, the '70's and '80's did have Ph.D.'s, but they were in related fields like sociology, or anthropology, or business or education. And as nursing moved more into an academic arena, you had to have a Masters in nursing education.

Q: What is the requirement for the school today, as far as nurse educators?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We have Masters. You have to have a Masters in nursing education to teach in our program, and ideally, a Doctorate within nursing. That's really recommended.

Q: Do you have anything in place where you hire somebody at a Masters level and assist them in finding a Ph.D. program?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We sure do. We have several folks that are interested and are progressing, doing online programs, if you can feature that. That's something we would really encourage is that continued education, because that really brings you the opportunity to develop the profession some more, and pursue research and scholarship within the nursing arena. That's really so essential.

Q: As you start getting into like confusion, if you go into a hospital and announce that you're a doctor, how do the patients take that title? They see nurses coming in and it's like I'm your nurse/doctor.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Yeah, I guess in the practice sense, I really almost never used it. They would call me Nurse Jeanne, just like the old diploma days. (laugh) It does. They really don't understand it, unless you explain it's a Ph.D., and then the question is, "Why do you need a Ph.D. to be a nurse? (laugh) It gets interesting.

Q: I imagine it does. You've answered a couple of my questions. I wouldn't know how to even address that; why would you need to have a Ph.D. for the program here. But like you said, it's developing scholarships and research.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Actually, our faculty, I believe the last _______ of the search committee here, and 60 percent of our faculty now are doctorally prepared. We're bringing that in to align with the rest of the university. It's really to elevate the scholarship and the academic level of nurses, per se.

Q: So by the time you arrived back here, the Masters level of nursing had already taken place. The first leg of the Masters program is in clinical?

Jeanne Kemppainen: When I came back, they had a family nurse practitioner, and just this year, we added a nursing education track, and we're hoping to look ahead to adding another clinical type track in the future.

Q: I understand that the opportunities for graduate nurses are very, very high in the corporate world that does research studies, like PPD or something like that. What would change someone's mind from the money that they could get working in a hospital or professional research, to going into education?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Really, you bring up an interesting point. You do earn a lot of money. I think someone who goes into education, like myself, it's in your heart. That's really the difference. I think you would feel committed to teaching and comfortable and want to mentor students. I know I took a big pay cut to come to the east, but teaching is really in my soul, I guess, and in my fiber. It's true. It becomes beyond money. It becomes where you feel like your skills are best used and such.

Q: For the new nurse, of course, graduating, making so much money, it's probably harder for them to see long-term benefits of getting into the education. Do you see any nurses that have been, like what you did, out in a clinical setting for a number of years, coming back?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We actually have many that call us and inquire about that. I think it's because of the tremendous shortage in nursing education, and also, teaching is exciting. Many of them have worked with students out in the hospitals and such, and so they're familiar with what it means to be a faculty. Many are moms with the summers that they need to spend with their children. That doesn't become a problem at all. It works for a lot of people.

Q: I know we've talked to some who went through the diploma school and then they came out here for the four-year program, but I'm not sure we've talked to anyone, other than Adrienne, who got their Masters Degree. We attended that one nurse advocate meeting. Dean Adams remarked on the extreme shortage of nurse educators. How are you guys dealing with that as professionals with this advance in trying to get a new building and all this other stuff?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Well the first thing we did was put in the nurse educator track, and we have some of our first students are probably going to be on schedule for graduating in May, which is very good. And actually, we're doing a lot of recruiting, and we've had a lot of interest in our program. We also work very hard. We're all really committed to our program. Some days, I carry a lot of work. We all do. But we can see things are getting better slowly.

Q: I think she made a statement that she was losing a couple of her faculty through retirement.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Through retirement. In America, many nurse faculty members will be retiring within the next five years, and there aren't many people behind them, so the efforts are really into laying the groundwork for education programs and enticing folks into the nursing education arena.

Q: It seems like throughout your life, if you've had a chance to reflect, you've kind of always been on the edge of transition, like you're here now on this transition trying to push towards the nurse education level. Did you ever see yourself in this position?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Actually, no. It's funny how life drops opportunities in your lap. I think, actually, you're right about the transition, because when I was here under Dorothy Dixon, I wanted to get a Masters Degree and actually drove in my car around four counties and got a listing of nearly 100 names of people who would love to be in a Masters program and brought it to the head of AHAC and said, "Here." It turned out that he was willing to work with us to bring East Carolina's program here. That's how that got started was with a very frustrated lady who wanted to go to school, couldn't leave her children. (laugh) There was a wonderful lady at AHAC named Cynthia Luke at the time, and also Neil-- I can't remember his name-- and he helped facilitate that program into this area, so you're right about transition and change.

Q: You were kind of at the beginning part of the BSN, for your own career, and then you've just kind of been on that edge. I know the patterns of nursing have changed a lot and you just are kind of on that wave of change.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right, right. (laugh)

Q: Whether you want to be in it or not.

Jeanne Kemppainen: I know. This just sort of happened. I think it's the times we live in. Also, though, I think I've always had my ears open for opportunities. I absolutely love nursing. I couldn't be in a better place. (laugh)

Q: You still get to do nursing in some regard.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right.

Q: Your basic contact level, is it through the students?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Through the students, right.

Q: Do you follow the students out to the clinical settings?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I've done that. I also occasionally do private practice with patients too, as a mental health clinician. But you manage to keep in touch.

Q: I wondered how you were able to handle that. A lot of times, people in academic environments get so used to being into the theoretical aspects of it that the realities start to _____.

Jeanne Kemppainen: You have to keep a balance, because pretty quickly, things are changing so fast it could get away from you.

Q: Did they call it "in training"?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Yes. I went through training. It hadn't changed yet at that point, but we were in training.

Q: What do they call it now in nursing school?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Being in education as nurses.

Q: You had said that one of your clinical advisors would freeze water. Do you think that there are people on the faculty now that offer that type of persona?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I think things have changed so much. There's such warmth and nurturing for our students. I see some of the young faculty members that I teach with that are the best teachers. They're the kind that can fire up people and get them so excited. I can think of Stephanie Turrise, who's one of our young faculty members who's just a knockout. Students love her, and so that pendulum has really swung away from someone who was so board rigid and angry and controlling. And many of our faculty were pretty tough characters, I would have to say. (laugh) We had a teacher, the one who asked me about the ice cube didn't wrinkle when she sat down and we would just marvel that there were people like that in this world. We were terrified of the teachers.

Q: So many of the diploma nurses talked about specific nurses that just incited fear in them.

Jeanne Kemppainen: If we would see them coming, you could feel your stomach get tight, and you would start to think in your head; do I have the answers to every single question I could possibly ever be asked? You were so afraid that you were really never really at ease in a clinical situation. You worked very hard, and even at that, you got chewed out quite a bit. (laugh)

Q: But now it's more of a nurturing.

Jeanne Kemppainen: And a sharing in a collegial kind of environment. I know my own style of teaching is very mentoring, and wanting to encourage students and get them as excited about nursing as I am. So that pendulum has really swung around.

Q: You also mentioned the military-like aspects of what you were dealing with. We know that a lot of that has disappeared with the uniforms and all that. How do you feel about that particular change?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Probably many nurses you've interviewed have said this. We've lost a lot of heritage and traditions. And it wasn't just the uniform that you put on; it was the fact that you had a lot of integrity and values that went with it. I don't know how we could reclaim that, but I think I would love to see that in the future. When the uniform went away, we really lost some essential element that is missing today. It's not the same.

Q: You mentioned the lady who could sit without crinkling. It seems like now, without that uniform barrier, you are able to bring into this nurturing environment what feels like the donning of the cap equals submission to that type of a stance.

Jeanne Kemppainen: It's very hard to articulate it. The uniform stood for a lot more than the uniform. I think it's true we've lost that and it was cumbersome to a point, but the world is moving on and the values aren't the same. It used to be that when a nurse was on duty, you knew there was a sense of commitment and dedication. I think our world has changed so much today.

Q: Not to mention helping the patients identify who the people are.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right. And that's very hard.

Q: Were you capped?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We were and we held a Florence Nightingale candle.

Q: Was that done so far into the program or was that at the end?

Jeanne Kemppainen: It was before we went to the hospital the first time. It was the biggest moment in nursing school. We were capped during the ceremony on a stage, holding a candle. And then as we got our pin, the same thing happened. And so that part of the old diploma training, we followed the tradition.

Q: But you didn't receive like a band every year.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Just a plain white hat, nothing else changed.

Q: And then they got like a graduation cap, too. Did your cap change?

Jeanne Kemppainen: No. Ours just stayed the same. And actually, we were told we didn't have to wear one after we graduated. It was an optional choice.

Q: And so when you graduated in '62, the cap was starting to become optional at that time?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right, right, in some of the bigger cities. I had to buy one to come back here to work in 1970. I wrote to my school and said, "Guess what? I need to wear a hat to teach in. Could I buy one?" They had stopped making them at Wayne State, so they said, "I suggest you go to a uniform place and buy something, buy the best thing you can." And luckily, I had saved a couple of my old hats, so I starched them up and put them to work again.

Q: As educators, the faculty used their caps?

Jeanne Kemppainen: We sure did. We were very properly dressed. (laugh)

Q: When was this?

Jeanne Kemppainen: In the '70's.

Q: In the '70's. What about here at UNCW? Is that a requirement for the educators?

Jeanne Kemppainen: When we worked for Miss Dixon, we had caps on and we looked spiffy and first class.

Q: She was used to being a director there at James Walker.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right and the faculty looked just as professional as you could be.

Q: When did the uniform go away in your situation?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I think by then it was becoming the two-piece casual scrubs. I worked in the mental health section, so we wore a lot of professional casual clothes and white lab coats, so I don't really have a touch with that. But it was surely going away by the early '90's. People were becoming much more casual.

Q: We're just trying to get a thumb on when the transition starts coming. And since you had experience out of this area, I was hoping you could shed a little light on that for us.

(crew talk)

Q: We're going to talk more about what was going on at UNCW. You mentioned some of the earlier faculty. You talked about Dixon. Who was under her? Who would have been the next person to go to, like an assistant or whatever?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I actually worked with a lady named Barbara Otto[ph?].

Q: I have not heard her name before.

Jeanne Kemppainen: She was a really wonderful lady. I think she wasn't an official assistant to Miss Dixon. Barbara was like a senior teacher. I always checked out with her and then she reported to Miss Dixon. But as far as an organizational structure, I think we were just all immediately below her. We were such a small school.

Q: The reason I was asking is because when Miss Dixon died, were you here?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Yes.

Q: Who took over after her?

Jeanne Kemppainen: There was a lady named Nancy Gilman[ph?], who was our interim director. I believe Nancy is still up in the Raleigh area. She had come from the Chapel Hill faculty. Nancy was an interim director for several years, so she was like in between.

Q: We have seen two Nancy's names.

Jeanne Kemppainen: There was a Nancy Haddock[ph?] who still lives in Wilmington. Nancy did some of that. But initially, after Miss Dixon's funeral, Nancy Gilman was the one that took over for more than a year. And then there was a short period of time when Nancy Haddock also. Nancy Haddock works at the Growth and Development Center here in Wilmington. You're right. There were two Nancy's.

Q: We've gone through some of the archival records. I was trying to make it to be the same person. I thought maybe she got married, that kind of thing.

Jeanne Kemppainen: It actually is two different folks at two different sections, and then Dr. Rosenketter came in, I think, in '84 or '85, just shortly before I left.

Q: So you had a chance to meet with her.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Mm hmm, but primarily I worked under Miss Dixon, and then under Miss Gilman and then under Nancy Haddock, so those were the three.

Q: Some of the things that we've been told was that when Dr. Rosenketter arrived, she kind of wanted to keep moving forward into the four-year program, and so the two-year program, the memories and everything kind of got pushed by the wayside.

Jeanne Kemppainen: That's true.

Q: And there was a faction that really wanted to keep some of that alive.

Jeanne Kemppainen: We lost a lot of tradition. We changed uniforms radically.

Q: Under Dr. Rosenketter?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Mm hmm. The old uniform, I believe, had some blue and white and kind of a fake apron type thing. It looked more like a traditional student uniform. And under Dr. Rosenketter's new program, the students started wearing pants. In fact, they're still wearing the same uniform today; navy blue pants and a white shirt, which was very futuristic at that point.

Q: She took a chance totally against the norm.

Jeanne Kemppainen: That's right. They had the pants and the optional skirt and the white shirt, and then a navy blue jacket. Most of the traditions were let go.

Q: The capping, when did that stop here?

Jeanne Kemppainen: The capping stopped probably as Dr. Rosenketter came. I remember capping ceremonies all the way through. I believe there's a large church on Market Street fairly near the chancellor's house on that same side of the street.

Q: You're thinking of Hanover High School, I think.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right.

Q: Or the big Baptist church.

Jeanne Kemppainen: It's the big Baptist church. I remember capping ceremonies.

Q: We've got some pictures. We even have, through the '70's, pictures of capping and Florence Nightingale. Do they still do the Florence Nightingale pledge?

Jeanne Kemppainen: They actually do. I know when the students graduated last May, someone read it, and we do have the pinning part, but when we cleaned out the Hoggard Hall, I found stuffed away in a back corner of the lab a green musty pillow, which is where they had the pins on.

Q: Oh, really!

Jeanne Kemppainen: And so we gave it a proper burial. (laugh) Yeah, it was molded beyond salvaging. But most of the traditions had been set aside from our school.

Q: I had seen in one of the annuals a little exhibit for nurses' week where they had little dolls in uniforms. Adrienne had kind of told us that Rosenketter tossed them in the trash.

Jeanne Kemppainen: When she came in, it was as though everything the school had had was swept out the door. The green pillow got shoved in the lab. It kind of hurt to find it, because all the gold trimming was falling off and it was just covered with mold, so it couldn't be restored. But it was the green pillow that they carried the pins on. We had to get rid of it, because it was so unsanitary. The traditions were really lost a lot at that point.

Q: What is kept alive, the receiving of their pin at graduation, right?

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right, and I don't see much else. One of my goals, really, at continuing to teach is really to try to teach the history of the program. And that's why I came to see you, because I feel like some of that has been lost. I would like to see very much that pride and sense of tradition, because that's what connects one generation of nurses to another to the values that we all encumber.

Q: I had so many nurses comment that when they put their cap on, they became "the nurse," and then when they took the cap off, they could go into their regular personalities. But all that training that they took, it seemed to have been symbolic to have that cap put on.

Jeanne Kemppainen: That's right.

Q: What can you liken that to today, where a nurse steps into her nurse role?

Jeanne Kemppainen: I don't think I see that anymore. Nursing is still wonderful, but there's not a magic moment in nursing anymore, and there is not a magic identity. I think it evolves over time in nurses, particularly, as they get out and practice, grow into that role, but it's not like it was with the magic moment of becoming pinned. That part has evolved.

Q: Have you looked into how other schools have kind of gone back to some of those traditions? We've found some in our research of how schools have started reinstituting some of these features.

Jeanne Kemppainen: The ones that I know of are talking about it, but haven't done much.

Q: I wanted to know if there had been enough people to go through that, to recognize a little bit of the change, what the outcome is on that.

Jeanne Kemppainen: I think there's a lot of recognition that we have to go back and reclaim some of our heritage.

Q: Would it have to be so rigid and military-like?

Jeanne Kemppainen: No. (laugh) You don't have to know how many cc's are in a melted ice cube, or how to do flower class, (laugh) or how to really be so scared in a hallway that tears come in your eyes and you think, "Oh my gosh, here she comes!" (laugh) But you're right. I mean just the proud heritage in nursing that has to be somehow reintegrated. I think it was just an effort to move everything into the modern century, but you have to pull some of the good things with you that were part of who you are.

Q: It's also good for an institution, an educational institution to do something like this. How does that transpire into a hospital setting? Wouldn't you have to have the support of your clinical study too?

Jeanne Kemppainen: There are some groundbreaking efforts going on in hospitals to reclaim the uniforms, because of the public complaints. You don't know the nurse from the janitor. And even the actions of the nurse are just more relaxed, so you can't even tell by the behaviors who's the nurse and who is the janitor. At our hospital that I worked at was very interested in reclaiming the professional image of the nurse.

Q: So that's good to have that support, because if you teach them one thing and then they go out into the real world, you just want everybody to be on the same page.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Right.

Q: From personal experience in the last couple of weeks with my dad in the hospital, at 85 years old, he had no idea who his nurse is.

Jeanne Kemppainen: I know.

Q: They've got these charts on the wall that says "Your nurse is."

Jeanne Kemppainen: Which you can't tell.

Q: No, you can't tell. There is just nothing that distinguished them from everybody else. And of course, he kept looking towards the nurse's aide, because she was older.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Which is probably very good.

Q: I do want to thank you for talking to us today. We always ask somebody to give a final thought. I know that you're going to be working with our exhibit and just any thoughts on what we can do to keep this going?

Jeanne Kemppainen: The thing that is just so pleasing for me is to see you trying to reclaim the heritage that I sense that we've lost within nursing. And also at UNCW, some of the traditions that we had made nursing so special, and I would just encourage you to persist. That's why I brought my students. (laugh) I just want to share.

Q: You've been able to bridge a lot of gaps that we've had in the development of the program here that we haven't been able to get that many interviews yet, but we're working on that.

Jeanne Kemppainen: Good.

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