TALES from the FRONT PORCH
Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project
REFLECTIONS on CARING
Older Nurses are the Answer to the Nursing Shortage
by Norma J. STRINGHAM, R.N.
After 40 years of bedside nursing, you think I would appreciate sitting in a recliner with my feet up. Well, thanks,
but no thanks.
After I had been retired two years, I began longing to return to nursing. I prayed for wisdom and
guidance. I knew I needed to return to work at tha tpoint in my life, or I would never again do what I loved to do.
Things change so quickly in the medical field. Since I had mainatined my subscription to RN, renew my license,
and obtained the necessary contact hours, I believed I still would be able to serve to the bedside. In answer to my
prayer, the the nurse manager from my previous place of employment contacted me. Imagine my joy and surprise from
that phone call!!
To encourage actually means "to give courage." That is what this nurse manager did for me.
She gave me the courage.
I had several fears about returning to the bedside. I knew some employers
would not consider applicants in my age group. This employer assured me that she was interested only in the
quality of my work, not my age.
I pointed out another fear to this manager. I had let my Advanced Cardiovascular
Life Support (ACLS) and Trauman Nursing Core Corse (TNCC) certificaitons lapse. These were required since
our hospital is very small and all nurses must demonstrate proficiency in several areas.
The nurses in the ACLS class were much
younger than I was - young enough to be my daughters. In spite of the age factor, I did very well. The difference was
that I studied four times as long as I had when I was younger.
I was the oldest member of the TNCC class, but there
were several students in my age group. I was pleased to read in my study packet that the facility where I took TNCC did
not discriminate because of age, race, or sex. The only consideration was that you do the job well.
When I retired at
the age of 62, I told my nurse manager that I must be careful not to become too tired. I think she remembered our
conversation because because she offered me four-hour shifts. She needed someone to fill the gaps between eight- and
12-hour shifts, and this worked out very well for both of us.
During my two years away from bedside nursing, my
husband had both his kneesreplaced. These years were truly educational for me. I traveled for several hours to
where he was hospitalized, and stayed with him around the clock why he recuperated from his surgeries. I helped with his
care because the floor nurses were stretched thin.
When I returned to nursing, I felt a new compassion for family
members. I alawys had been patient-focused, but Inow found myself asking wives and children of patients, "How are you?
How are you holding up? What can I do for you?"
Twice Ihave been assigned to patients because of my arge. A few yearso ago, a
young psychiatric patient was making advances toward the young nurses who were caring for him, so I was assigned to him.
He was calmer with an older woman, and I did not feel threatened as the younger nurses had. He certainly did not make
advances toward someone with gray hair and glasses. He was quite respectful.
Recently, I was assinged to an older
man who had Alzheimer's disease. I had cared for him years earlier, and I noticed that his personality had changed
since then. He now made suggestive remarks toward the younger nurses, causing both themand the patient's wife discomfort.
When I cared for him, the whole situation improved.
My manager also told me she believed the older nurses were useful
mentors. I have found this to be true. Before my retirement, I had helped orient new nurses, and I had served as a preceptor
twice. I believe that older nurses returning to the workforce is one answer to the nursing shortage.
I am thankful now
for each day that God grants me the healthy, strength, skill, and wisdowm to care for the sick. I am proud to be a
part of this great profession for as long as I am able.
NOTE: Norma J. STRINGHAM is an acute care staff nurse at Ringold County Hospital, Mount Ayr, Iowa.
SOURCE: Lighthouse On-Line: Reflections on Caring
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