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Monday, August 27, 2012

The Springs: Old Nurses’ Dorm


Unloading my luggage, carrying the bags and boxes of treasures I couldn’t live without up those steep wooden steps, really warmed Curt and I on that cool New Years Day. The dorm room Joyce and I had been assigned was down the hall to the right of the steps. The place was so quiet I wondered if anyone else lived there. Being the holiday, though, we wouldn’t likely know until the break was over for the rest of the trainees. It was the newbie’s who had to be there on January 2.

The rooms of the Old Nurses’ Dorm had been spartanly furnished, with twin single beds, wooden dresser, wooden chair and small desk.  There was also a small closet behind a closed door. I put my things away and set up my Smith Corona manual typewriter on the desk. This high school graduation present from my parents was the latest model and I loved it. No computers or electric portables at that time.

The bathroom wasn’t too far away and had everything essential, though it had been made a very long time ago. One could only hope that the faucet didn’t come off in one’s hand at an inappropriate moment. We never left things on the floor or under the bed either, just in case a pipe broke while we were at the hospital. Flooding seemed to us a real possibility.

The place was so very quiet; we had no idea what we were really in for the day we moved in. The air in the room was a bit chilly, but we didn’t see any kind of thermostat we might adjust. As it turned out, that too, was a non-issue. It was just great to not have to look for a place to live in a city neither of us had ever visited. At least, this building which once housed single nurses, would be home while we got oriented and our feet firmly planted in this new course of study. Having Joyce there, eased the good-bye to Curt, who had to turn right around and head back because his own Winter Quarter of study began that week hundreds of miles from Colorado Springs, or “The Springs,” as we called it.

Early the following morning, Joyce and I fastened our aprons with the strange closures, donned the stiff white, winged caps and headed for the Radiology Department of the hospital. Talk about feeling nervous!

Introductions were made around the conference room and a ton of advice was given. Close to the top of the “never’s” was “Never miss breakfast.” The reasons were numerous but those I retained were the following:  1. There might not be time for lunch and 2. The empty stomach is much more susceptible to the morning’s work dumping the contents of a queasy stomach all over the patient. An empty stomach is not really empty. The growling of the stomach and unfortunate regurgitations will, most definitely, signal the instructors that we have not followed the advice of the chief. Okay, so I’ll need to lift my eight-year ban on eating breakfast and make an exception on hospital days.

The no time to eat thing really was a problem some days; but, equally difficult, were those days when there was time to eat but, well, the menu was hard to swallow. I’m not sure why it was the case, but it seemed like every time I was scheduled to be involved in some kind of surgical thing involving a liver… yes, that’s right, liver and onions were the main course in the cafeteria. So hard to choke down one of my favorite meals on those days.

Included in our first day orientation was the list of things that would earn us “demerits,” as well as those which would earn us “merit points,” with which we could annul some of those demerits. Still young enough to be competitive, I looked forward to working hard enough to add some merits to my record. Things such as having one of the x-ray films I took being selected as the “Film of the Month.” Okay, lofty goal for someone who had only seen the x-ray table from the view of the patient, not the technician. It was more likely that my film would earn me demerits for putting the “right” marker on the “left” side of the film. Demerits were also given for shooting the film with the patient identification label right over that dislocated shoulder instead of in the opposite, empty corner of the film. All of us teased one another, nervously laughing, while hoping we weren’t the first one to pile up a ton of demerits before getting one single merit.

At last, the workday was over. Our first day finished, homework assignments in hand, we headed back to the dorm. It was chilly, snow threatening to fall, but we wanted to walk outside and not take the tunnel to cross from the hospital to the dorm building. Fresh air meant everything after being inside since early morning.

Our chatter was interrupted as we approached our building. The noise was incredibly loud and coming from the lower level of our dorm building. Ah-ha, our dorm rooms had been built over the hospital laundry. The quiet returned only after their work day ended.

Lest we wonder if the principle taught in elementary school science was really true, one only had to step into our dorm building to find that, yes indeed, heat does rise. Our rooms were never chilly on days the hospital laundry worked. The rooms were cold on weekends but quite toasty during the weekdays.

We decided to keep an eye out for apartments for rent near the hospital, but we also saw the wisdom in waiting until we had passed the first weeks of study. There was already so much to adjust to and so much to learn. The hospital food was okay and we weren’t in the dorm room all that often to find the heat and noise a real bother. Comfort could wait.

****The Springs: Merits/Demerits… Next post

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