Overwhelmed in Chemistry Class

College Freshman – September, 1973

” When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2 ” …and that Rock was Christ.” I Corinthians 10:4

I entered my nursing adviser’s office and sat down. “Mrs. M, I signed up for pre-med chemistry rather than pre-nursing chemistry this quarter because I liked chemistry in high school. But the professor covered everything I learned in high school in the first two lectures! I am totally lost in the lectures and feel like I’m in over my head. Do you have any suggestions?”

Chemistry Lab

Chemistry Lab
-photo by S. Rao-used with permission.

Mrs. M reviewed how I needed to get an A or B in pre-nursing chemistry to have any hope of being accepted into the school of nursing next fall. Last year, 800 freshman applied for the 200 openings, so it is very competitive. She advised me to drop pre-med chemistry and sign up for pre-nursing chemistry winter quarter instead which was taught at a slower pace. She said I could still register for sociology this quarter so I wouldn’t fall behind in my prerequisite courses.

December, 1973

I followed Mrs. M’s advice and had a fairly easy first quarter of 18 hours credit: Psychology – 5 hours, Sociology – 5 hours, Music History – 5 hours, Introduction to Nursing – 2 hours, and Horseback Riding – 1 hour. I really enjoyed all my classes and learned my way around the gigantic campus after a couple weeks. We had 12 minutes between classes, so I rode my bike sometimes so I wasn’t late. I loved to hear the melodic bells chime from the tower at noon as I crossed campus, especially when they played beautiful hymns!

I was richly blessed by attending the weekly campus Bible class and traveling one hour to the Bible Church  for worship services on Sundays with the other students. On Wednesday nights, we handed out gospel tracts outdoors in nice weather, or inside the dormitories during cold or rainy weather. I always asked the Lord for boldness, love, and wisdom in giving out His precious gospel. Sometimes the students were receptive, and other times they slammed the door in our faces or argued with us. It was quite the learning experience! Afterward, we met together to share our experiences and pray for the people to receive Christ as their personal Savior.

I also started a Bible class for the girls in my dormitory. Only a few attended, but I was blessed in studying the gospel of John to prepare for it. How I thank God for bringing me here to this University, a huge mission field with students from every state and many countries around the world. This has been the most exciting time in my life!

Reflection

The Lord was very kind and gracious to give me an easy first quarter academically. It was quite the culture shock for this country girl to adjust to a big city of over one million people which surrounded the University of 50,000+ students. By God’s grace, I received an A the next quarter in chemistry and was accepted into the school of nursing!

I still use chemistry daily when I interpret my patients’ laboratory results, prescribe medications, and develop their plan of care. I understand now why the school of nursing emphasized the chemistry grade, because it indicated if a person had critical thinking skills which is essential for a nurse. When I contemplate all the delicate chemical balances within our human bodies, I praise God, the Chief Chemist, that He created us so marvelously!

“I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14

One Scary Night – Nursing Assistant

August, 1973 – Midwest, USA

“When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” Psalm 56:3

One Scary Night! (photo by R. Spearrin-used with permission)

One Scary Night!
(photo by R. Spearrin-used with permission)

Vera, the other nursing assistant, was working with me that night at the nursing home, and we had just finished our lunch at 3 a.m.  It felt good to sit in the patient lounge for a few minutes to rest our feet as we chatted. We had  wrapped the silverware, and finished our first diaper rounds and bed baths. She picked up her purse and pulled out a small revolver!

“Pam, my dog told me to bring my gun to work tonight. She said the evil men may attack us tonight and that I should be prepared.”

I stared wide eyed at her since I had only seen policemen carry revolvers. I stammered, “Y-y-y-your dog talks to you?”

“Oh yes, she talks with me every day. She’s my best friend!”

“Vera, please put your gun away. I’m going to check on the patients in the other hall way,” and I quickly walked to the other end of the building as I prayed,

Dear Lord, Please don’t let Vera shoot anyone tonight. And please keep those evil men away from us tonight. Put a hedge around us and protect us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

I realized I didn’t know the number of the police to call if the “bad men” showed up since this was the next town over from ours. I continued to check on the patients and sat and read my Bible during my next break. I decided to avoid Vera the rest of the night.

At 5 a.m. I began going room to room to fill each patient’s water pitcher with fresh ice water. I was still deep in thought about Vera and her talking dog and loaded gun as I walked into my last patient’s room. All of a sudden, she screamed,  leaped out of bed, and lunged for me! I turned and ran out of her room and down to the end of the hallway as fast as I could, my heart racing! I stopped and turned around, but all was quiet. I waited a few minutes and asked the Lord for courage. I slowly walked back down to her room and peaked around the corner. She was back in bed fast asleep. I decided to wait and fill her water pitcher after the day shift arrived. After the sun rose, I walked in her room, and opened her blinds.   She opened her eyes and smiled sweetly at me. I exhaled a sigh of relief that the night was over.

Reflection

I never saw Vera again after that night. Years later I worked as a Nurse Practitioner in a psychiatric hospital and learned much more about psychosis (being out of reality) and auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). Vera was likely mentally ill and very paranoid that night. Today, there are many effective medications for psychosis, but in the 1970’s there were only a couple meds.

When growing up, I don’t recall anyone ever being murdered in my town or hearing about workplace violence. We only had the newspaper for local news, so I led a rather sheltered life in the country. I really had no idea how much danger we were in that night if Vera would have started shooting imaginary “evil men”. We were very isolated among the cornfields, and 9-1-1 did not exist in those days.  But God clearly was my refuge and strength that night and protected us! I love Psalm 46:1- God is our refuge and strength, a very PRESENT help in trouble.

Nursing Home Ministry

Summer – 1973 – Midwest, USA

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” James 1:27

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" was their favorite hymn!

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was their favorite hymn!

My sister, Marsha, asked the director of the nursing home, where we both are working this summer, for permission to have a Bible study for the patients on our day off. The director said “yes” so we had our first Bible study today! Prior to today, I only saw all the patients asleep at night under their white bedspreads in the dark. I was amazed at all the hustle and bustle with the patients up and dressed and either walking with a walker or in a wheelchair. We went room to room and invited each patient to come to the Bible study in the patient lounge. We gathered about 20 residents and began. Marsha led them in singing a few hymns while I accompanied them on my violin. Their favorite hymn seemed to be:

What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer! 

by Joseph Scriven

Then Linda read the story from John 3 of Nicodemus, a Jewish ruler, who came to Jesus at night. Jesus said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 She carefully explained God’s wonderful plan of salvation. After concluding with John 3:16, she encouraged each one to receive Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior if they had not already done so.

Afterward, white haired Mary wheeled up to me in her wheelchair with a bright smile on her face. “I received Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was a girl. It was so wonderful to hear the Bible lesson today and sing the hymns I learned when I was young. I can’t see well enough to read any more, so thank you for reading God’s word today!” Marsha and I are thrilled that God allowed us to minister to these elderly residents today!

Reflection

Over the years, God gave me many more opportunities to share God’s word and songs with elderly Christians. I thank Him for our seasoned believers who have willingly shared with me how God encouraged them through difficult circumstances. May we all faithfully run the race today until we are home in heaven above and hear our Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

Diapers and Mops – Night Shift Nursing Assistant

June, 1973 – Midwest, USA

Pam and Linda graduated the same day and time!

Pam and Marsha graduated the same day and time!

My sister, Marsha, graduated from nursing school and I graduated from high school on exactly the same day and time! Since I didn’t want to split up the family, I volunteered to skip my high school graduation. Linda let me wear her white high school mortarboard and gown for the photos our dad took of us. She looked beautiful in her white cap and nurse’s dress uniform walking down the aisle of the hospital auditorium with her 50 classmates.

We both were hired to work at a nursing home in the country a few miles from our home. Linda will be the evening charge nurse, and I will work night shift as a nursing assistant. There is no nurse there at night for the 50 patients since none of them need to be given medicine at night. There will be one other nursing assistant with me. It sounds a little scary, but I have to start somewhere! I will work ten nights straight for $1.25 per hour and then have four days off. I can hardly believe I will make $50 each week! I have never had that much money before.

First Night Shift – 11 p.m.

“Pam, they asked me to orient you tonight, so this is what we do,” said Vera, a plump middle aged  lady who had a heavy southern accent. “First we wrap 50 sets of silverware in paper napkins for breakfast for all the patients. Then we make the first diaper rounds which we do every two hours. It’s easier if we make rounds together to help turn them. Then we each give four bed baths to the ones who don’t know the difference between night and day. Then we make diaper rounds again followed by a 30 minute lunch break. We’re allowed to eat anything we want in the refrigerator!”

Mopping the Lounge!

Mopping the Lounge!

“After lunch, we each mop one of the patient lounges and straighten them up. Then we do diaper rounds again. At 5 a.m. we fill each patient’s water pitcher with fresh ice water. Then we give report to day shift and go home!”

So I began to do exactly as Vera showed me. I have never changed a baby’s diaper much less an adult! Our first patient, Sam, was difficult to roll to one side because he was so stiff from advanced Parkinson’s disease. He could no longer talk, but just stared at us with his big sad brown eyes. I held him on his side while Vera washed him and put a clean diaper on him. We collected the soiled cloth diaper in a special bag for the laundry company that would pick them up tomorrow.

I never gave a bed bath before either. Vera told me to take off his top sheet and gown, wash his face, then go down one side of his body and up the other side with the washcloth, rinse, dry him off and put on a new gown and top sheet. I felt sorry for Sam as he shivered.

I was so exhausted when I walked out the door into the morning sun and fresh air. I climbed on my bicycle and wearily pedaled five miles home up and down hills past corn fields glistening with dew. I rode up our gravel driveway, said hello to Mom, ate breakfast, and went outside to our quiet travel trailer to try and sleep for eight hours. I hoped I wouldn’t hear the rest of the family this way. “Thank You, dear Lord, for carrying me through this first night shift in the nursing home. Please give me deep sleep now. Amen.” I fell into bed after being awake 24 hours.

Reflection

When I started nursing school a year later, the professor demonstrated the correct way to give a bed bath. She showed us how you uncover only one part of the body at a time to prevent shivering and preserve as much of the patient’s modesty as possible. Staff development was definitely lacking at the small unskilled nursing home! But being a nursing assistant was a great introduction to the nursing profession. It was a difficult job physically, so it forced any romantic notions I had about nursing right out of my head. After I graduated and began supervising nursing assistants, it gave me great compassion for all the hard work they did for low wages. I always tried to pitch in and help them after finishing my work which also helped foster teamwork.

During the 1980’s, I worked in a 1000 bed hospital in staff development. We asked the nurse managers to complete a survey about how their new graduate nurses were functioning after one year of employment. The BSN graduates who worked summers as nursing assistants were rated the highest by far. So I thank God for faithfully guiding me right from the beginning of my career!

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” Psalm 32:8