My Foundation as an LVN

When I was a child I had asthma. It seems I was always being rushed to the ER because I could not get air, and that wheezing sound was so awful and scary for a kid. Back then I thought women grew up to become mothers, teachers, and nurses. From the time of my first memories I use to play nurse with my dolls. I loved to put Band-Aids on their "owies. I would hold them and give them shots so they could breathe. In the 60's, we did not have all the great asthma medications we do today. They have come so far in this area of medicine. The years came and went and I was ready for college in 1971. I was 19 years old. I went to college interested in becoming an LVN. In high school I did the ROP program to become a Nurses Aide. I loved it! I loved being at the bedside with patients helping people in whatever way they needed. My first instructor was wonderful. She was strict but always with a smile on her face. She worked us hard and taught us well. I knew that I wanted to continue my education in nursing to be like her. So I earned my LVN certification. It was a one year program. I graduated and passed my state exam. So there I was at 19 years old working as an LVN. The hospital was the place I wanted to be. It had a great reputation. We had medical students from everywhere. They had a fabulous in-service department. They required us to constantly continue to grow in our education as an LVN. I applied to work in Labor and Delivery. I thought this would be a happy place and I could rock and hold the babies.

But they had other things in mind for me. They put me on the isolation wing. I thought, oh no, this is going to be really hard and sad. But I found I thrived in this environment. My mentors were so kind and patient. They taught me so much! I learned that no matter what always keep your sense of humor. Always be aware of other staff members, look at their faces; learn to read them. Offer help if they looked overwhelmed or sad. Work as a team and we can get through anything together. This was when I learned it takes more than just taking care of the patients that are assigned to you. It takes being a support to your co-workers. This took being a dedicated employee and learning to balance your work day. I remember the first day of giving medications per unit dosage. Before that we poured the pills ourselves, held a tray with little med cards. We sort of looked like a waitress handing out treats. We only wore white and yes, a white hat with black stripe and hat pin. We wore our hair always up and in a bun. No hair was to hit the shoulders. Our nails short, clipped, natural with little jewelry, a watch with a second hand. Our dresses had to go below the knee, along with white hose and shoes. At first I felt very important to wear this uniform. It screamed "I AM A NURSE!" My name plate proudly displayed LVN for all to see.

As the years passed, and we all know "change is constant" our dress code changed and boy was I ready for that change. My role as an LVN also changed as I matured. I learned to balance my personal life and professional life. I set realistic goals for myself. I had floated to Critical Care often. I was reading EKG's and helping out in Code Blue. I became part of a Code Blue Team. This was the best ever. I watched at first, but then I took part in really saving a life. I knew this was my specialty: to be an LVN working in Critical Care alongside the smartest healthcare professionals you could imagine. The work environment they created was healthy and supportive. They encouraged and provided access to training in everything. We learned to seek support from other colleagues as well.

This really enhanced my communication skills. I was an LVN for 10 years before I moved on with my education. In 1980 California had a nursing shortage. The colleges developed a program for LVN'S to become an RN in one year. I jumped at this chance. A year later I became an RN in June 1982. My career as an LVN was the best foundation you could ever want. I am grateful even today for all the wisdom I gained working as a LVN. Being an LVN gave me a strong leadership style. I kept my sense of humor and continued to work at the same hospital for another 12 years.

Those of you who become Gurnick LVN students: look for me. I expect nothing but excellence and a sense of humor.Linda Cook, RN


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