December 17th, 1973: for some, it was just another snowy Monday in Glens Falls, but for Joan Dearlove, it was the start of a career that would last over 50 years. To celebrate her momentous milestone, Director of Patient Experience Jason Hare sat down with Joan to discuss her many experiences in Nursing, some of the biggest changes she’s seen, and the very funny patient memory that’s stayed with her throughout her half-century at Glens Falls Hospital.
Do you remember your first day here?
Yes, it was December 17th, 1973. It was a Monday, and it was snowing. I worked at the switchboard to begin with. I had worked for the telephone company when I went to college. Then I went to nursing school. I worked at the switchboard for six months and then in June, when I passed my boards, went into the nursing department.
And where did you start in Nursing?
I was always on a surgical floor. I started on 3 Central, and back then you kind of did six months on a surgical unit, maybe six months on a medical floor, so you really had a much longer orientation. Back then, there was a Head Nurse, an Assistant Head Nurse, and a Med Nurse. You really had time to feel comfortable in the RN role.
Have you been working on 4 West for a long time?
Well, I was on the designated orthopedic unit, which we didn’t need as time went on. But I’ve always done surgical units because I really like that pace. Orthopedic surgery back then was nice, clean surgery – still is! – but if people came in for total hips or knees, they were here 10 to 14 days…
10 to 14 days? Wow!
Yup! So that just shows how things have changed. And that’s what’s been fun all these years, to keep your interest: all these new advances and techniques. That’s what’s made it interesting for me.
If you had patients for 10 to 14 days, you must have really gotten to know these people.
Sure. You got to know them and their families. You basically were their Physical Therapist too, because you truly got them up for their meals, you walked them to the bathroom…but it was always fun because they’d be almost pain-free after being in so much pain beforehand.
Are there any patients from back then that stick in your head?
Well, this is a funny story. I will never forget this one. So back then – and this would probably be the late ‘70s – if you fractured your femur, you’d be in a body cast for six to eight weeks, and these patients stayed here in the hospital. Nowadays, you break your femur, you put a little rod in and off you go! So anyways, it was a young man from New York City working up here for the summer. We had no air conditioning back then, so it was hot, he was in this body cast…and he had friends who came up to visit. They asked me if they could take him outside on a stretcher. It was summertime and he had already been inside here around four weeks, so we got him on a stretcher, and his friends took him outside. I thought they were going out to the parking lot or whatever. And then, lo and behold, there’s a call from the police. And his friends were pushing him down South Street! So they escorted him back to the Emergency Room and he had a six-pack of beer underneath the sheet with him. (laughs) So that was confiscated before he came back to me. He wasn’t harmed, it was just typical of some twenty-year-olds who said they wanted some fresh air!
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen between when you started to work to now?
The documentation. Everything was on paper. And safety with medicines! Back then, I had a little card with the patient’s name and what pills to give them at whatever time, and you poured them out of a bottle into a cup, and I walked around with a tray. Now, the Omnicell system double-checks to make sure you’re giving the right pill and amount. And certainly all of the equipment we now have to help move and lift patients. Everything is much safer for both the patient and the nurse.
Back then, we all wore white. And women wore dresses. It was a big thing when we moved to a pantsuit with tailored slacks and a top. Now, we all wear scrubs which is much more sensible.
Surgeries have come so far. Back then, you’d have those big incision lines. Now we have the small laparoscopic incisions that are glued. Back then we’d be taking out sutures and staples.
Everything was glass: think about what happened when those IV bottles got dropped. And the pumps! Years ago, you had to calculate the drip rate by the little roller clamp on your IV tubing. So if you were giving blood, you had to check that every 15 minutes. Well, you might as well figure you were spending that whole time with the patient, by the time you got it adjusted.
I’d love to know about some of your happiest memories here at the hospital.
I guess I would just say: the people I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve worked with people where we had time to really kind of know each other, and as our children were growing or you had family issues, we had time to support each other. So I think it would just be the support of the people I’ve worked with.
I could ask you a million more questions, but I’ll close with: what is your “why” for being here for 50 years?
Because I’ve enjoyed my job. I’ve enjoyed patient care, I like being hands-on, I’ve enjoyed just being part of all these new things that have come along in nursing. I enjoy being with patients, taking care of them, seeing them improve, and supporting them in times that they weren’t doing so well or when there were families that needed that support. It’s been really nice to feel needed and to have something to do and a reason to get up and going. And I still enjoyed it. And I think that’s it: you have to enjoy your work. You have to really keep wanting to do it.