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A piece of nursing history


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This quarter has been full of papers and projects, and while just about everything you need to research can be done from the comfort of your own home, there are some things that have to be done the old fashioned way. And sometimes I prefer that. There are few smells I love more than the smell of a library, and in a way it almost helps be stay focused and connected to what it is that I am doing. Call me crazy, but it’s true.
So last week I was in need of some nursing articles about staffing ratios and improving teamwork for a leadership and management class. There were some great articles online, but I found out that my school subscribes to the Journal of Nursing Administration and thought I’d better head over there and see if I can find something useful.

The periodicals are kept in the innermost bowels of our school’s library. In the basement floor (two stories underground), in a land where there is no cell phone reception and you can hear a pin fall to the ground. In any other setting I would be totally spooked by the eerie quiet and would spend too much time focusing on footsteps I could hear in the distance. But there was something about the smell of the library, and the sound on papers rustling that I loved. And when I finally found the nursing journals I was in a trance.

Shelf after shelf of nursing journals, neatly bound by year.  I found the Journal of Nursing Administration, and found that I had access to every issue since 1975!  Where to start? When you can’t type in “nurse satisfaction” to bring up all related articles, you have no choice but to get lost in the pages and do it the old fashioned way.

And then I returned around and a stack of old yellowed papers bound with packing tape caught my eye.  I looked closer, picked it up. It was like those movies where the book is covered in dust and  you have to blow it off the cover, causing you to sneeze. Only when the title was revealed, I had discovered the Pacific Coast Journal of Nursing – 1926!!!

It was like going back in time, I was doing the same research nurses were doing almost 90 years ago! All of the advertisements were hand drawn images of nurses in their aprons and dresses with their caps donned proudly. There was an incredible connection I felt when I read the article called, “On Drinking Caffeine,” I mean, we’re still reading these types of articles today, have we really changed all that much?

But my favorite part was how personal it was. Every issue had “announcements” divided up by district, where they announce engagements and weddings, graduations and births. Like they were all a part of a giant nursing family. Maybe that is what is lacking from our journals today, personality and personalization. We’re also a much bigger profession now, but maybe we can take a lesson from the nurses of our past. At least for now, I have found my new favorite spot in the library, a little place in history.

Ani Burr, RN
I'm a brand new, full-fledged, fresh-out-of-school RN! And better yet, I landed the job of my dreams working with children. I love what I do, and while everyday on the job is a new (and sometimes scary) experience, I'm taking it all in - absorbing everything I can about this amazing profession we all fell in love with.

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