Adrienne Banfield-Jones knew she was right for the nursing profession when she helped her father, a physician, get an IV going for her sister.
Today, her famous daughter, Jada Pinkett Smith, plays a nurse on the new TNT show HawthoRNe. We talked with Jada’s mom about her nursing career, the advice she did (and didn’t!) give Jada and the most exciting thing that happened in her nursing career (hint: it involved a cervix).
Scrubs: What drew you to nursing?
Jones: My dad was a doctor, and I used to go to the hospital all the time when I was little. Back then, they had operators to work the telephones, so he would put me with the operators and I would enjoy just being in the hospital.
Then, when I was in my 20s, my sister became ill and my father took her to the hospital. It was during a change of shift and there were no nurses around, so I helped him get the IV going. My father said, “Adrienne, you’re pretty good at this. You should think about going to nursing school.” I had been studying to be a medical secretary, but from that point on, I went to nursing school. I was 27 years old. I was the oldest in my class, and I graduated at the top of my class.
Scrubs: Where did you work after nursing school?
Jones: I moved around a lot. I started at John’s Hopkins and later went into outpatient. When you’re a nurse, you can get tired of working a shift. You look for that 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday job. So then I went into mid-level management. I worked for Total Healthcare, then for Kaiser Permanente. I did that for 15 years.
Scrubs: Fifteen years in management! Did you miss being with patients?
Jones: Absolutely. In fact, I wanted to go back to bedside so much that I was ready to take a pay cut. Believe it or not, it was somewhat difficult to get a position. Even though I was a seasoned nurse, most hospitals didn’t think I would function well back at bedside. “You should stick to management,” they told me. It was frustrating. Bedside was something I always wanted to do. Specifically, I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse.
Scrubs: So what finally happened?
Jones: I finally got Sinai Hospital to hire me and train me. It was the best time in my nursing career. I just never understood that they would take new grads but didn’t want to train a seasoned nurse.
Scrubs: What’s the most memorable thing that happened to you as a bedside nurse?
Jones: After Sinai I moved to Las Vegas for a time (my husband had a position there). Because Sinai was a teaching facility, I had been limited as to what I could do. But in Vegas, I worked at a hospital that wasn’t a teaching facility, so the nurses got to do everything. So, more than 15 years after becoming a nurse, I finally learned to do a vaginal exam. When I first found the cervix, it was a hot moment…that was an exciting moment for me. Yes, I had already been a nurse for many years, but I’d never found a cervix.
Scrubs: And now?
Jones: Now I’m retired. I retired because I help Jada and Will [Smith] and travel with the children so much. It’s impossible to maintain a job. I tried working PRN for while, but it didn’t work out.
Scrubs: Let’s talk about Jada for a minute. What do you think she learned from her nurse-mom growing up?
Jones: I hope that she learned a really strong sense of commitment, a sense of caring, an excellent work ethic.
Scrubs: What advice have you given Jada about portraying a nurse?
Jones: None at all! She didn’t ask and I didn’t offer. But because she’s an actress, she did her own research. I know she met with nurses.
Scrubs: How did you feel when you heard your daughter was going to portray a nurse?
Jones: I was very excited. ER was one of my favorite shows, and I was also a big fan of Third Watch, but there has never been anything from a nurse’s perspective.
Scrubs: Does watching your daughter portray a nurse make you miss nursing?
Jones: Yes! I recently realized how much I miss nursing. I actually had a position recently in Baltimore, but I got laid off. It wasn’t bedside because I had been gone too long. And with the economy the way it is, they just couldn’t keep me on as a non-bedside nurse. But for the two months I was working, it was so exciting for me…I felt I was contributing and doing something positive in the community. I realized how proud I had been to call myself a nurse. I loved it.
Scrubs: Do you find yourself playing nurse in real life?
Jones: I sometimes have to around the house with Jada and Will’s kids. There are always incidents. Here’s a secret: Jada doesn’t do well with blood at all. There have been times over the years where the children have had accidents. Thank goodness for Will…he handles those kinds of things when I’m not there.
Scrubs: What advice would you give a new nurse?
Jones: I had this exact conversation with my niece, who recently graduated from nursing school. I told her that nursing is not a profession you go into for the money. But if you enjoy helping people, it’s a career that can take you anywhere, especially in this economy. You can go in so many directions. You can be so versatile. You can work in any city. Nursing is one profession that people will always need.
So, to all of you new nurses, if you’re interested in helping people, that’s the way to go. And you don’t necessarily have to stay at the bedside. New graduates should med/surge and get experience in everything, and then choose a specialty. I always wanted to spend time on a med/surge unit for a well-rounded background, so I wouldn’t be so limited.
Scrubs: I just have to ask, since we’re called Scrubs Magazine—what were scrubs like when you became a nurse?
Jones: When I started, I wore an all-white uniform. I was so proud in my dress and stockings and white shoes.
Scrubs: Any final thoughts for the nurses reading this article?
Jones: You’ve selected one of the oldest and greatest professions in the nation. Enjoy it. It can be wonderful, challenging, exciting. It’s what you make of it. Take it and run with it—be the best you can be!