Personal Experiences that Inspired a Story with Carolyn Chambers Clark
I have a master’s degree in mental health/psychiatric nursing, but before I obtained my masters’ degree, my first job was in a VA hospital in the psychiatric unit. At first, I worked days, but the head nurse, who graduated a year before me at UW-Madison, assigned me to assist the psychiatrist with ECT or electroconvulsive therapy. Those were the days before muscle relaxants and patients convulsed on the table and we had to put a padded tongue depressor in their mouths so they didn’t bite their tongues. It was a gruesome and horrible “treatment” and spooky, too, because the psychiatrist had Parkinson’s and shook while he held his finger on the ECT machine.
I told the head nurse I would not assist with such a “treatment” again. For that, she put me on evenings and nights. I was the only nurse on two huge psychiatric units and spent most of my time pouring medications, passing them out, and chartings that I had given them. I had only a few minutes to talk with patients and try to convey to them that I was interested in helping them. On nights, we had a few tumultuous admissions where I had to give the new patients injections to calm them down. Again, I was the only nurse but had two huge Black nurse aides; one on each side of me. They were very protective of me.
Carolyn Chambers Clark