Ruby Lindsey Black
Molding the Clay
I remember the smell of alcohol, the antiseptic that goes with another vaccine. Yes, the public health nurse had arrived to give the required vaccinations. She wore the navy blue uniform and carried the black public health bag that represented professionalism. During the visit the nurse completed each child’s assessment and taught my mother about good health care. Today’s lesson is on proper nutrition. The nurse’s teaching on nutrition included what foods to eat for growing children, especially the number of fruit and vegetables. Living on a farm we always had fresh fruits and vegetables. During the winter months we take what we need from the freezer or pantry. Canning and freezing were daily activities during harvesting season for this family. As I remember, good nutrition was not a problem. We were never sick and no one was hospitalized. Therefore, we did not need a doctor; the public health nurse was our source of health care.
Many years later I realized the impact the public health nurse had on me during my childhood. At that time she was just another welcomed visitor. Little did I know she had created the foundation for my professional development. Growing-up seemed a slow process; however, graduation from high school came quickly. The college application for admissions required the selection of a major. Nursing was my first choice. After all who wants to be a teacher? I entered the historical school of nursing at Tuskegee Institute that fall. On the first day of classes all first-year students gathered in the auditorium to meet the dean, Dr. Lillian Harvey. As she entered and approached the front of the room, the chatter softened and stopped just before she spoke. After the welcome, she asked who or what influenced us to become nurses. As I pondered this question, I thought of Mrs. Hill, the public health nurse, her visits and teaching.
While reflecting on Mrs. Hill, I realized there are several nurses in my family. An aunt had moved to Ohio during my childhood, became a registered nurse and works with Brentwood Hospital. Cousin Brandee works at University Hospital and Cousin Deborah with Cincinnati General Hospital. Another relative works in material management and another in systems management with the Cleveland Clinic Hospital Foundation. My sister works as a pharmacy technician with the same hospital system. I often tease her about the 360 degree career change since her BS degree is in child development.
I felt I could not go on during my last year in nursing school. The course work was too demanding. After all, who ever heard of medical-surgical nursing? Mrs. Charlie Dixon, nursing instructor, changed my life by believing in me during this very difficult time. A few encouraging words kept me focused and enabled me to earn the BSN degree.
I worked at Mason County hospital a few hours each week to earn a little spending money while attending nursing school. It also helped me to apply what I learned in class. The nurse anesthetist, Ms. Bartolo encouraged me to become a nurse anesthetist. However, one day as I arrived for work, Ms. Bartolo had lost a patient in surgery. She was heartbroken. I knew that I did not want to be a surgical nurse or nurse anesthetist after seeing the depth of her grief.
Many years later, I met Dr. Beverly Malone, former president of the American Nurses Association and current CEO of the National League of Nursing at our annual state convention. As keynote speaker, this petit lady with a forceful voice caught my attention. Her insight and charisma drew me to her. I wanted to hear more. After networking with her over practice issues, she encouraged me to run for an office with our state association. Her support inspired me to remain active with my professional nursing organizations.
Upon returning home and reflecting on the conversation with Dr. Malone, I decided to research her background. She is from the hills of Kentucky and developed a love for nursing from her grandmother. Dr. Malone, in her writings, recalls walking with her grandmother, a root doctor, through the woods choosing and picking herbs to make medicines. She learned from her grandmother, without the conscious awareness of the molding of her career path.
Today as I practice nursing in the hospital or clinic, when I smell alcohol or teach my patients about proper nutrition, I think of Mrs. Hill, the public health nurse. The uniforms are different from years ago, but the memories are the same. Like Dr. Malone and many others, I was inspired to become a nurse by those who walked with me.
Who We Are
Read samples of writing from past faculty participant's seminars.