Laboring Ladies and Overdoses, Kent State University School of Nursing, 1980
Clare Nalepka scared me. Labor and Delivery nursing scared me. By the Fall of 1980 I’d already been on the street several years as an EMT and a tech in Robinson Memorial’s ER on the night shift. Intoxicated or psychotic or even the truly wild and crazy phencyclidine ( PCP), aka “Angel Dust” patients I could handle. I could dodge vomit or a swinging fist with alacrity. Traumatically injured patients from motorcycles or falling off Nelson-Ledges I could handle—and this was before helipads and rapid air transfer to level one trauma centers.
Labor and Delivery patients we sent them upstairs STAT. I would go out to meet the patient at the EMS entrance with the ER cart. Lift our laboring lady out of the car and push rapidly through the halls. I was good at banking and swerving the cart with the steering gear off.
Turns out I was good at Labor and Delivery. Ms Nalepka even smiled once. She did. I saw it.
I spent the whole clinical day coaching my patient. 37 years later, I still remember the “hee-hee-hee- hoo-haa” breathing to coach through transition. I got the paresthesias and lightheaded from the hyperventilation. My patient had a baby boy.
Ms. Nalepka told me I had done a great job, smiled a second time, and asked me if I had experience with labor and delivery.
“Thanks Ms. Nalepka. No, I don’t, but I have worked a lot downstairs in the ER on the night shift." I use to be able to do that kind of thing, work all night, go to class, sleep little.
“ER? I don’t understand. Well, you did do a great job.”
“Ms. Nalepka, well, you see, I have treated a lot of drunks and overdoses in the ER. I find their mental status was about the same as these women in labor.”
“You know I have to give you an “A” in this course, but it bothers me.”
I credit the Kent State School of Nursing with teaching me compassion for all persons, and the confidence to practice caring where the rubber meets the road. Also a lot of fun times. My warmest regards for Ms. Doheny, Ms. Nalepka, Sister Connie and others whose faces and instruction I retain, if not their names. Now, 40 years in the ER, I precept first and second year medical students for Ohio State, an honor reserved for those thought to best exemplify the values of humane nursing, well they call it medicine, but it is nursing.
Brad Cotton, KSU School of Nursing, 1982, OSU College of Medicine, 1991