Dear OADN Members,
In the coming months, my CEO messages will begin to incorporate messages from the OADN Leadership as well as members. I think it is important that you hear from a diverse group of individuals that support OADN. It is my extreme pleasure to begin with the remarkable story of one on our members, Vickie Rodgers, MSN, RN who is an Associate Professor of Nursing at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. In all transparency I have known Vickie for many years. She was one of my students in the associate degree program in the 1990’s. Like so many of the students you work with on a daily basis, I knew Vickie was exceptional, extremely motivated, and very intelligent. Her empathy for others was apparent and this story of Nurse Cadet Ruby is an exemplar of Vickie’s passion for nursing and care for others. Vickie continued her educational journey and returned to her alma mater as a faculty member. I hope you will enjoy her story on Nurse Cadet Ruby aswe celebrate our country’s freedom this Fourth of July.
Wishing you a very Happy Independence Day,
Donna Meyer, MSN, RN, ANEF, FAADN
Nurse Cadet Ruby and Nurse Vickie
Sometimes in our nursing careers we are blessed to meet patients who have a huge impact on our lives. My patient is Ruby Foster, an 89 year old retired nurse who lives at a local long term care home. I first met Ruby when performing clinicals there with my fundamental nursing students. These students are many times less than excited to get assigned to long term care and rehab for their first clinical rotations, but it is patient’s like Ruby who quickly change their perceptions of caring for the geriatric population. She is intelligent, witty, and possesses a positive outlook on life which we all find endearing.
Upon finding out that Ruby was a United States Nurse Cadet (1948), I eagerly enlisted her to speak with my clinical students each semester. While they are not regularly assigned to Ruby’s unit the students love interacting with her and hearing about her life as a Nurse Cadet and her nursing career. She challenges them each semester to “be good nurses”. Interacting with Ruby is an invaluable real- life lesson for them, as they see first-hand the difference they can make and the knowledge they can gain from this population. These post-conference sessions with Ruby have also provided her with a new-found purpose, as she is able to reminisce about her nursing career accomplishments. What a blessing for my students to get this real-life nursing history lesson from this amazing woman.
This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the United States Nurse Cadet Corps, and was established in 1943 to recruit and train nurses during World War II. At that time there was a dramatic nursing shortage due to the large numbers of experienced nurses serving in the war. At that time President Roosevelt signed the Bolton Act which provided federal funding for nurses training and enhancement of nursing schools. The Cadet Nurse Corp ensured that Americans, whether they were serving in the military or on the home front had access to the care they needed throughout and after the war years. A marble plaque in honor of the Nurse Cadet Corps in New York states, “They saved lives at home so others could save lives abroad”. It is documented that the average age of a nurse cadet was 19 years old and that by 1945 they were providing 80% of the nursing care in US hospitals. I have a difficult time imagining hospitals staffed with 80% new nursing graduates, but it was unfortunately a reality. The Nurse Cadet Corps was very brief as it was instituted in 1943 and ended post World War II in 1948 so is not widely known. The Cadets have strived to shed light on their contributions and take pride in preventing the collapse of the health care system during and after the war.
Ruby herself was able to enter the cadets at the age of sixteen, but she couldn’t officially sign the papers until she turned seventeen a month later. She received her nurses training at the City of St Louis Hospital where 70 years ago this year she received her nurses pin (St. Louis City Hospital class of 1948). She has described caring for large numbers of patients while juggling housekeeping and dietary responsibilities in addition to nursing care. According to her, the students served as charge nurses while still in training and worked long hours six days per week. Interestingly she has shared that she and fellow students would go to the pediatric wing and bring babies back to their dorm rooms and rock them as they studied. It was a very different time in health care for sure.
In February Ruby and I applied for her to go on the Greater St Louis Honor Flight. She was so very excited and humbled to get accepted for the March 31st flight to Washington, DC. The Honor Flight’s mission is to recognize and honor our older Veterans for their service to our country. Each Veteran has a Guardian on the flight and I was blessed to serve as Ruby’s. The Flight took 22 Veterans who served our country In WWII and the Korean War to Washington, DC to see the monuments that were built in their honor. This was a day trip and was magical for the Veterans, as well as the Guardians. I happily pushed Ruby’s wheelchair all over Washington, DC. and she must have said “this is the most awesome day ever” ten times! We visited the World War II, Korean, Vietnam, and Lincoln Memorials, in addition to the Iwo Jima and Air Force Monuments. The absolute highlight of the trip for Ruby was visiting the Women’s War Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, as there was a U.S. Nurse Cadet display. She delighted in sharing information on the history of the nurse cadet corps and their required uniforms. She shared that they wore military style berets instead of nursing caps, had a Summer and a Winter uniform, and were held to the highest moral standards. As a fellow nurse, I proudly listened to every word and every piece of nursing history that she shared and continues to share with me.
As her Guardian, I was charged with secretly gathering mail that would be given to her on the return flight as “the last mail call”. She was beyond honored that over 200 cards and letters (many from fellow nurses) were in her mail package.
In May, Ruby was a guest at our nursing pinning ceremony where she le d the new graduate nurses in reciting the Florence Nightingale Pledge. She has been beyond grateful for the opportunity to “live life to the fullest” and actually told the students that she “came to long term care to die, but we won’t let her”! When I count my blessings this fourth of July, my friendship with Ruby and my gratitude for her and all Veterans will be at the top of the list.
Submitted by OADN Member Vickie Rodgers, MSN, RN; Associate Professor of Nursing at Lewis and Clark Community College.