1. Freda, Margaret Comerford EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN, EDITOR

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It was pretty much a mind-blowing experience. I attended my 40th reunion from nursing school last weekend. My 40th reunion. How can it be that I graduated 40 years ago? The reunion was actually a gathering of the entire history of my diploma program, Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing, in the Bronx, NY. The school closed in 1982, and thank goodness someone had the bright idea to invite every graduate in the school's history to come together for one historic reunion. What a night it was!! Walking into that huge room and hearing the squeals of delight in every corner and then being one of the screamers and squealers myself-well, it was unforgettable. No matter what had transpired in any of our lives (and let's face it, 40 years of living had transpired for all of us), we were all 20 years old again that night, remembering our trials and triumphs and reminiscing about the instructors we loved and hated and feared the most. We talked about our first injections, our worst evaluations, our laughs in the dorm, our experiences in nursing since, and of course, we talked about our families. Lots of pictures of children and grandchildren were forthcoming, but really what we reveled in was how much, after all these years, we all still meant to each other. No matter that many of us hadn't seen each other for decades. The feelings were still there-the bond we all developed during those stressful, exciting, frightening, adolescent years could never be broken. My closest allies during those years and my dear other classmates made varying sacrifices to attend the reunion. Some came from far away states, some came despite chronic sicknesses or family problems, some had to be persuaded to come, and some couldn't wait to get there, but attend they did. It was truly magical.


In some ways I remember minute details of those years, especially the time an instructor told me I was hopeless and would never become a nurse (take heart, you student nurses reading this!!). In other ways, nursing school happened a lifetime ago, before I married, had children, became an experienced nurse, and went back to school. Talking about lifetimes, several of my classmates are anticipating retirement. This rocks me to my core, for I simply can't believe we're old enough to leave our profession!! I have no such plans, but then again, I'm not in hospital nursing anymore, which is far more physically taxing than what I do every day, so I understand their plans.


We went to a diploma school. In 1963, when we all graduated from various high schools in New York, getting into a diploma school of nursing was considered a high honor. Our school, Misericordia, was highly selective, and I sweated through many weeks of waiting for the mailman to deliver my letter of acceptance or rejection from them. Our education was superb. We had classes in chemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nutrition, pharmacology, and, of course, nursing. We worked in the hospital 2-3 days each week, always with instructors. It was a totally different time in nursing. We learned traditional nursing from traditional nurses. We certainly knew nothing of nursing research. Evidence-based practice was not yet on the horizon. We learned to be hospital nurses, for that was what nurses did at the time. We didn't learn about budgets and scheduling, but we graduated as excellent hospital nurses.


I don't need to tell you that nursing has changed in these 40 years. We have changed from a vocation to a profession, from narrow hospital training to broad training, from being an all-woman profession to including men. We have grown up as a profession and can now take our place at the table with the "big boys" because many nurses now have advanced degrees and the ability to discuss strategic planning. We know how to hire and fire and how to mentor. Nursing has changed for the better; of that I am sure. We've moved away from many of the non-professional tasks we used to perform, and although we're not perfect, we keep trying. What hasn't changed for me is my memory of those long-ago days, with those young women who struggled along with me to attain the title of RN. All of us have made a difference in the world, I'm sure. Our decisions, made those many years ago to become nurses, were great decisions. Congratulations to us all for celebrating 40 years, together!!


Margaret Comerford Freda, EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN, EDITOR