When asked about her early years of experience in the health sciences, Mrs. Jones noted that she first became interested in becoming a nurse as a child. She also noted that there were few choices available for women who had interest in becoming professionals back when she was a young girl. "There was a lack of options. Basically there was just nursing, secretarial work, teaching, and home-making." I was curious as to whether Mrs. Jones had any mentors in the health field who led her to further explore the nursing profession. She said that she had no particular mentors, but noted that her formative years were spent moving about the country since her father was in the military. She received early her early health care in military hospitals. When remembering her experiences with doctors and nurses she noted, "Most of the were males, and the nurses were females. There were a few women doctors, though. In the Services, women doctors were treated with more equity. Therefore, I had lots of good experiences with medical personnel."
As for her education process, Mrs. Jones attended the University of Pennsylvania and spent three years working to earn a nursing license. She also took two years of academic courses at the university, but did not earn an additional degree. Her first years as a nurse were spent in various locations, because her husband was also a service man. Her early experience as a registered nurses entailed work in public health, that of a child care liaison, and emergency room assistance. In 1977 she moved to the Borough of Swarthmore and has been working at the Worth Health Center at Swarthmore College for twenty-one years. In addition to her work as a staff nurse at the health center, she has started her own business third-party health care consulting. When asked about her specific experience in health care specific to women, Mrs. Jones noted that many of the patients with whom she works are the same age as Swarthmore College Students. Between the students and her clients she constantly addresses issues such as sexually-transmitted disease, birth control, and breast care.
Interested in the twenty-one years of work experience Mrs. Jones has accumulated at the health center, I asked whether she has witnessed any significant changes in the college health system through the years. She described a major ideological transition which occurred in the late 1970s. "When I joined the staff at Worth, I was the youngest of the nurses on staff. The others were very conservative." She described the controversy which was raised when it was proposed that a nurse practitioner be hired. Previously, the issues surrounding reproductive health had not been dealt with at the college health center. "There was an emphasis on treating the sick patient, not the well patient. Wellness was not a topic at the time." After a staff turnover, a nurse practitioner was hired, and women's health and wellness issues became part of the repertoire of treatment at the health center.
As for the future of women in health care fields, Mrs. Jones looks forward optimistically. She notes that women are getting paid at a more livable salary, which was not so much the case when she originally entered nursing. "More education is now required, but there are so many opportunities out there now." She also explains that nurse practitioners are now being hired to work at physicians' offices. "You see a nurse practitioner for forty-minutes, while you see a doctor for only ten. The nurse practitioner deals with wellness issues, while physician concentrate on sickness.
As illuminated in this interview with an experienced nurse, the health sciences are constantly expanding and evolving. As seen in Mrs. Jones' case, the health field has become increasingly in support of employing women, as well as in treating them with more equality.
Erin M. Greeson
December 1, 1998
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