My first real job was right out of high school. I wanted to buy a car so I needed a job. So I answered an ad in the newspaper for orderlies at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis MO. The job I got was as a nursing assistant in the operating room. $1.40 an hour which wasn’t bad back in 1967. I had always had a fear of hospitals … just the smell when you walked in the door used to freak me out. I got over that real quick.
My main job was picking people up from their rooms and taking them to the operating room. Occasionally I’d be called in to hold up a leg while they prepared the table below for surgery. Once I was holding somebody’s diseased leg in the air while they were cleaning it with ether. The aroma almost knocked me out. There was a time or two when I goofed up and stepped on somebody’s tube and blood started shooting out all over everywhere. I couldn’t help it, I had big feet. I also helped out in the Recovery Room when they were extra busy. We would take the patients back to their rooms after they woke up.
We were dressed in O.R. scrubs just like the doctors so some patients assumed we were doctors. They would ask us questions and we’d tell them we weren’t doctors and refer them to the nurses in charge. This 17 year old saw a lot of eye-opening sights in the several months I worked there.
We would also carry specimens to the lab for analysis. It’s kind of freaky to pick up a package that contains somebody’s leg and carry it around the hospital. We went to Central Supply for different items. Once I picked up a hammer, star drill bit and a pair of pliers and took them to an O.R. These tools were all just like you’d buy at Home Depot, only they’re sterilized. I was curious what they were going to use them for so I wandered to that OR a few minutes later and the doctor was had the star drill in the patients hip and he was tapping it with the hammer. They’d then take an x-ray and then he’d tap it a couple more times and take another x-ray. A nurse said were putting a pin into a guy’s hip.
We also had to go over to the Emergency Room, which was in a different building. The Barnes Hospital complex is made up of several buildings which were all connected by underground tunnels. We were always supposed to have a female escort if we were transporting a female patient, but every now and then no one was available and it was an emergency so we just shot out of the E.R., went down the elevator, through the underground tunnels and up the elevator at Barnes to the surgery floor. It was cool to rush patients to surgery.
Even though I was on the low end of the earnings scale it was a very interesting and rewarding job for me. I’d probably still be there if it had paid more.
What was your first job?