The summer after I turned sixteen, I took a six week course at the Mercer County Vo-Tech to learn to be a nurse's aid. We paid five dollars and if we had perfect attendance at the end, we received the fee back. Early in the morning for summer, we met outside the West Middlesex High School cafeteria to board a yellow school bus transporting us the twelve miles to the career school.
The building, itself, newly built, screamed the future. An actual restaurant staffed by students learning culinary skills, a mechanic shop allowed car repairs for the faculty by young men being trained, a beauty shop and designing art room edged the open common area, where we ate lunch. We did not eat in the restaurant.
The nurse's aid course was taught in two rooms, a class room and a lab, resembling a hospital ward. The group of girls on the first step of a health care career were from all over the county. Sharon, Sharpsville, Greenville and Jamestown. One day, we all brought in our yearbooks cluing me into how small Jamestown school was. I believe they had a class of thirty eight that year. We learned together, fed each other while one was blindfolded, and we bonded those six weeks. We had to write our obituaries, study for tests and appreciate Miss Kellogg's dry humor.
I came home around three and would lay on our living room blue/green carpeted floor reading the paper. I discovered naps again. I think I got hot on the ride home, the cool air in our high ceiling home plus reading lulled me into that rest I needed. Being sixteen in the summer, I still stayed up too late. Even then I wanted to do it all in the summer.
After the course was over, with my five dollars in my hand and a newly obtained driver's license, I put my application in all the local nursing homes. I was trained. I wanted to be a nurse. This was my career and I felt confident. No one bothered to tell me I needed to be eighteen to work in these facilities.
April 26, 1979, I got a call from Clepper's on State Street in Sharon. Could I work for them? I started working before I graduated from high school, the afternoon shift. I had to make sure I had the night off for my graduation.
Tomorrow, I return to Clepper Manor. This time, I'm not an overly confident, non experienced eighteen year old. I've been nursing for over thirty years, but I still believe the best nurse is the hands on nurse. I'm looking forward to mentoring the staff and loving new people. I'll also write tomorrow on what I learned at my first job as a nurse's aid.