When I was 18 years old I went to work at a hospital. I had applied at several large institutions and the best choice was at The Jewish Hospital. I was offered a job as an orderly. Little did I know that in order to get this job I would have to have my self esteem and will trampled flat and taken out for trash day.
It was 1971 when I was introduced to Joan Meachem.
Joan was fifty-ish, her stature was small and it was held together by tight-fitting undergarments that made her look like she had a suit of armor under her white nurses uniform. She was firm in the right places, but bulged from the wrong places. She had to be very uncomfortable. Did I mention this was 1971?
Joan was a registered nurse that had been a graduate of The Jewish Hospital School of Nursing. She like to remind you of this and did so three or four times a day.
There were five young men in the class and most of us needed the job. So as we learned to make up beds with hospital corners, take blood glucose readings and bath old men we put up with her intimidation tactics, her military-like evaluation and her over-the-top seriousness of the most mundane subject.
I graduated after the four week course and went on to be assigned to the Extended Care Unit, where my self-esteem completely disapated and my psyche erroded. It was there that I learned, as Dr. Suess put it, old age is not for sissies.
After a year plus of working as an orderly, there was an offer to apply for a position as an Operating Room Technician. The pay was at a higher level. The work did not entail wiping butts or lifting large unresponsive people in and out of bed. I took the test, passed it and was on my way to the class which was led by none other than Joan Meachem.
The course was to be a six month preparation with hands on training. After it was over we would be prepared to take the national certification course. Joan was in her glory.
She had fifteen brave souls that were locked in a hospital training room under her thumb for 8 hours on a daily basis. This was not simple, make the bed, bath the patient, feed the patient chores. We would be assisting doctors by passing instruments, holding retractors and setting up operating rooms. We also had to study anatomy and physiology, know what medications were commonly used during procedures, learn about sterilizing instruments and maintaining operating room protocol. We also had to learn about different types of surgeries and what would be expected to happen during the procedure.
Joan made it a point to note that her training method was diadactic training. In other words, she read from the book, we listened. As a bonus feature she used all of her training in intimidation techniques and psyche breakdown. Although there were no thumbscrews, racks or waterboarding, none-the-less spending 8 hours a day with her was cruel and unusual mental torture.
We were continually evaluated by her and her cronies in so-called "private" conversations that were meant to be heard by the class. Occasionally one of the members would not be at class and we would be told they had been dismissed due to their bad attitude. In other words, they spoke up or did not cow-tow to her mental cruelty and were shown the exit door.
I need to let you know that The Jewish Hospital was a wonderful facility. It still is, although it has moved to a new location. The quality of care was excellent and the staff was supberb. However at the time, the Nursing department was run by a clique of ladies that called the shots. Joan was second in command and her best friend was the head of nursing. One time Joan had the head of nursing's son fired and the two women still remained friends. These were ladies that had a tighter bond than the Skull and Bones society.
Joan's dower demeanor gave way to her only pleasure, smoking cigarretes, which she consumed by the carton on a daily basis. During my tenure, this habit caught up with her as she had to have a lobe of her right lung removed. I recall that during our physiology training she showed us a cigarette burn on her left hand. This was as a demonstration of wound healing. Her burn was two weeks old and would be totally healed in another two. None of us wanted any show and tell.
It is hard to believe it was over thirty-five years since I worked as a certified operating room technician. Yes, I did pass the national board despite Miss Meachem' training. Joan's six month course turned into a one year course. My remaining classmates and I caught on shortly into the course that Joan Meachem never had any training in an operating room and her diadactical approach to teaching was not fooling anyone. Eventually someone higher up ordered her to end the class and make appointments for us to take the certification.
Teaching methods and employee retention have advance to a science. But I am sure there continue to be examples of Miss Meachem throughout nursing and many other businesses. Bless her heart, Joan Meachem will always stand out as an example of mental cruelty and how not to teach.
I hold no resentment toward her or her memory. This era is a part of my life story and it bears telling.