Mar 8, 2016

A Breakthrough Moment For a Candy Striper

From the start, don’t mistake a Candy Striper with a Candy Stripper. It could easily be mispronounced. Just by adding an extra 'P' this story could take on a whole new vibe. 

The red and white pinafore candy striper uniform was the official dress for a hospital volunteer and not a bosom busting outfit worn by a sultry porn star

At 16 years old, being a candy striper was my first real grown up role.  I was excited to slip on the official red and white pin striped dress that was worn back in the day. I think these days the position has transformed and the "candy striper" uniform no longer exists. 

Even though it was an unpaid volunteer position, it felt like I was entering into a respected profession and anxious for any new opportunities.

It's true, the uniform was a bit corny for a self-conscious adolescent, but this was the start of my possible future. No qualms about it, the experience was going to help me move up the ranks in the medical field. 

It was my chance to serve people in need, fill water cups, hand out magazines and deliver a warm smile to those needing a burst of happiness. 

I was going to learn all about nursing.  I was going to show compassion to those needing support. I was going to learn medical jargon and become a pro at scooping ice chips. 

What the HELL was I thinking?

After one week I knew I wasn't cut out for this crap!

Instantly, I detected a distinct hospital smell that reminded me of a combination of moth balls and a chemistry lab. This definitely wasn't the smell of mom's roast beef and apple pie baking in the oven! 

My first visit, of several that day, was to a sickly older man dozing quietly in his bed. I generously filled his water cup and while resting motionless, I wondered if he even knew I was there, much less recognizing the forced smile I was shining.

Many I visited delivering water and ice chips of cheer ended this way. It was far more joy sucking than I had envisioned.

Pushing around the book cart became more of a pain in the ass than the happy delivery service I had originally imagined.

The irritating squeaky wheel of the cart and nearly dumping the whole load of books while maneuvering was flat out annoying.  And, to think I had missed out on a fun day of swimming with friends for this load of nursing madness.

Without question, the somber faces of people crying for their loved ones, the sick people lying motionless in their beds and the occasional visual of a wrinkling ass peeking through the backside of a hospital gown was like pulling teeth from my wretched mouth with a rusty pliers.

Suddenly, I was having flashbacks of my youth.  Enjoying birthday parties, playing pin the tail on the donkey and dressing headless Barbie dolls.

Clearly, this nursing thing was not my cup of tea nor did I want to assist anyone to pee in one!

Maybe I needed to rethink this career idea. Being a candy striper wasn’t the revolution I had hoped for.

Not wanting to give up so quickly, I made a motion for a transfer to a different position in the hospital. Admittedly, delivering books, filling water cups and possessing a caring smile was just not in the stars for me.

It’s possible I had a different calling.

So, naturally, not wanting me anywhere near an ailing patient, they stuck me in the sterile medical supply room down in the basement.  No needy patients, no squeaky wheels, no bare butts!

I happily turned in my red and white pinafore dress in exchange for scrubs, a hair cap and slipper booties. I would arrive each shift taking the elevator down to the lower level, enter a serene room with soft music playing and proceed to stuff and package medical supplies.

This actually wasn’t so bad.  Was I destined for the hospital basement?  Would I make a career of knowing all there is to know about surgical instruments, syringes and bed pans?

I thought so….until one day when I arrived for my usual shift in the basement, the elevator door opened and just as I stepped over the threshold, a gurney was being wheeled down the hall towards my direction.

To my horror it was a stiff body covered from head to toe with a white sheet!  As I stood frozen in bug-eyed shock, I watched the nurse push the dead body just a few feet down the hallway and opening a door to a room boldly marked “The Morgue!”

Right about here was my breakthrough momentI curiously pondered…...

Who might be accepting Candy StriPPer applications? They do pretty well, don’t they?

This story is in honor of all the nurses, doctors and health care professionals that are blessed with the fortitude and tolerance to do this very difficult job.  After my very brief experience, I feel you are the TRUE angels of this profession.

Put your smile on and unwrap
   A Square of Chocolate,
Laurie O

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  1. Ha! Yes, everyone is not cut out for this. I do admire doctors, nurses and paramedical staff who work so tirelessly for others.

    1. Corinne, I found out very quickly at a young age that I wasn't cut out for this job. God bless the people that have the patience and a caring soul. Thank you for your comments.

  2. Two things, nobody should go anywhere near nursing if they want gratitude or even a thank you.
    Secondly I am saddened, no, actually I'm upset, that you choose to perpetuate the "dirty nurse" myth by including the candy stripper image

    1. Bec, I'm so happy you pointed out that it is a thankless job. My story was meant as a tongue and cheek way of saying that I and maybe others just aren't meant to do these jobs, which is why my ending paragraph thanks all that are in those positions. It's a good thing I stayed clear and went into accounting. No, I didn't end up as a stripper. That was just a funny play on words and a candy striper and stripper have no comparison. It's unfortunate that it offended you. I thank you for your comments and it's good to see such strong opinions about nursing. Thank goodness for people like you!


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