Tonawanda News

Features

December 9, 2013

Three local nurses share memories of nursing school.

Tonawanda News — They’ll never forget nursing school. They consider themselves lucky to have survived it.

But, they have always delighted in remembering the stories, such as one’s struggle to give a bed bath to an unresponsive patient who, it turned out, had unfortunately already died. Then there was the cadaver dropped by several young nurses-to-be as they tried to carry it down stairs during a power outage. Then there was the problem with the mislaid girdle ... .

Some funny, some personal, their collection of stories about nurse training under the strict watch of nuns at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo will live forever in a book three area women have written to share with their classmates and the world. 

The book is called “Have Mercy,” and the trio of authors include Mary Herbst of Grand Island, Maureen Ott, formerly of Kenmore, now living in St. Catharines, Ont., and Maureen Weber, a Niagara Falls native now living in Lewiston. The book was born from the strict, rigorous training they received in the 1950s while living in the nurses residence during their hospital training.  

At a recent gathering with their mentor Bob Giannetti of Bob’s Olde Books in Lewiston, they described some of the stories that still make them laugh, 50 years later. 

“We left our parents domain thinking it was going to be freedom,” said Ott, known to her classmates by a version of her maiden name, “Mummie.” “Instead, it was like entering the convent.”

“There were a lot of restrictions,” said Herbst, who recalled how one nun always checked to be sure they were studying between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and who revisited at bedtime. “She came back at 11 p.m. and shined flashlights at your bed,” she added of what they called a “boot-camp” environment.  

The book came because the ladies, each a writer of sorts, agreed “we should write a book.” So, five years ago, they sat down and each wrote their version of the stories. Giannetti wove them together.

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