On Loving, Leaving Nursing

Chris-DunmarsAfter 45 years of working as a nurse on what now is known as the Mother Baby Unit, most of them on the night shift, Christine Dunmars, MSN, RNC, retired on May 4. She reflects on her time at Rush.

When I first started, I was in the postpartum unit. They gave me a position on nights, and I didn’t want to work nights, I wanted days (laughs). What 21-year-old person wanted to work nights? Not me. I wanted to be partying at night.

After about two years, I said “Why am I regretting coming in?” I had to support myself. I was 21, I was the youngest nurse on the floor, I was from the country, from Arkansas, and everyone took me under their wings. They taught me how to take care of a patient, talk to a patient.

Now the majority of my orientees stay at Rush. They don’t leave, I take them under my wing, like the older nurses took me under theirs and taught me how to take care of patients.

‘A happy place’

I work in a happy place. As we come to 2018, we have sicker mothers coming in, but it’s still a happy place. We had some sad times, but the majority of times, you had healthy babies and you had healthy mothers and you had teaching. We have to teach the moms to take care of themselves, and to take care of the baby.

I loved teaching: I was teaching the mothers and I was teaching the nurses. Even the dad gets taught now.

I was happy. I didn’t ever have an issue with Rush. When I finally accepted nights, it all came together, I had all I needed at Rush. I wanted to teach, so I taught part time at Chicago City College for seven years.

One thing that’s the same (about nursing) is teamwork, supporting your team and other nurses. We’re still doing that. Rush has a good system for that.

How nursing has changed

But everything else has changed in nursing. The salary is much larger. My first annual check, if I can remember, was $24K a year.

And uniforms: We had white dresses and white caps, no pants. Eventually, we got rid of the caps and went to pants, white tops and white pants, and now we’re wearing black. I started in white and ended in black.

The medication administration: In 1973 we had glass IV bottles, and the nurse prepared all the medications. The pharmacy sent us the medicine, we had to get the dosages, we had to get the right medications, and we prepared it on the floor. Now the pharmacy does all that. We just give it.

On a team

When I first came in, nurses didn’t have any say in the care of patients. The doctors never asked our opinion.

Nowadays, we have huddles with the doctors and nurses and the techs. Everybody gets together and talks about what they think is going on and what’s better for the patient. I think that’s wonderful.

Years ago, we weren’t part of the team. Now nursing is part of the team, and I really like that.

What’s next

I plan to sleep for six months to a year. Coffee and Mountain Dew is what keeps me up.

Then when I wake up, I’ll see if there’s something out there for me. I have a three-year-old granddaughter I want to spend some time with her.

I bought a house in Texas already (in a Dallas suburb). To let you know how much I love Rush, I live a mile down the street from Rush. I moved there from the South Side.

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