"When I graduated we had three choices: work in a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a school. You have so many more choices today, but there is one constant – you should be a patient’s strongest advocate."
Pediatric Nurse, Educator
When Gladys Scipien retired in 1996, her career included time as a hospital nurse, educator, author, and editor. Ms. Scipien returned to Meadowbrook Hospital, the site of her several clinical rotations, after graduation, and was quickly promoted to head nurse. After ten years at the hospital, she relocated to Syracuse, New York, in part fueled by her desire to become a “ski bum.” However, even that lifestyle required a full-time job, so she began working at Syracuse Memorial Hospital, a part of Upstate Medical Center and a teaching hospital. Because of her prior experience, she was appointed as the Pediatric Supervisor. The students encouraged her to become a professional educator because she was able to explain concepts thoroughly and easily. After receiving her master’s degree from Boston University, she began teaching there in 1968.
While working at BU, she was approached by a major publishing company about their nursing text books. Ms. Scipien quickly declared them to be inferior, and was soon asked to write and edit a series of new texts. Together with several colleagues, she spent several years writing and editing three editions of their books. When Boston University closed its nursing program in 1988, she transitioned to the University of Massachusetts in Boston where she taught until retirement.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
I grew up in a small town in New England. My parents were both immigrants from Poland, and they really wanted me to go college. One night during World War II, a neighbor came to our house for dinner. She was a U.S. Navy nurse, and when I told her that I wanted to be a nurse, she was insistent that I go to a four-year degree program, because that would be the future of nursing. I started researching colleges, and by a small miracle, I found Adelphi.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
Coming to Adelphi was a real eye-opener for me. It was just after World War II, and the G.I. Bill brought many veterans to campus. It was a very exciting time to be there; we had a football team and a basketball team and there were so many things going on. I remember Dean Harley and Mildred Montag as well.
I started my clinical experiences at Meadowbrook Hospital. There was an incredible nursing shortage at that time. I remember three of us, as senior students, responsible for 100 patients at night. There was no RN and the instructor went from one area to the next overseeing the students. I also remember our obstetrical experience where I used to work the 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. shift, attend class from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and then return for the 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. shift.
I went from one rotation to another, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. And then I went on my pediatric rotation and I just knew that kids would be my life. They are wonderful, incredible patients. They don’t know that they are sick, and they just want to do what kids want to do.
What are some of the changes you have seen in nursing through the years?
The biggest change has been the advent of disposable equipment. We used to sharpen needles and autoclave them, as well as select appropriate rubber tubing for a clysis – not an intravenous because that equipment and procedure had not yet evolved. Preparing for a clysis could take three to four hours. Today nurses are much more involved in more complex technologic and physiologic salutations.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
You are so fortunate to have chosen this career. When I graduated we had three choices: work in a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a school. You have so many more choices today, but there is one constant – you should be a patient’s strongest advocate.
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