"Always see the person in the patient.... As a nurse you can make people feel that they matter."
Former Night Supervisor and Computer Applications Specialist
After graduation, Ms. McCartney (known to her classmates as Marge Dempsey) worked in the operating room of Meadowbrook Hospital, until a doctor told her she had too much personality and really should be working with patients directly. She worked on several units at Meadowbrook, and was home recovering from an infection, when a classmate from Adelphi invited her to join her in moving to California. So, she packed her bags and headed to the recovery room of the San Francisco Children’s Hospital, where she also met her husband.
She later moved to the Veteran’s Hospital where she stayed while her fiancé was drafted into the army. After marriage, and starting her own family, Ms. McCartney began working as a night supervisor at Merritt Hospital in Oakland, CA as the hours were more conducive to her family life. She realized how difficult night nursing was to new graduates, so she created a class called, “The Psychology of Night Nursing”, and taught it several times a year to the night staff. This class helped reduce the incredibly high turnover rate among young night nurses, and a teaching video was made to be submitted in competition for schools of nursing. The video took second place much to her surprise.
In 1978, she and her husband relocated to Wisconsin, and Ms. McCartney transitioned from patient care to data processing in 1980, leading a team of nurses in installing the TDS Hospital Information System. Moving back to California in 1984, Margaret was hired by the vender company becoming a Product Specialist in the emerging computer technology field. She retired in 1993.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
I grew up with one brother and two sisters on Long Island. My father insisted that all his children get a college education, and I knew that I wanted to do something different than my sisters who were both heading toward teaching careers, so I chose nursing as I loved science and math.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
I started at Adelphi in January, 1954 and commuted from home until my family moved to New York City that September. I moved into Harvey Hall on campus and then on to several nurses residences. During our public health affiliation, a classmate and I lived in rented rooms in one of the mansions of Garden City at the time. What fun! I remember Miss Eisenhower very fondly; she was so compassionate and gave the best advice. I also remember Professor Curry who made Shakespeare come to life for us.
While I was a student nurse in the intensive care preemie nursery, there was a day when the nurse called in sick and the instructor approached me to take over her duties. Since I was a student I was scared, of some of the procedures such as feeding the babies through a feeding tube. I did it! Surviving the day gave me so much confidence that I felt like I could face anything.
What are some of the changes you have seen in nursing through the years?
The technology has really changed so much. We used to improvise everything. In the 1980s computers really revolutionized medical and nursing care. I spent a lot of time working on computers to help nurses, doctors, even whole hospitals keep and use their records and information.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
Always see the person in the patient. A director of nurses once told me everyone wears an invisible sign that reads, “I want to feel important” and I believe that is true. As a nurse you can make people feel that they matter.
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