Skip to Main Content
Tales from Kentucky Nurses

Tales from Kentucky Nurses

William Lynwood Montell
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Tales from Kentucky Nurses
    Book Description:

    From frontier times to the present day, Kentucky nurses have served with intelligence and energy, always ensuring that their patients received the best available care. Noted folklorist and oral historian William Lynwood Montell collects nearly two hundred stories from these hard-working men and women inTales from Kentucky Nurses. From humorous anecdotes to spine-chilling coincidences, tragic circumstances, and heartwarming encounters, the tales in this lively volume are recorded exactly as they were told to Montell.

    Covering medical practice in the state from the early twentieth century through contemporary times, the episodes related inTales from Kentucky Nursesreveal the significance of the nursing profession to the Bluegrass state's local life and culture. They include funny tales -- such as the story of an injured stripper who swore her pole had been sabotaged and an anecdote about a surgeon racing between hospitals who paid his speeding ticket twice, knowing he would have to hurry the other way in a few hours. Montell also presents moving stories like the recollections of a nurse who helped a frail cancer patient achieve his last wish of being baptized.

    This valuable collection also features anecdotes from the famous Frontier Nursing Service, which provided essential care to families in remote areas of the state and whose leader, Mary Breckinridge, is remembered fondly for her wit and kindness. In addition, Montell's interviewees share ghost stories and describe folk remedies like the practice of placing an axe under a woman's pillow during labor to cut the pain. These firsthand accounts not only pay homage to an underappreciated profession but also preserve important aspects of Kentucky's history not likely to be recorded elsewhere.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6073-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Health Sciences, History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    As I have said numerous times to people who come to hear my stories and viewpoints about various topics, I am not interested in writing books about kings, queens, and presidents; my desire is to write about local life and culture relative to professional groups and subregional areas. Thus my professional desire is to help preserve the legacy of local history, life, and culture. To do this, I interview local individuals who can tell their favorite stories about themselves and their work, ranging from humorous to very serious events, or about others in the same profession who serve in various...

  4. 1 The Frontier Nursing Service
    (pp. 5-28)

    The Frontier Nursing Service was founded in 1925 by Mary Breckinridge in Hyden, a small town in Leslie County, Kentucky. As the director of the FNS for forty years, Mrs. Breckinridge traveled around to mountain counties in the area, talking to judges, doctors, local midwives, and others, asking them to provide various types of services to family and community members who needed help. Mrs. Breckinridge was also responsible for service outposts at Beech Fork, Confluence, Red Bird, Flat Creek, Burlington, Burgess, and Wendover.

    The stories in this chapter provide information about services performed by FNS nurses, nurse-midwives, and couriers. Couriers...

  5. 2 Emergency Room Episodes
    (pp. 29-50)

    It is hard to imagine how health care was provided and emergencies were handled, if at all, during the early years of our nation, especially in rural communities, small towns, and remote backcountry areas. Due to the lack of doctors, nurses, and hospitals in those areas, healing was at times successfully provided by locals using folk remedies. Disastrous injuries, difficult births, and other emergencies often resulted in physical disability or death. Thus, as local health care became more readily available, with better access to doctors, nurses, and midwives, life became more satisfactory and productive.

    Most of the stories in this...

  6. 3 Baby Births
    (pp. 51-78)

    Whether it happens at home, in a neighbor’s house, or in a hospital—which were constructed somewhat late in certain parts of Kentucky—the arrival of a precious infant is typically a joyful event. Every now and then mothers-to-be prefer not to talk to nurses, doctors, and even family members, due perhaps to the pain they anticipate having during the birth process. Some mothers resist support from nurses or doctors. Nonetheless, the birth of a baby is often very much a family affair, with family members and friends present to celebrate the baby’s arrival. Not often does the first sight...

  7. 4 Humorous Accounts
    (pp. 79-94)

    Readers may not laugh at all of the stories below, but the nurses recounted them with a great deal of humor. There is virtually nothing to add to that. Some of the stories focus on doctors, sometimes as they wondered what a patient was trying to explain, while others involve nurses’ and patients’ responses to doctor’s pranks.

    During a particular day at the Hopkins County Hospital in Madisonville, I was gowned and gloved in my sterile dress and was setting up one of the tables in the delivery suite. We were not to touch the tables, so I was attempting...

  8. 5 Patient Misbehavior
    (pp. 95-106)

    Typically, misbehavior by patients, nurses, or doctors is not spoken or written about. However, inappropriate situations do occur, whether through thoughts, smiles, stubbornness, noises, or various lifethreatening events. Some of the events these stories recount involve relatively minor tomfoolery or refusal to comply with medical advice, while others touch on more serious ethical breaches. Some even illustrate a more profound clash of values, as in one nurse’s sympathetic account of a patient who strenuously resisted the efforts of nuns to “convert” her before death.

    After finishing nurses training I found a job at Pleasant Acres Nursing Home in Altamont, Illinois....

  9. 6 Inspirational Tales
    (pp. 107-132)

    The nurse-patient relationship can be inspirational for either party. In this chapter, many nurses describe patient’s inspirational words or actions. A truly inspirational story describes the nurse who frequently held hands with dying patients. In nursing homes, when newcomers enter, all staff members know they need to interact with them to make them feel comfortable, almost as if they were in a new home. To do so helps the new patients continue being as active as possible on a daily basis.

    Numerous stories in this chapter talk about Mary Breckinridge, founder of the Frontier Nursing Service, especially how she inspired...

  10. 7 Nursing Training and Career Memories
    (pp. 133-192)

    Stories in this chapter describe numerous reasons for acquiring a nursing education and how individual nurses moved along with their career activities. Most anticipated that they would earn a nice salary, but they also wanted to help patients in need of serious, dedicated services.

    Numerous nurses describe their work teaching in nurse-training schools. While most students were highly interested in earning good grades so as to obtain good jobs, some lost interest during the educational process. Some women talk about feeling the need for nurse training so as to properly raise their own children.

    The bulk of the stories in...

  11. 8 Doctors and Nurse Interns
    (pp. 193-198)

    Very few accounts about doctors and nurses serving as interns were provided. Most of the following stories are informative, telling about such things as the importance of mothers, slow-learning medical and servant processes, the crucial role of horses for transportation purposes, and erroneously performing services on a dead body prior to the doctor’s arrival to pronounce the person dead.

    I was on the elevator with several medical students and asked one of them who was the most important person in their time as a medical student and who could make them or break them. One of the medical students took...

  12. 9 Various Types of Stories
    (pp. 199-228)

    Stories in this chapter are different enough that they need to be kept separate from other categories in this book.

    Included are stories about the lack of suitable houses, discomfort caused by heat or cold, children who suffered from worms or a lack of quality drinking water or adequate food, makers of moonshine whiskey, hitchhikers, the return of nurses as supportive spirits, and the list goes on.

    When I first got to Hyden I worked in the hospital for a few weeks at what I seem to remember as relief work. I think I worked in practically ever[y] center, and...

  13. 10 Governmental and Business Issues
    (pp. 229-234)

    Stories in this chapter relate the role of the federal government in health care and business concerns of medical institutions. Some reveal how much the Frontier Nursing Service and its staff members, as well as local doctors and area residents, needed financial support. These stories also bring into focus the slowness of payments from Medicaid and Medicare and describe the receipt of food stamps. Many, many local residents, especially students, used to live without adequate food supplies, water, and adequate heating. The Frontier Nursing Service was often out of reach for some backcountry families. However, the FNS did take boxes...

  14. 11 Medications in Earlier Times
    (pp. 235-250)

    This chapter includes insightful information about medications used during pioneer times as well as during the early to mid-1900s. Nursemidwives, and in earlier times even some untrained servants, provided services and medications to numerous patients. Some women were given such a variety of pills that they had to provide detailed diary descriptions of any other forms of medication that they might be taking, such as natural herbs, vinegar, and numerous homegrown items, including sassafras tea. I personally remember, during my growing-up years in Monroe County, a husband and wife who had never been to see a doctor, but both lived...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 251-254)

    In 2006 the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) publishedProfessional Nursing in Kentucky: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,a historical overview of nursing in the state. Many of the nurses in this book echo the events recounted in the KNA book.

    Professional Nursing in Kentuckytraces the development of nursing to the early 1800s. “The records of nursing during this early period,” the prologue explains, “are scanty, often conflicting, and difficult to discover. The first ‘so-called nurses’ in Kentucky and elsewhere in the Country were Roman Catholic Sisters. In times of epidemics they helped families care for their own when they fell victims...

  16. Biographies of Storytellers
    (pp. 255-274)
  17. Index of Stories by County, Other States, and Countries
    (pp. 275-282)