I think I’ve become an unexpected fan of Bernard and Marjorie Palmer’s “Career Books” girls’ series published by the Moody Bible Institute. While the stories are simple in the extreme, it is refreshing to read a series where the plot doesn’t hinge on the heroine acquiring a boyfriend.
The Plot: Recent high school graduate Sandra Emerson has broken the news to her parents that she does not want to follow in her older siblings’ footsteps and attend college at their parents’ alma mater; inspired by the biography of Florence Nightingale she received at Christmas, she instead wants to apply for nursing school at the hospital in the big city.
Her parents’ skepticism is warranted: Sandy has been a lazy student, and seems to have a history of making similarly impulsive decisions. However, they relent, and the book opens with Sandy’s arrival at Union Station (Los Angeles? Denver? Washington D.C.? Unspecified.) and making her way to her first day of orientation at the similarly non-specific Memorial Hospital.
Upon her arrival, sandy meets her roommate, Doris Lee, who unlike Sandy, has felt a calling to nursing since she was a little girl. Doris has brought her Bible with her, which puts Sandy on edge:
“So I’m stuck with a religious fanatic,” Sandra said inwardly. “Just my luck.”
“She’s not going to get me with her religion,” she said to herself.
Now, clearly, the Moody Bible Institute isn’t going to let Sandy finish nursing school without having a change of heart on the subject, but the road to her conversion is generally done with a light touch, the focus remaining on the rigors of Sandy’s period as a nursing “probie”.
Miss Mosley, the Superintendent of Nurses, is introduced next, a serious woman who takes her job seriously, warning the incoming students that most of the incoming class will be dismissed during the probationary period for not having The Right Stuff. Despite her warnings, Miss Mosley still comes off as largely sympathetic.
Sandy excels at her “Nursing Arts” class, and has a good bedside manner with the patients that she’s assigned to do menial chores for:
Unlike some hospitals where probationers were kept off the wards for days, Memorial used them to give back rubs, carry trays and run errands.
However, Sandy still hasn’t learned her lesson about buckling down to study the boring subjects like anatomy, and she fails her first test on the subject, resulting in a stern warning:
“You came to us from high school with good grades, but a tendency to be lax in studying. You may have been able to get through high school without cracking a book, but you cannot do it here.”
Sandy is allowed a second chance after handling a situation with a pet garter snake in the children’s ward with calm and professionalism, but imperils her career again when she is assigned to the emergency room. First she questions the doctor about the patient’s chances of living in front of the patient (oops!) and later breaks regulations by coming into the ward in her street clothes and off-duty (another “don’t”). And she still isn’t studying her anatomy!
Doris remains supportive of her roommate, offering to help her study and remembering her in her prayers. When Sandy reads aloud to a critically injured little girl from her Gideon Bible, Sandy starts to think that there might be something to this Jesus fellow after all.
The religious content doesn’t overwhelm the career/self-realization arc, and the non-Christian students are presented in a positive light as well. Even after Sandy undergoes her conversion, she explains to her fellow probies that just because Doris has decided that dancing and dating are out, she is going to read her Bible and make up her own mind on the subjects.
While in the end, Sandy successfully graduates from probie to full-fledged Student Nurse and Doris sums up the lesson as “God is so good!”, it is equally clear that hard work, dedication, common sense, and a certain flexibility with the rules is required in addition to prayer.
Sign It Was Written In 1960: The probies aren’t allowed to date the interns, causing one girl to squawk “And I had already picked out a cute intern. He was real groovey.” [SIC?]
Sequel Department: Six years later the Palmers penned Sandra Emerson, RN for Moody Press, so presumably Sandy finally graduated from nursing school!