Reminiscing on Nursing at Munson Hospital: What Nursing Means to Me

In honor of Frances (Fran) Virginia Fall Beattie, R.N., who recently passed on February 16, 2015, your editors are pleased to publish Fran’s short piece, both a moving tribute to the profession of nursing and her time spent at the medical hospital here in Traverse City. Fran was born in March 1921, and graduated from Traverse City High School in 1940. She attended the Traverse City State Hospital School for nurses, earning her registered nurse designation in 1943. She was promptly hired in General Duty Nursing at James Decker Munson Hospital, where she remained for 30 years. While raising her two young daughters she worked part-time occasionally, but never quit the field.

Frances Virginia Fall Beattie, R.N.
Traverse City, MI

Licensed in the State of Michigan, Registration number 31774, Employed at James Decker Munson Hospital, General Duty Nursing.

“You are a pretty nurse and you are a good nurse!”

The voice came from a little brown wrinkled Indian lady.

“Thank you, my dear!”

Inside I felt good–also, very humble and somehow the day’s work seemed lighter. We cherish things like this and store them away in our memory, hoping that we too will give encouragement and praise to those we are caring for.

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Frances V. Fall, graduated from State Hospital School of Nursing, August 19, 1943.

I was trying to recall just when I decided I wanted to become a nurse and why. It was in my first or second year of high school. It was just a gradual feeling deep inside of wanting to help others. There was no dramatic inclination and I had no glamorous ideas about the nursing profession like some girls have. At the time I decided definitely, I had been a visitor to the hospital just once.

I remember as a senior student nurse, I was holding a child about eighteen months’ old, while an emergency tracheotomy was being performed. Before the operation was completed, the child died. As soon as I could leave, I fled to the utility room with tears streaming down my cheeks. Yes, there are heartaches to be sure, but the joy of seeing patients improve and get well, more than makes up for the heartaches.

A pillow turned or staightened, a bedside table moved where more convenient for the patient, a glass of juice; yes, a smile and a cheery word or two, these little things mean so much to the person confined to bed.

Frances V. Fall (Beattie) and classmate Fern Rinehart (Collins)
Frances V. Fall (Beattie) and classmate Fern Rinehart (Collins)

This is a challenging profession! Take the critical patient or the one with a long convalescence–sometimes we spend weeks and months in caring for these patients. The patient becomes discouraged, we get weary. But we keep a cheerful smile. Time goes on and very little improvement. Then comes a gradual improvement until the patient goes home. We wonder how they will get along. A few weeks later, we look up to see a smiling face at our side, looking the picture of health. Yes, you say to yourself, this makes it all worthwhile. This is why I like nursing.

“Mr. Thomas, what did you do to your bed?”

“Wal, I don’t know. I’s crawled back into bed and I can hardly get under them sheets. Then I feel somethin’ like paper that I’m on and oh, is so tight. I thought, what’s wrong, never been tight like dis before, so I pulled it all loose.”

By then, everyone in the room was laughing and when we told him he had tried to get under the draw sheet, he laughed and laughed, his big white teeth looking so very white in his shiny black face.

After twenty years of nursing, I can truthfully say to you young people, I would do it again and I encourage you to enter the nursing profession. Life is not easy come-easy go, the things worthwhile, we strive for and acquire.

Frances, Standing at entry to Munson dorm (now a State office building).
Frances, Standing at entry to Munson dorm (now a State office building).

There will be times while in training that you will become discouraged, you will wonder if it is worth the effort, but it is, Don’t give up! Once you have become a registered nurse, you have something which you can make use of the rest of your life. If you marry and raise a family, you will be better equipped to face the future having had the training.

There is a variety of fields in which to practice and you will find the one you like best. There will always be a demand for nurses and you will always have work if you want it. There is sadness, gladness, weariness and fun, a great variety, but it all adds up to a wonderful life. Won’t you join us?

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