On April 23, 1956, recent graduate Janie McFadyen began her nursing career at Cape Fear Valley Hospital, a brand-new facility in Fayetteville, NC. Little did McFadyen know she was starting a 50-year career with the organization. In 2006, McFadyen, RN, a labor and delivery nurse, remains active at the hospital, now known as the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
McFadyen has seen it all, from new mothers with no clue about breastfeeding and hovering mothers-in-law to new moms coping with postpartum depression. Through the years, McFadyen has "been there done that."
Then & Now
Things have changed in her 50 years of nursing. Clad in white nursing gown and cap in 1956, McFadyen, a diploma graduate of Highsmith Hospital, and others boldly stepped into an empty medical center prepared to work hard as the June 8 opening date loomed.
"[There were] no beds, no furniture of any sort, no charts, no medicine; one great, big, empty building," she recalled. After much hard work preparing the space, the first patient (McFadyen still remembers her full name) entered the doors of the 200-bed facility June 11.
The new hospital was typical for its day: alphabetized medicine cabinets, trays lined with cups containing bottle-poured medicine, narcotic keys and medicine cards doubling as name tags. Nursing staff charted patients manually, sometimes re-charting patients inadvertently.
Today, it is a very different facility. A medical center with 426 beds and state-of-the-art technology, it has a level III NICU, nurses wear scrubs, and clipboards and computers help prevent re-charting.
McFadyen sees some of the changes as good and others as not beneficial. "You did a lot more patient care back then, and now we have to do much more writing. That's one big difference," she said.
While some things have changed, others remain the same. Though she has given up her nursing gown, McFadyen, now a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, proudly wears her nurse's cap.
Back for More
Despite trying to retire several times, McFadyen finds herself returning time and again to the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center staff.
She first planned to retire in 1991. However, when the aftermath of Desert Storm left Cape Fear Valley and many hospitals overwhelmed with newborns, McFadyen felt compelled to go back to work.
Later, she set a goal to work until age 65. As the date drew near, she was again convinced to remain in nursing. She said she realized she played a critical role as a mentor.
"I became a mama-image to a lot of the people who were much younger than me, so I kept working," she said.
A Motherly Mentor
McFadyen embodies the "mama-image" in many respects; a veteran in both nursing and motherhood, she thoroughly enjoys taking new nurses under her wing. "When somebody turned out to do a real good job, it was very rewarding," she said.
In addition to co-workers, McFadyen helps transition mothers and newborns from their stay at the hospital to life at home. Her job is follow-up care, an aspect many nurses overlook, McFadyen believes.
"What I'm doing now is relieving the other nurses so they can do the mama care and the baby care — we just didn't have any time to do what I'm doing now."
During her follow-up calls, McFadyen said, "I try to give them a whole lot of education; warnings about the baby, postpartum depression and so forth. I've gotten a lot of interesting questions, and if I can't answer them, I tell them to give their doctor a call."
Caring for Mom
She finds many new mothers have a multitude of questions ranging from postpartum depression to breastfeeding.
McFadyen emphasizes the importance of motherly care. "To take care of your baby, you've got to take care of the baby's mama. So that means you need to eat well, drink lots of fluids and rest while the baby's resting."
She sums up her role this way: "I explain to them when to call a doctor; if this is something they need to call him about or is this something that is normal."
McFadyen's care of new mothers "is [my] love. [But] be prepared to do some hard work, some long, hard hours. It's continuous learning. You need to be kind and compassionate."
McFadyen has abandoned plans to retire. "Right now, I don't have any plans to retire if my health holds up," she volunteered.