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60 Years of Caring

Carole,-young-nurse.jpgWhen Carole Boardman, RN, began her career as a nurse, she went to work in a dress, nylons, and a cap. Medical records were simple, handwritten vital statistics. Syringes were made of glass and sterilized with fire. IV bags didn’t exist, but IV bottles did—those were made of glass too. And “iron lungs” breathed for patients long before the advent of ventilators.

Carole recently cared for her last patient this fall and retired after 60 years of nursing, 51 of those years spent at Inland Hospital. She has seen incredible things in her nursing career, from technological and medical advancements to major shifts in patient care and the doctor-nurse dynamic. However, she tells us, some things remain the same many decades after she first became a nurse.

It’s the mid-1940s, and 5-year-old Carole stands watching a black and white television when she sees her destiny. “A nurse was being portrayed on the show, and I just thought right then and there: I want to do that.” Carole never let go of that dream. A Fairfield native, Carole’s father owned a local hardware store; her mother was a homemaker. Carole says at the time she graduated from high school there were not many career options for women. “Back then, they tended to be school teachers, secretaries, or nurses.” She followed her childhood ambition and, in 1957, graduated from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Portland, a three-year nursing program.

Early in Carole’s career, she married, briefly moved away, and then returned to Maine to raise her three daughters. During this time, nurses were not clinically specialized. Today’s nurse graduates are highly trained and are expected to make complex clinical decisions that, 60 years ago, most likely would have been made by a doctor.

The relationship between nurses and doctors has also changed quite a lot, Carole says. “Doctors were seen as gods. They taught us to stand up when a doctor entered the room,” Carole recalled of the training she received while in school. She added, “Providers and nurses are more collaborative now, part of a health care team. Today, nurses have so much more input into the treatment of their patients—doctors rely a lot on the nurses.”

50-Years-of-Service-2017-edited-Carole-Boardman-John-Dalton,-Inland-Pr.jpgOne of the most significant changes Carole experienced in her career was the introduction of computers used in medical equipment and record keeping. However, she said, the core of nursing hasn’t changed. “Patients still like the personal contact a nurse can provide.” She added, “Families are more involved than they used to be—you need to take time and get to know patients and families.”

To the young nurses just starting out, Carole sees many more opportunities for career advancement and choice of specialty. Yet, no matter which nursing field graduates decide to pursue, Carole’s advice is as true today as it was 60 years ago. “You have to love people. There are going to be a lot of peaks and valleys, and it has to come from your heart. It’s something from your heart.”

Nurses are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Revered by patients and colleagues alike, Carole is no exception and truly exemplifies what it means to be a nurse. Inland staff and patients will certainly feel her absence, but Carole isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. She’s filling the early days of retirement enjoying Patriots football games, yoga, and spending time with friends and family. Carole admits that she still drives her car into the parking lot at Inland out of habit, just in time for her old shift. The hospital staff was her second family, a bond which is hard to break. Friends and coworkers recently gathered at Inland to celebrate Carole’s remarkable career in nursing, at which she jokingly asked, “Can I reapply?!”