Morris, Jean

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                                    A career in care
                  Jean Morris looks back over 96 years and a cherished career in nursing 
                                       By Julie Clinton

On Aug. 9 Jean Morris celebrated her 96th birthday. Surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren she greeted a steady stream of friends with birthday wishes. Many were people she knew from her nursing days. Her old friends still refer to her as Gull, her nickname in those days, taken from her maiden name Gulliver. But as the years go by, fewer and fewer of the women she nursed with send birthday wishes. “There’s so many missing,” Jean said “so very few of my older friends left. We were always just like a big family. It’s kind of a lonesome feeling when I think of all my friends…..” There’s one notable exception. Former nurse Blanche Burchill, a resident of Saint Joseph’s turned 100 on Aug. 18.

Training here never left Morris stumped

Jean was 22 in 1926 when, as a new graduate from the nursing program at the old Miramichi Hospital, she moved with three of her friends to Boston. The young nurses were the best of friends and lived and worked together at Brooks Hospital. “We had an awfully good time.” Canadian nurses were in demand in those days too and Jean and her friends were proud to display their training to their American counter-parts. “In my nursing days I never came to anything I didn’t have a briefing on. We never came across anything we couldn’t do.” That held true when Jean went to work in Ontario in 1928 at the urging of some relatives there. But by 1931 she was back on the Miramichi and married to Clyde Morris.

And here she has remained. She has lived in the same house for the past 69 years, all through her married life and the birth of her children. She took a leave from nursing when her sons were born, to stay at home and raise her children. Then in 1949 she returned to the field as a private nurse, where she remained for “many years.” Over those years, Jean has seen many changes in patient care. She recalls when she went into training at the Miramichi Hospital, there was a male patient who was there when she arrived and still there when she graduated three years later. “Now you can only stay so many days,” She said. “He was there probably four years.” With advances in technology, training has changed, too.

12 hour work days

When Morris was studying nursing, trainees worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday and got two hours off to study. Her uniform was a gray dress that fell to her heels. Additions to that basic apronned uniform indicated her education advancement. She was given a bib and armlets (cuffs that covered her sleeves from wrist to elbow) as she progressed through her training. Strict housing rules were applied. Nurses in training could only leave the hospital overnight during summer vacation. This must have been aggravating for Jean who lived only three miles away in Douglastown, where she was born. It was because her family was so close to the hospital that she had the opportunity to attend its official opening in 1916. “It was then that I decided I’d like to be a nurse,” she said. Seven years later, at the age of 19, Jean entered the School of Nursing at Miramichi Hospital. She remembers her first day clearly.

Training started with a violent storm

“On April 1 we entered, during the biggest snowstorm of the season. We were supposed to arrive at 9 a.m. but I didn’t get there until 10.” The fact that her first day of nursing school fell on April Fools Day and during a violent storm might have been seen as an omen by some. But Jean was looking forward to fulfilling her dream and the nursing school provided all the training she would need. “I was always proud to be a graduate of Miramichi Hospital. Jean loved nursing and has never regretted the time spent working. “I really enjoyed every minute of my nursing career and met some wonderful people. I have wonderful memories. “Every patient was well looked after, as if they belonged to us.” That doesn’t mean there were no difficult days. “There were some sad times and some good times,” she said, noting the good out-weighed the bad. Today, the good times involve spending time with family and friends. Although an operation has left her in a motorized wheelchair, she keeps a positive attitude. “I still enjoy myself.” But she admits she misses former hobbies including bridge, golf and curling. Jean lives alone since the death of her husband in 1978 but she relies on her memory to keep her past alive. “I can tell the names of all the patients ever in the hospital, I think I’d rather have that than legs I guess.” She has round the clock care but she says she’s happy with the way her life has turned out. She has never regretted a day of her nursing career. “I wouldn’t give up my training for anything or anybody.”

Source: Miramichi Leader - August 22, 2000

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