Almost every new nurse had that one incredibly special person that took them under their wing and showed them the ropes–that awesome person became your mentor.
In my case, that person was Sonie Roberts-Johnson. After I endured the easiest job interview ever at AMRTC, I accepted the position and eventually was introduced to Sondra. That’s her real name, but I’m probably the only person that calls her that.
Sondra was an LPN. She was younger than I was. She had shoulder length naturally curly blonde-ish hair that fell into ringlets. I thought she was kinda hot looking.
Sondra ruled the night shift on Cottage 8, the unit that would become my base of operations for roughly the next year. The state of Minnesota had recently changed their regulations, and required all LPN’s to be directly supervised by an RN.
Sondra didn’t accept this change quietly. She is perhaps the most least shyest person I’ve ever met.
“I’ve been running this unit for the last three years and I thought I was doing a pretty good job, but what do I know, I’m just an LPN. So now what? I have to teach you how to do my job, and you’re going to be my boss? Is that right? That doesn’t seem fair to me.”
Fair or not, once Sondra decided to teach me how to be a psych nurse, she put her personal feelings aside and taught up a storm. I learned more from her in a month than I learned from anyone.
She taught me everything she knew about psych patients, and how to manage them without resorting to threats. She taught me about psych meds and which meds worked best, which meds required routine lab monitoring and how often labs needed to be ordered. She taught me what to say to the docs to get them to do what I needed them to do. She taught me which staff members I could trust and who to stay away from.
By the time I had absorbed everything she was willing to share with me, Sondra had become just about the coolest person I had ever met. And I was no longer the fuckin’ new guy who was going to ruin her life.
I’m sure Sondra said something about the change in our relationship because there was nothing she didn’t talk about. Seriously, she never stopped talking. I once bet her ten bucks she couldn’t stop talking for ten minutes.
“That’s just stupid. Of course I can be quiet. If you want me to shut my mouth, all you have to do is say something. Jesus!”
“Okay. I’ll bet you ten bucks you can’t stop talking for ten minutes, starting…now!”
“What? Wait! I’m not ready!”
“No! If you want me to be quiet, you have to leave!”
“What? No! Ten minutes, total silence, starting now.”
“No! Nononono. No. I can’t do that. You have to leave the nursing station.” And then she laughed that Sonie laugh. She has one of the best laughs, ever. I miss that laugh.
As is sometimes the case in nursing, Sondra and I would part ways. She transferred to another unit at AMRTC a few months after I started, and I would transfer to the VA. Despite that, we remained close friends and kept in touch through all the trials, tribulations and celebrations in our lives. The impact she made in my life resonates inside me still.
In a figurative sense, we are all pebbles thrown in a pond. The ripples of our impact, good or bad, flow outward in an infinite pattern, effecting everyone we meet. You never know how something you do or say can make a difference in someone else’s life.
You were a good pebble, Sondra. You still are. I hope you never forget that.
And by the way, you still owe me ten bucks.