50 YEARS AT GRANDE RONDE HOSPITAL
By Alice Perry Linker
Observer Staff Writer
When Imie Bristow was asked to work in the hospital operating room, she queried, How long?
Well need you for a short time, was the reply.
Twelve years later she was still there.
And as Bristow looks back on her half-century at Grande Ronde Hospital, those 12 years were the best. She began in the operating room during the mid-1950s, before the age of monitors and other high-tech equipment.
We were the monitors, she said. Technology in the operating room has just zoomed up the ladder.
Bristow began nursing in 1951 in the old Grande Ronde Hospital building. When she first started, she worked nights, and she lived on the hospitals fourth floor.
I rented a studio for awhile. It was fun, she said. Part of my pay was board; I had two meals a day free, and that food was good. I was amazed at what those cooks did.
When she started, Bristow was the only registered nurse on duty at night for the medical, obstetrics and emergency floors. She worked with one nursing aide and one licensed practical nurse.
Three people for the whole hospital, she said.
Bristow and her friend, Dorothy Hicks, were involved in planning the new hospital, helping to design the nursing stations and the operating room. Moving was a challenge, but Bristow believes her biggest challenge came during the 1970s, when she was named director of nursing.
Now, that jobs hard on your blood pressure, she said. Youre stuck between the administration and the workers.
Although she calls the nursing directors job my least favorite, she instituted many changes during her term. When she first started, she had no shift supervisors, no secretary.
It was just me in that position, she said.
After some time, the hospital hired a secretary, and during her tenure, Bristow added floor supervisors. Despite the work load, she began a quality assurance program to ensure good patient care and helped organize the hospitals transitional care unit.
During the 1970s, the hospital suffered a nursing shortage, Bristow said.
We went to the college (Eastern Oregon University) in the late 1970s and pleaded for a nursing school, she said. We had a terrible nursing shortage then. My hours were something else. Sometimes Id work seven days, 14 to 16 hours a day.
Bristow, who grew up in Cove, started her education at Eastern and earned her R.N. at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland.
During her nursing years, she married Wayne and raised two daughters, Becky Turner, who is a licensed practical nurse employed in the hospital nursery, and Cheryl Locker, who lives near her mother in Cove.
My husband was a big support. He was as good with the kids as I was. He really helped, she said.
After Bristow resigned as director of nursing, she became a house supervisor, moving into one of the positions that she created. She now supervises infection control and employee health, and she works mornings only.
I make rounds every day, she said.
Bristow, who says shes over 70, originally planned to retire in mid-April, but she was asked to stay on for one more assignment: To help prepare for and participate in the regular review by The Joint Commission of Accreditation for Health Care, set for the end of April. She agreed.
Ive participated in every one since Ive been here, she said.
She considered retiring several years ago, but after her husband died in 1997, she decided to keep working.
It was really a tonic, she said.
Her last day is May 2, the final day of the accreditation review.
Ive always been so busy and on the go, she said. Im going to stay home, enjoying my horses, and gardening. I love gardening.
As for her career, she feels satisfied.
If I had to do it over, Id do the same thing, she said. Sometimes I wish Id stayed in the operating room and moved along with all the changes.