Sunday, October 28, 2012

Judith Grybowski

Judith Grybowski
Through the influence of Dr. Roy Anduze, Commissioner of Health and a member of the Board of Trustees, Ianthe Blyden, RN, and many others in the nursing community, the leaders and policy makers of CVI (College of the Virgin Islands) were committed to the development of a nursing program at the new college. Support and guidance was provided by New York University. Through their efforts they identified two nurse faculty who were “loaned” to the College; they provided the initial curriculum planning, and an Associate of Arts program was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1965. The program was placed in the Division of Math and Science. Students were admitted in the Fall of 1965. Helen Gjessing taught microbiology and continued to do so for 20 years. Students also took general biology until an anatomy and physiology course was available. The classrooms were located on the third floor of the Classroom Administration Building.

On my very first day I accompanied students of nursing to do a clinical day at the Knud Hansen Hospital on St. Thomas and take care of patients. There was no running water. That precious substance was available only in large clean waste cans. I said to myself, “What have you gotten yourself in for?”

Then on our very first clinical day at Queen Louise Home for the Aged upon our arrival we were asked to sit in the waiting area until all was ready. Again, the water system was not working for Hospital Ground, and they also could not do the laundry. After a while the water came on, but the staff had not returned with the new purchases of linen for the residents. I was told, “We have to have things nice for the students.”

When we extended our program to St. Croix, we did not have access yet to the third floor (previously the surgical unit) of Charles Harwood Hospital. So Ms. Armstrong and I selected an available space adjacent to the library, and our water was provided through a garden hose. We had to go outside to turn the water on and off.

Judith Grybowski - 1970 CVI Yearbook

The second year we were relocated to the previous surgical unit on the third floor of Charles Harwood Hospital. The college’s Physical Plant staff enthusiastically helped us renovate the facility, so it would serve as an effective teaching facility with a nursing arts lab and a science lab. Two new faculty (Kathy Sheats and Dr. Foster-Strauss) and K. Corbett, who relocated from St. Thomas, joined Ms. Armstrong. One night we had one of our famous rain storms, and on awakening I turned on the radio to learn that classes were cancelled. I called Dr. Foster-Strauss to learn how she fared during the storm, and she replied with evident stress, “Oh, Judy, I am exhausted. I have been up all night mopping the floors. But I’m ready to go teach clinical at the hospital.” Laughing, I told her that flash flood alerts are out and classes had been cancelled. I then instructed her to listen to our local radio programs as they provided us necessary updates and information. I then called Ms. Sheats. She started our conversation, “Oh, Judy, I am exhausted. I have been up all night mopping the floors. But I’m ready to go teach clinical at the hospital.” Following my repetition of pertinent instructions, I then called Ms. Corbett, thinking, “I know she’s lived on St. Thomas for three years – but I’ll call her just to be sure.” Corbett calmly responded, “Oh, I did a little spot mopping and am sitting on the gallery with my second coffee and Bailey’s.”

The Charles Harwood Hospital roof held during Hugo, but windows were damaged, and everything was wet, and the winds had moved the heavy beds and other furniture all over the place. The whole unit was flooded and a mess. The CVI physical plant assisted us, so we could get back to teaching. However, our students had experiences of a lifetime – experiences few other nursing students could match. They cared for their patients in a “MASH Unit” for nine months in the tent hospital.

Judith Grybowski is a Professor Emerita of Nursing.

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