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Oral History Interview with Colonel Peggy Medvedev, USAF, RN

Orlando Health, Orlando Regional Medical Center – Orlando, FL.

I’m Peggy Medvedev. I was born Margaret Ann Sebold and I was born in Summit, New Jersey, but I moved to Florida to a little town called DeLeon Springs just north of here when I was in first grade, five or six years old. And that’s where I grew up was DeLeon Springs most of my life until I came to Orange Memorial to be come a nurse. I have always wanted to become a nurse. Never even thought about being anything else.

Listen: 19:20

Was your mom a nurse?

No. Mom and dad were just workers, factory workers . My dad used to work for a factory up in New Jersey. And then we moved to Florida and we had a sundry shop for a while. And then after that, they worked in a transformer factory. So, I guess I was the first kid to go to “college”. This was a diploma program at the time so off I went to Orange Memorial Hospital. They got me a Rambler for $1,000 so I could have a car while I was here.

Orange Memorial Nursing School

Although we didn’t do a lot of driving around. I just went to nursing school which was very challenging. It was an excellent program. I loved Orange Memorial. I mean, probably at the time I didn’t realize I loved it. It was a lot of work. It was a good school. We received I would say, some of the best nursing education anybody could have received. When we left as a graduate we could do anything as an RN because there wasn’t anything we hadn’t done as a student before we became an RN; not like today where they have to get a lot of experience after they graduate.

If we weren’t in class, we were working on the floor as a staff nurse.”

But when we went, I teasingly called us “pre-labor, slave labor” because we worked a lot on the floor. If we weren’t in class, we were working on the floor as a staff nurse. And in my senior year, I worked as, I was the RN on one whole side of the floor for a month of 3-11. And when I was a senior for nights, 11-7, I was the RN on the whole floor – I was “the Nurse”. The RN was on a floor above. Today you wouldn’t ever do that, but back then, it was okay and we got some amazing experience. Just awesome. Awesome. I’m so happy to be here.

Are there any experiences with patients or things that happened that stand out in your mind?

I guess, yes, there’s actually two patients, of all those years I don’t know why there wouldn’t be more. I know I loved taking care of the patients and the instructors were always very clear about taking care of the patients, obviously. And we had a number of patients to take care of and try to get everything done. And we did everything: bath, bed. It wasn’t as specialized as it is now.

“I remember taking care of one gentleman who had heart failure…

I remember taking care of one gentleman who had heart failure and back then, we used what we called rotating tourniquets. And I remember taking care of him for a number of days while I worked on the same unit. And I still have the silver bracelet that he gave me 50 years ago. I cherish it. I meant to bring it with me to show everybody and I forgot. It is in my jewelry box back home in Texas.

“A lady I took care of, she had what they called Guillain-Barre…”

The other, a lady I took care of, she had what they called Guillain-Barre Syndrome and she had an ascending paralysis. And my instructor, Miss Willis, let me take care of her without a bunch of other patients because she was total care. I learned so much about turning and postural drainage. I mean so much of taking care of her and keeping her safe and preventing bed sores and contractures, pneumonia.

Postural Drainage

I had to hold her lips around a straw for her to be able to drink. Back in those days you could smoke in the hospital, and she was a smoker. And it scared her to do postural drainage which was kind of laying her upside down. She’d feel like she was kind of falling out of the bed. I’d bribe her with a cigarette. Because I had to hold her lips around it, I’d only give her a couple of puffs before I’d put it out again.

“Thanks for my life.”

But she was, her paralysis started to descend. And she signed my yearbook, “Thanks for my life.” And she came to graduation in a wheelchair and I did get a letter after the fact that she was up walking and leading a normal life. That is unusual after Guillain-Barre Syndrome because sometimes they have residual problems. But she apparently went back to dancing. She was a dancer. So she was, I will remember her my whole life. I will never forget her. I hope she’s well. She may have passed on by now because she was, she was probably only in her thirties or late twenties, so it’s conceivable she’s still alive. I hope she is and is doing well.

Learning The Art and Science of Nursing From Orange Memorial

Yeah, patient care. The art of nursing is the other thing I pulled away from Orange Memorial. The art of nursing, not just the science of nursing. We learned the science of nursing, but we learned the art of nursing.

Would you tell me more about the “Art of Nursing”?

The art of nursing is, when I was working nights, I spent 30 years in the Air Force after I graduated, and when I was a Captain in San Antonio stationed there, I remember working nights and going in making rounds on nights. And there was, one of my patients, she was crying. And my memory is she had cancer… but I remember just going in to room and sitting on the bed and and just holding her hand and not saying anything. That’s the art of nursing. She didn’t want words. She didn’t want medicine. She wanted a presence. That’s the art of nursing. Being there. Caring. Touching. I know in today’s world, we’re so afraid to touch. But as a nurse, you’ve got to touch. You’ve got to touch your patient. If you’ve got to ask permission now, ask permission. But don’t be afraid to touch.

Would you tell us about your career path?

I became a Colonel. I served in the Air Force and I went from being a Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and ended up being a Colonel. I can’t believe that I ended up doing some of the stuff I did.

“Orange Memorial Hospital is the one that gave me my foundation…”

But I know Orange Memorial Hospital is the one that gave me my foundation of feeling comfortable going out and doing stuff. I did go on and get my bachelors and masters degree while I was in the Air Force. And I was Staff Nurse, I was a Clinic Nurse, I was Supervisor, I was Administrator, I was Chief Nurse, and I became a Commander a couple of times when I was in the Air Force.

Commander and Chief Nurse of the Medical Operations

So my last tour was at Barksdale which is in Bossier City, Louisiana. I was the Commander and Chief Nurse of the Medical Operations. So basically, the doctors worked for me. I was their boss. I wasn’t their medical boss, because I didn’t have a medical license. But I would always remind my medical nurses that you may work for a doctor, but they don’t have a nursing license. You know, they have a medical license. They can’t tell you how to practice as a nurse.

“I was basically The Boss…”

You know I had a partner who was a physician who would take care of the medical practice, but I was basically the boss. It was kind of cool having the doctors work for me. But I had good docs – they were all – if they were late or if they had long hair, they were before me and I was telling them how to cut their hair. But it was kind of cool.

“I ended up spending almost 30 years in the Air Force…”

I enjoyed my career in the Air Force. I did things I never dreamed I would be doing. There’s just too many tails to tell, to say. All the stuff that I got myself into as I learned. But I loved it. It wasn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect in this world. You know the grass is not always greener on the other side. But you make the best of where you are. I joined the Air Force for two years and I thought I was signing my life away. I ended up spending almost 30 years in the Air Force. I just never found a good reason to separate or get out of the Air Force at that point.

How did you happen to join?

A recruiter called me when we were seniors – we had McCoy Air Force Base was here back when we were Orange Memorial Hospital and the School. A recruiter came and they took all the seniors out to dinner to the base and tried to wow them there. And that‘s their job. That’s what they’re supposed to do. And so, after graduation, a recruiter called me and asked if he could come talk to me. And so, I said, “Sure.” And that’s how it all started. He convinced me to join the Air Force. So I did. Go figure. I surprised me and my parents, that’s for sure. But I got to travel and my mom and dad got to travel as a result too because they’d come visit me where I was stationed.

When I think of the Air Force I think of a very disciplined atmosphere, and yet, nursing school at the time you went to school was very disciplined, right?

It was very disciplined. What I discovered in the Air Force was there were rules and regulations, things that you were expected to do. You didn’t call in sick. You didn’t take your birthday off. You were expected to be there on time. Basically you belonged to the Air Force 24/7. So they could tell you, “Go home go to bed and come back to work tomorrow.” I remember doing that as a Lieutenant. I came to work for a day shift and they needed a primary duty nurse for the night shift. So I got there at quarter of seven, or 6:30, and ten o’clock she sent me home and said, “Come back for the night.” Because they needed somebody to special duty a patient for the night. And that’s what you did.

The Quality of People in the Air Force

I also know that everybody I worked with before – not everybody – there’s always bad apples in any place that you go, but, in general, the quality of the people you worked for, they all had that same, you know, we want to do it right the first time. You know, they all had that same – wanting that structure – and it’s the quality of the work was there and the quality of the people were there. It didn’t matter if they were officer or enlisted. It seemed to be in their genes. That’s how they wanted to behave. So I was proud to serve with those folks. Absolutely.

You served in the medical field, but you also served our country, and you served the people who served our country.

Yeah, I loved it. I got to do aeromedical evacuations which is moving patients around on the airplanes. There’s less of that now than there was when I was in because the medical facilities were up and running, all the medical centers, and we would move patients between medical centers. But now, we use the civilian healthcare system which is awesome that we can do that.

Aeromedical Evacuations

But we would fly patients all over the place and I would be part of that system for a good number of years. I loved it. It was exciting and challenging at the same time. And nothing was the same twice usually. So it was an exciting time to be in the Air Force, for me anyway. And, I think, it’s probably still exciting because now they have different capabilities. They can take a soldier who’s injured in Afghanistan and have him in a surgery suite on a plane going to Germany to save his life. And they can do that in hours. You know back when I was in, you know, they didn’t have that capability. But they have ICU’s on the plane now. I mean the things they can do now are awesome. So it’s different, but it’s still the same quality I believe.

Were there any historical events that happened that affected your work?

Well I was, let’s see, while I was in the Air Force I was on active duty when they invaded in Grenada. All of our leave was cancelled. I was stationed in San Antonio at the time and we thought we were going to be getting casualties. We ended up not getting very many. That’s always good news.

Iraq-Iran-with Kuwait

When I was stationed at Wright – Patterson AFB is when the first Iraq-Iran-with Kuwait happened. And we set up a huge staging facility on the flight line, again expecting to receive thousands of casualties. That was very stressful even though, you know, it was the anticipation of what to expect. We had deployed folks overseas and we were waiting to be a major receiving hospital because there’s a big medical center in Dayton, Ohio. And as it turns out, we didn’t get any casualties because it went so well. I mean, that was wonderful, absolutely. You couldn’t have better news than that.

Landing on the Moon

I was teaching nursing after I retired from the Air Force, and it was while I was teaching that the 2011 towers happened with the planes. I remember being just like everybody, frozen in time. Like, just you remember where you were. You remember when Kennedy was assassinated. You remember where you were when we landed on the moon. I was a Lieutenant up in Selfridge Air Force Base working 3 to 11 and I watched it with my patients while they landed on the moon. I remember being there with my patients watching it on TV. So those kind of events kind of stay in your brain. There are little ones you loose a lot of, but those major ones absolutely you remember where you were when that happened.

What do you value most about the profession or what should new people coming in know as far as what they need to value?

As a registered nurse for decades, and I do mean decades, it has been voted by the people one of the most trusted professions that people trust. Fireman, police are probably right there, but nurses have always been like way up there on who the public trusts. And you don’t just keep that unless you earn it. And so, I challenge the new nurses to, you know, not think that it’s easy being a nurse, it’s easy being a registered nurse.

“How do you know for your patient when you need to call the doctor?”

You have to know what you’re doing. To know the science. The art is incredibly important, but if you don’t know the science, how do you know for your patient when you need to call the doctor? Sometimes you do. Sometimes you have to know the lab work to know what the clues are telling you. You need to be able to assess your patient to know what their clues are telling you. You know, we can’t just sit back on our laurels and say, “It will always be the most trusted profession.” Not if we’re not there taking care of the patient.

And so, it did my heart good to hear what we were told today about the program at ORMC, about nurses getting involved with A.M. Care and P. M. Care again. Always, when I taught nurses I said, “You know, the nursing station doesn’t need nurses that need to be nursed. It’s the patient that needs to be nursed.” I understand documentation sucks. It’s important, but it steals our time. I know that. So the challenge is how can you still do what you need to do as a nurse to take care of that patient because that’s – you’re there, the doctors aren’t.

“Keep that trust that the public has given us for a lot of years..”

And so, if you aren’t in there looking at that patient and talking to that patient and hands on that patient, how do you know when to call the doctor or that you should even do? Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. But you won’t know if you’re not there with the patient. So I challenge them to remember that. And to keep that trust that the public has given us for a lot of years. A lot of years.


Interview:  Colonel Peggy Medvedev, USAF, RN, BSN, MSN
Interviewer: Jane Trac

Date:  May 19, 2018
Place:  Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center

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Oral History Interview with Colonel Peggy Medvedev, USAF, RN

Oral History Interview with Colonel Peggy Medvedev, USAF, RN at Orlando Health - Orlando Regional Medical Center on May 19, 2018. The interview was conducted at the 1968 Class Reunion of Orange Memorial Nursing School Graduates held at Orlando Health's Orlando Regional Medical Center in the centennial year of Orlando Health's service to the Central Florida community.

Interview: Colonel Peggy Medvedev, USAF, RN

Interviewer: Jane Tracy

Date: May 9, 2018

Place: Orlando Health - Orlando Regional Medical Center

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