Q and A with Professor Emeritus Dr. Emily Zabrocki, first nursing department chair

In light of the nursing program’s 40th anniversary, Professor Emeritus Dr. Emily Zabrocki shares below some memories of the early days of the JJC nursing program.

Zabrocki played an integral role in starting and developing the JJC nursing program. At the beginning of her career at JJC in 1969, she worked with the first director of the nursing program, Helen Tea, to assist with the development of the curriculum and the policies and procedures dealing with student admission, retention, and progression through the program, as well as the initiation of contracts with clinical agencies.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between nursing 40 years ago and nursing in 2011?

A: Wow! How to answer that one! Two things immediately come to mind: one is the increased automation and use of computerized systems and sophisticated equipment to plan, provide for and evaluate care, and the other is the advent of the big, bad bugs that jeopardize patient’s safety while in health care facilities.

As an example, we used to have to regulate IV flow rates by hand, then check them frequently to ensure that the IV was flowing at the correct rate; now we have machines that monitor flow rate and give us an alarm if something happens to alter that rate. Infection prevention is a huge concern in today’s health care world; I think all of us have known individuals who have developed an infection while in a health care facility; these are often life threatening and impact tremendously not only on the cost of health care but on the quality of life for the individual.

Q: Where was the nursing department located when the college was located in the temporary buildings—the college’s first buildings—while the permanent campus buildings were constructed?

A: We were housed in the same building as the art department and the psychology department. Bill Chase and Grace Brewer, Jim Dugdale and I think Sharlene Kassiday shared office space with us. I remember that one of the classrooms in this building had a pottery wheel and a kiln. I’m not remembering if other departments were housed in the same building; I think perhaps what was then Home Economics may have been. We were in the temporary that later housed the Nurse Aide and Nursing Continuing Ed programs; it was one of the last of the temporaries to be torn down.

Q: Did working in the temporaries present any challenges? What were they?

A: Actually, working in the temporaries was a fun time. We were able to get to know faculty from other departments fairly well, and since we were new to the college, this was important to us. Also, because the temporaries were fairly close together, faculty as a whole were closer knit. Probably the thing I remember most about the temporaries was the time before the sidewalks between buildings were put in. We had wooden planks as walkways between buildings the first several weeks, and it seemed to rain quite frequently, making travel between buildings somewhat hazardous! Also, Houbolt Rd. was aptly named the Ho Chi Ming trail (remember that we were in the midst of the Vietnam War); it was a two lane gravel road that very quickly deteriorated under the increased use put to it with the advent of college classes.

Q: Once the permanent main campus was built, was nursing always located in the C-Building?

A: Yes, it was. We’ve always been in the eastern section of the building, though in the early years we only occupied the area in the southeast corner of the second floor. Faculty were not able to have regular faculty offices (we were still in the dental cubicles on the second floor) until the J-Building was completed; we then were able to take over the offices previously used by the business department downstairs.

The automotive and technical departments shared office space with us there until the new tech building was completed; since then, we have pretty much had the office bank that we occupy today. Once nursing faculty were able to move most of our offices downstairs, we were able to remodel the space upstairs to increase classroom space, introduce computer facilities, and additional demonstration/practice rooms.

Q: Do you remember the transition from the temporaries to the permanent campus? What was that like?

A: Actually, we had it easier than a lot of departments. Since we were relatively new to the college, and had had very little space in the temporary (I think we may have had two hospital beds and a few IV stands, maybe a wheelchair as equipment) we didn’t have much to move. As mentioned above, the fun part was figuring out how to make the quarters we were moving into work for us. We really did try to make lemonade out of lemons, and I think we did it! Because faculty offices were in the dental cubicles, they had no office doors, and thus very little privacy for student conferences.

Our departmental secretary, Vicky Setina, had her office right inside the double doors leading to this area, so she not only was a wonderful secretary to the department, but also served as the “keeper of the keys”. It was she who would allow students to enter the faculty office spaces and it was she who maintained the security of our area. The lead-lined wall areas became a storage area; it had a rather bizarre configuration, but it worked.

Read more about Zabrocki’s favorite memories

Archival Nursing Program photos>>

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