Angels Behind Doors 2
Angels Behind Doors
Women in the war are often only noted for their nursing skills but it’s never said how much they go through to be their best for their patients. Some of the many things that make them so dedicated are their working conditions, living conditions, and that their help didn’t stop at the soldiers.
Nurses in the Vietnam War had a very demanding job. Often with 3 patients to a bed, sitting around wasn’t an option. The average admission for battlefield injuries was about 3 hours in the hospital, meaning the doctors and nurses had to work very quickly. Nurses usually worked for 6 days a week, 12 hours straight, before they could get sleep, if any. Many nurses said that “sometimes sleeping was the best recreation of all” (Vietnam Woman’s Memorial, 2011). Working 12 hours in a bug-infested, noisy, hot and humid hospital obviously didn’t help them get through the long days by any means. Besides having to work in poor conditions, one nurse said “We didn't have enough instruments. We didn't have enough hands. Needless to say we shared things during surgical procedures that were absolutely needed to save lives, but they weren't sterile.” (Knox, 1995). By the Vietnam War, they had created new and more severe ways of attack: white phosphorous bombs that burned through the skin and right to the bone, helicopter wounds, and new found diseases. Because of this, the Vietnam nurses had different injuries to cure. On top of that they had little to no training for these type of
Angels Behind Doors 3
wounds. One nurse even stated, “The surgeon threw a pair of scissors at me and said, "Don't just stand there. He's going to lose that arm anyway. Cut it off." and so I did. And I remember the sound of the arm hitting the pail. That was the end of my orientation” (Walker, 1985, para. 6). Usually the nurses were found in Surgical Intensive Care, recovery room, and the emergency room. Along with being in the hospital, they also were on the field and sometimes in the helicopters in order to try and treat the wounded on the way to hospitals. Because of this, soldiers had a 98% survival rate. Even though this helped the survival of soldiers, it increased the death rate of medics so they had to start carrying firearms and grenades. Eleven years after the war had started, the first operational hospital was created. It had air conditioning, heating, hot and cold water, and waste disposal facilities. Although these new inventions made getting to patients easier, when going over difficult terrain and sometimes having poor drainage it made it hard to work. When you think of hospital you think of the clean rubbery smell and the whiteness of the walls, but that wasn’t the case for Vietnam. No matter if it was terrain or leaky hospital; in any situation the nurses cared more for their patients then themselves.
Although nurses were either on the battlefield retrieving people, or in the
hospital caring for people, when...