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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Creator: Frank L. Wright, Jr. (author)
Date: 1947
Publisher: National Mental Health Foundation, Inc.
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7  Figure 8  Figure 9  Figure 10  Figure 11  Figure 12  Figure 13  Figure 14  Figure 15  Figure 16  Figure 17

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Joe sighed, hitched up his pants, and took off his white coat as he strode into the office. There was Nelson, slouched in the chair, sound asleep.


"Come on. Get out! You're off duty -- officially now." Nelson didn't stir. So Joe shook him and finally roused him enough to send him off duty. Joe had to go along most of the way, because Nelson couldn't get his key in the locks. He was that drunk.


Nelson had been employed at that hospital before -- that's why Joe couldn't believe he was back. Nelson had been fired a few months earlier, and had worked at another hospital in the meantime. He had been dismissed from the other hospital because of bad eyesight.


With the help of a powerful magnifying glass. Nelson just managed to scratch out a night report that passed for writing. He admitted that he couldn't read the labels on medicine bottles -- yet he was allowed to give hypodermic shots of morphine and other drugs to patients. At a distance of twenty feet, he couldn't recognize people he knew well.


Nelson was still employed at the hospital six months later when Joe gave up in disgust and left.


(Based on report 450)


"Five Dismissed: Services Unsatisfactory."


Visitors' day was something of an occasion on all the wards at Pineyville. The patients who had visitors got a good feed from their families, and they usually brought enough back to the ward to share with their fellow-sufferers.


It was little wonder that all the patients looked forward to visitors' day with as much anticipation as Bowman.


Bowman was charge attendant on Ward 90, and he reigned supreme there. Not a patient on the ward would stand up to Bowman for even a minute. They all cowered in corners, or ran to do his bidding when he spoke. To hear Bowman tell it, all the doctors took orders from him, and all the nurses asked him to their rooms at night. The patients acted as if he controlled the universe as well as the hospital.


But on visitors' day, Bowman was a different sort of a fellow. He'd come to work without the smell of whiskey on his breath, and he would spend most of the day fixing up the patients who were certain to have visits. Then, during visiting hours, he'd be seen flitting about from table to table, talking pleasantly and in confidential tones to the mothers and dads and wives and sisters of his patients.


All the relatives thought Mr. Bowman was a fine attendant, and they were glad to know that he would take good care of their son or husband or brother. Bowman always got across the idea that he would take care of the patient all right, but that first-class care would take some extra money to buy better food and clothes than the hospital provided. And that way he often collected from thirty to fifty dollars a week from the relatives to buy cigarettes and candy and food and clothes for the patients.


Bowman would bow the last visitor out the door, and then a change would come over his face. He'd pocket Mrs. Klein's ten-dollar bill, kick her beloved son upstairs, get him out of his "visiting" clothes, and yell, "Start mopping the floor, you son of a ---. Don't think you get your cigarettes for nothing." And so it would go for another week.


Bowman made cigarettes out of state-furnished tobacco, brewed coffee from cans he "lifted" from the kitchen, and held back on the meat at the patients' meals so that he could make sandwiches for his "customers." He bought two-for-a-nickel cigars for old Peter, whose wife had said she wanted him to have a fifty-cent Havana every night after supper. And even then he made every patient work for what he was given, and constantly reminded patients how much they owed him for all the "privileges" he allowed them. By the same methods he always kept a couple of patient stooges on hand to discipline other patients. Then, when too many patients went to the infirmary with broken ribs from Ward 90, Bowman would put the blame on one of his stooges and have him transferred to the violent ward.


Rumor had it that the rational patients on Ward 90 prayed every night that one of the stooges who had been "sold down the river" would be transferred back to Ward 90. But Steve quit praying that when he saw, one day, the brass knuckles, the blackjack, and the weighted hose that Bowman kept handy in the office.


(Based on report 434)


"Three Dismissed -- Emotionally Unstable."


Dwight didn't feel too comfortable about his work in building F. It wasn't that the patients bothered him -- they were pretty badly deteriorated and needed a lot of care. But the charge attendant, Joe, seemed to resent having Dwight around.


Joe had been in charge of Building F at nights, all by himself, for more than a year. But there was no doubt that there was work enough for two men; a hundred and fifty patients, about half of them incontinent, make plenty of work. So Dwight kept doing the best he could without any cooperation or instruction.


One job which Joe always took care of was showering the patients. And more than once, Dwight had found the door to the shower room locked from the inside while Joe was giving a bath. Dwight also noticed that Joe often took patients with him into the office and locked the door.

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