Ruby Hart, a nurse in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, grew up in Hoboken, a small town near Waycross in south Georgia. How small was it? It was so small that there were only 30 people in Ruby’s high school graduating class.
Although that’s not much of a punchline, and although Ruby’s family didn’t have much (the family did not have a car when Ruby was growing up), they did have each other. Ruby had six siblings and they all entertained each other as they worked on the family’s farm.
“We were never bored and there was always something to do,” said Ruby, recalling how her brothers and sisters learned how to do everything on the farm after their father died.
After graduating from high school, Ruby attended one semester of college before deciding to go to school to become a licensed professional nurse.
“There were not a lot of options at the time, but fortunately, I liked it,” said Ruby. She started at Waycross Hospital and moved to University Hospital in Augusta six months later. Ruby worked on medical/surgical units, helping patients recover from illnesses, injuries, and surgeries.
“It was very different from today,” said Ruby. “When I first started, all of the supplies we used were made to be re-used. We had glass syringes and glass specimen bottles, even the needles from IVs were meant to be sterilized and re-used. It’s much safer today.”
While Ruby was in Augusta she also worked at the Medical College of Georgia doing private duty, which meant providing one-on-one care to a patient. This was the norm before the use of intensive care units became more widespread.
After her time in Augusta, Ruby moved to Miami and began working at Jackson Memorial Hospital. It was a different world for a young woman from small-town Georgia. Miami had an international flare and she met and worked with people from Central and South America. She and her family weren’t big fans of the beach, choosing to visit lakes in the Everglades and have picnics instead. Ruby remembers swimming in the lake once, seeing an alligator and having the game warden who was on-site try to get the alligator back on his side of the lake.
Ruby, her husband, and three children eventually left Miami for Cherry Log, Georgia, a town with a population of 119, according to the 2010 census. She and her husband ran a church camp, Camp Potoka, for several years, and Ruby stopped nursing and had two more children during that time. After seven years, the family moved to Murphy, N.C., and Ruby got back into nursing. She worked at a nursing home adjacent to a hospital and went back to school to become a registered nurse.
“Working in a nursing home was never boring,” said Ruby. “There were always medications to administer and treatments to provide, but the residents did not often need acute care.”
During her time in North Carolina, Ruby saw that Northside Hospital in Georgia was dealing with a nursing shortage and would pay nurses to come in from out of town and put them up in a hotel. Ruby traveled to Georgia to work on Northside’s IV team three days a week. She kept up this schedule for eight years before retiring at 66 years old. She moved to Peachtree City during her final year working at Northside.
“I hated retirement,” said Ruby. “I’ve got plenty of hobbies to keep me occupied, but nothing as rewarding as caring for patients.”
Ruby found a job in Piedmont Fayette’s PACU six years ago and has been there ever since. She cares for patients who are expected to go home after outpatient surgical procedures. As a way to brighten their day, reduce stress and relieve pain, Ruby tells jokes. Her favorite one goes like this – “‘Do you know the difference between major surgery and minor surgery? Major surgery is when it is happening to you and minor surgery is when it is happening to someone else.’”
“One gentlemen recently was in a lot of pain and I told him some jokes. He gave me a big bear hug before going home, telling me that he didn’t believe laughing would make him feel better, but it did,” said Ruby. “He said I was the best nurse he ever had.”
Ruby has no plans to slow down just yet. She enjoys her job and her colleagues too much.
“This is the best hospital I’ve ever worked in,” said Ruby. “Everyone gets along so well and works towards giving the patients the best care possible.”
Ruby has had a long career in nursing and while the mission to provide care to others hasn’t changed, the healthcare field is dynamic.
“My advice for aspiring nurses is to study hard and stay on your toes,” said Ruby. “New things are added all the time and the field is always changing.