A Half-Century of Patient Care
One of Barbara Briscoe’s first memories is of nursing: “In early elementary school, one of my playmates was hospitalized with a chronic illness requiring frequent injections that really scared her. I visited often, and the nurse began involving me in a plot to help calm my friend. I would wipe her down with rubbing alcohol and pretend to give the injection while the nurse did it herself. The trick worked; my friend didn’t cry when she thought I was providing her care.”
Retired from a 50-year nursing career in inpatient psychiatric units, Barbara Briscoe, BS, RN, has volunteered at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health since 2009, spending most of her time greeting patients and escorting them to appointments. A veteran of compassionate healing, she says the feedback that volunteers receive from patients “is pretty tremendous. Patients arrive not knowing what to expect, often frightened of the unknown. Meeting a friendly face is welcoming, non-threatening and even reassuring.”
Ms. Briscoe, who grew up in the small town of Beaumont, Texas, when segregation was the norm, says her early days of nursing weren’t as comfortable. There was racial tension as the hospital in Missouri where she obtained her nursing degree began to desegregate. At her first job at a Veterans Administration hospital in Indiana, she witnessed psychiatric patients receiving then-standard shock treatment. As her career progressed at County General and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, so did the treatment of patients — with shock therapy giving way to new behavior-altering drugs and therapeutic activities such as exercise and occupational, group and music therapy.
“Because our hospital didn’t have the money for supplies for occupational therapy, I decided to go out in the community and ask for donations,” Ms. Briscoe recalls. “I became very comfortable asking for the benefit of patients, securing vans full of donations – from plants and holiday decorations to fabric and sewing machines for therapeutic activities.”
Ms. Briscoe moved to Las Vegas in 1996 and began work at Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health. After “flunking retirement twice,” she now focuses on expanding her philanthropy by volunteering with organizations that speak to her heart. She has earned commendations from the American Red Cross and from numerous mental health agencies and AIDS organizations. She practices yoga, tai chi and piano; plays cards; and participates in a book club. A travel lover, she views a 2015 trip to Cuba as a highlight.
If you’re interested in volunteering at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, contact Karen Mariano, Administrative Program Coordinator for Volunteer Services, at 702.331.7046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.