Long time RN, Mabel Toolate stays active working in the Administration Building at the Indian Clinic in Oklahoma City.

story and photo by Vickie Jenkins


It was a pleasure meeting Mabel Toolate at the Indian Clinic. Working in the medical field for fifty plus years, Toolate attended nursing school at Wesley Hospital. At that time, the students were allowed to go to school three days a week, and work three days a week. It was 1959 when she began her training at St. Anthony’s and Children’s hospital. She studied hard in school and her job consisted of being a nurse’s aide, caring for the many patients. Toolate graduated in 1962, one of 30 women. “That test was so hard,” Toolate says, followed by a laugh. “I would hate to have to take it again now,” she adds. Over the years, Toolate has worked at Wesley hospital, Presbyterian hospital, along with doing some private duty nursing. “Nursing is the only job I have ever known. Right now, I am a retired nurse but I still keep my RN license up to date. Now, I work here at the Indian clinic in the administration building in Human Resources as a clerk/receptionist and I help with payroll. I just work part-time but I love it. I have to stay busy and everyone around here is like family.”
Asking Toolate if anyone influenced her to become a nurse, she replies, “Oh, it’s kind of a funny story. I was having lunch with a friend of mine and one of the nurses, Velma Harrison joined us. Velma started telling us how she was going to be starting an RN course. Suddenly, she asked me if I would be interested in attending. At that time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Not thinking much about it, I said, yes, I think that would be interesting. I’ll be there. Not sure what I had gotten myself into, I ended up attending the RN course, realized how much I liked it and that is what started my nursing career. Later on, it turned out that Velma became my good friend and mentor. She got me into nursing and I never stopped.”
“What is the most important quality a nurse can have?” I ask Toolate. “A nurse needs to love her job. She needs to like people. No, she needs to love people.” Asking Toolate what her greatest strength is, she replies, “I like to help people and make them feel like they are loved and it makes me feel like I am doing all I can do.” “What is the hardest thing about being a nurse?” Toolate pauses for a moment and says, ‘Well, it has to be my emotions. I am very emotional at sometimes, I would get attached to the patients. When I worked in Pediatrics back then, a lot of children had kidney disease and sometimes, it was so bad, the children would die. I knew that I had done all I could but it was so sad. Also, the same thing with working with geriatrics. It wasn’t uncommon for us to work with the older patients and then, the next thing I knew, they had passed away. I guess that is something that I never did get used to.”
“Do you have any hobbies?” I ask Toolate. “Well, I used to love to bowl but I don’t do that anymore. I was on a bowling league and everything,” she says with a smile. “Now, I mainly watch T.V.” Thinking she definitely looked like a Lifetime movie sort of woman, she replies, “I really like to watch all sorts of sports. I raised three sons and each one was into baseball, basketball, football, golf, just about any and every sport so I still continue to watch sports. I really like watching the Thunder. I’ve GOT to have my Thunder. My very favorite T.V. show is The Good Wife,” she adds with a smile.
Summing it up, I am thankful to have met Mabel Toolate. She is a kind, considerate retired nurse that loves people and is still willing to help others in any way. Nurses are loving, caring people, and yes, some have a positive influence on others’ lives. Kudos to all of the nurses everywhere that give their time to serving others. Have your thanked a nurse lately?