Nurses learned on job, in class

June 20, 2004|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

For 65 years, Washington County Hospital's nurses learned both on the job and in the classroom.

The hospital opened in 1905. The hospital's School of Nursing opened the following year.

"To the medical profession there can be no doubt of a general agreement upon the need of a good nursing service," Edward Mealey, the treasurer of the hospital's board of trustees, said at the time, according to a published history of the school.

"The nurse really is only the physician's executive officer. It is the physician's business to decide what the matter is and what should be done, and it is the nurse's business to carry out his directions."

Whether or not Mealey's sense of a nurse's place was accurate for the time - or for today - it was clear that nursing was a valued component in the hospital's startup.


"The nursing profession has grown to be so indispensable largely because the science of medicine has developed so wonderfully," Mealey went on to say.

The Washington County Hospital School of Nursing educated 932 graduates from 1906 to 1971, according to a history published by the school's alumnae association. The first man graduated in 1970.

Fran Fox of Hagerstown of the class of 1955, the association's current president, said that about two-thirds of the alumnae are living.

Diane Vaughn of Hagerstown, who graduated in 1962, said she remembers living with other students at Pangborn Hall.

The best part of those days, she said, was "the closeness of the classmates."

Vaughn, 63, a past president of the association, helped work on the history book that was published in 1975.

After she graduated from the School of Nursing, she worked about 2 1/2 years as a registered nurse at Washington County Hospital, then took time off when she became pregnant.

In 1968, she went to work for general practitioner Howard Weeks. She stayed 33 years, retiring in 2001.

'I did it all'

Fox, 69, organized Saturday's reunion of about 215 graduates, who now live throughout the country. A total of about 325 people attended the reunion dinner.

After graduating from the School of Nursing, Fox worked as a registered nurse at Washington County Hospital for 40 years.

"I did it all," Fox said, including labor and delivery, surgery, intensive care and critical care. She became a director of nursing.

The alumnae association raises money for nursing scholarships through newsletter dues and a "bakeless" bake sale. Fox said members contribute money in place of having to bake something for a fund-raiser, an approach long-distance members appreciate.

Some members leave money in their wills.

Fox said it's important for alumnae to keep in touch. The association is a good social conduit, but it also allows those who keep up in the profession to talk about new developments and trends, she said.

Fox is one of those people. She's on the disaster response team for the American Red Cross' Washington County chapter.

She also is a parish nurse for Hagerstown Church of the Brethren. A parish nurse, she said, handles education, counseling and wellness programs rather than hands-on medicine.

Strict training

Hands-on was just how the School of Nursing's three-year curriculum was, Vaughn said. Students had clinical training every day.

The schedule and rules of conduct were tight and tough, Vaughn said.

The history book's description of the school's early years says the class programs included ethics, practical nursing, dietetics, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, bacteriology, hygiene, contagions, obstetrics, urinalysis, skin diseases and more.

About daily life, the book says: "House rules for students were confining. They arose at 6:00 a.m. Breakfast was served at 6:30 a.m., with chapel conducted by the superintendent in the dining room after breakfast. Dinner was served at 12:00 noon and supper at 6:00 p.m.

"Students were instructed to come promptly to meals, which were served family style. They were expected at all times to observe a quiet demeanor in halls, stairways and dining rooms. No noise, loud talking or laughing was permitted.

"Care was to be observed by each resident to protect furniture and other property of the home. Matches were not to be struck on the walls when lighting gas lights."

Vaughn said nurses could not live off campus or marry until June of their senior year.

She said classes ran from 8 a.m. to about 10 or 10:30 a.m. and again from 1 to 4 p.m.

Nurses then worked a 4 to 11 p.m. shift. Every other week, they worked a weekend shift, too.

In between those daily commitments, students studied and, hopefully, napped.

"There was no time to goof off. ... You had to stay in top shape and stay focused," Vaughn said.

Any grade under 75 was an F, she said.

Pleasant memories

Pictures in the history book, though, show that there was time for leisure, too. Nurses are shown bobbing for apples at a Halloween party, sunning themselves on a warm day and having tea at a mixer.

One of the more pleasant memories of that time for Vaughn was meeting her husband, Mike.

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