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Hospital, nursing school entwined

May 24, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County Hospital and the school of nursing it established 100 years ago are so entwined, it's hard to tell which came first.

"The school was so closely linked with the hospital," said Louella Kline, who attended the school from 1959 to 1962.

That link, which produced hundreds of nurses, came to an end in the 1970s, Kline said. But the hospital and the school's graduates have remained entwined.

On Saturday, June 20, a homecoming event is being held at the Hagerstown Elks Club on Robinwood Drive to celebrate the school's centennial.

"We've had reunions before, but for this one, we're hoping for at least 300 in attendance," Kline said.

All graduates were mailed a newsletter announcing the event.

Reservations are to be made by June 8 by contacting Emma Lyles in writing at her home, 18715 Fountain Terrace West, Hagerstown, MD 21740.

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The beginning

Washington County Hospital began operations in 1905 at the former residence of M.P. Moller at the corner of Potomac and Fairground avenues.

According to a 1975 published history of the school of nursing, the first head nurse was brought in from Chicago. She and one other nurse handled all the hospital's patients in its first years.

The need for a school of nursing was apparent and in 1906, three students began the three-year course of study. One of them graduated in 1909.

"Doctors were the instructors," Kline said. "They gave of their time and knowledge."

Students also worked in the wards and in the community under supervision as part of their nursing education. Pediatric and obstetrics services were provided by professionals outside the hospital.

In 1912, the hospital was moved to the former KeeMar College campus in the heart of Hagerstown, the site of the current hospital on East Antietam Street. More space was available for patients there and the school of nursing was also able to expand into the former college president's house.

There were 13 students in the school at that time, Kline said.

Steady growth in enrollment marked the next decades as the school and hospital continued to grow.

The largest class ever admitted to the school began studies in the fall of 1941, as World War II loomed over Europe. Once the United States entered the war, the need for nurses increased and Washington County Hospital School of Nursing was the first to meet approval in the establishment of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.

The number and scope of departments within the hospital also continued to grow, sparking the need for more nurses and more specialization in their skills.

In 1949, construction began on Pangborn Hall, which then housed the school, as well as some hospital patients. The old KeeMar College building was razed to make way for the eight-story "A" wing of the hospital.

In the 1950s, the cost of the three-year program was $250 per student. Kline pointed out that students also got room and board as part of their commitment.

Kline, who retired from nursing in 2001, said it wasn't until 1957 that a nursing student could marry while still a student in the last few months of the term. Even then, married students had to remain in the dormitory until graduation.

By 1958, nursing students were being taught on the Hagerstown Junior College campus with members of the hospital medical staff also providing instruction.

The diploma program was phased out in 1971, when the class of 1968 was done. From then on, nursing education came entirely under the jurisdiction of educational institutions.

The impact of that bygone school of nursing cannot be calculated, Kline said.

"Without those nurses, there wouldn't have been any hospital."

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