Retired nurse knew some patients from birth to death

July 05, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Nurse Dot Simpson recently retired from City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., after more than five decades of service.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — When Dot Simpson graduated from Bruce High School in Allegany County, Md., in 1950, she said girls in her class had few career choices.

“It was nursing, teaching or wife. There wasn’t much for women to do in those days,” she said.

In the path she chose, thousands of people passed through her life.

“Not only did I help them, they helped me to fulfill my life,” she said.

Simpson, 77, of Jenny Wren Drive, retired two weeks ago from City Hospital, ending a nursing career that spanned more than five decades, most of it as a night-shift supervisor in Martinsburg’s City Hospital, always part time, three nights a week.

On June 18, 1950, 10 days after she graduated, Simpson moved into a three-story home on Maple Street in Martinsburg, where she lived for the next three years.

The house, a dormitory for nursing students, was owned by City Hospital.

Simpson’s mother saw an ad in a local newspaper that the hospital needed nursing students.

“Mom said I should go there,” Simpson said.

There were about 60 seniors in her high school graduating class.

“I was the only girl to go to the big city,” she said.

Simpson was one of five girls in her new nursing class.

“The house had three floors. Our house mother was Miss Doe. She checked us in at night.”

Students had to be in by 9 p.m. on weeknights, 11 p.m. on Saturdays and 10:30 p.m. on Sundays. They couldn’t leave town without written permission from their parents.  

Physicians taught the student nurses, she said.

“We received a very well-rounded education, We also had three months each of psychiatric training at Chestnut Lodge in Rockville (Md.) and pediatric training at Baltimore City Hospital. After three years, we took our state boards in Charleston, W.Va., and became RNs.”

She said there are still nurses working in Martinsburg who went through similar training programs at City and Kings Daughters hospitals.

“I started part time and stayed part time. I like to be home, too,” she said. “I didn’t get married to be gone all the time.”

She married Earl Simpson 55 years ago, a union that produced five children “and a slew of grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Simpson said.

There’s a large swimming pool in the Simpsons’ backyard, a family gathering place.

“We’re a close family. We have a lot of picnics here,” she said.

“Dot stood out. She was a model on how to be a nurse,” said Carol Joseph, a fellow nurse and 30-year colleague.

Joseph said Simpson always was strong, sympathetic and patient when families were in despair as a loved one lay dying.

“Dot often would sit by the bedside and just to be with them,”  Joseph said. “She knew a lot of people personally. She had a great respect for everybody. And we all love her. She’s a character.”

“She was always concerned about us as nurses,” Cheryl Stroop said. “She loved her job and her family. She was loyal.”

Nurse Debbie Kackley has known Simpson for almost 20 years. Kackley said her mother, Sally Martin, also worked with Simpson in the nursing wards.

Simpson spoke of how lonely she felt as she was walking off the floor for the last time Thursday night, especially when the public address system announced, “Dot Simpson is now leaving the hospital.”

“When I got to the parking lot, my whole family was there. I bawled like a baby. It really touched my heart. My kids knew how much I hated to leave.”

In a parting comment, Simpson recalled those whose lives she touched.

“I knew some for their whole lifetime, from when they were born, when they had their children and when they died. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said.

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