of Nursing celebrates 100 years
Nursing students care for pediatric patients in 1949.
is a shorter version of an article published in the winter issue
of Albemarle magazine.
swept against her unceasingly. Young nursing student Mary Chambers
peered at an unkind sky from beneath the rim of her cowl. She
turned her gaze ahead, toward the muddy track before her, a rutted
trail made worse by the wagons that had tried to pass earlier.
With a determined sigh, she re-tucked her skirts and wet cloak
into her waistband and trekked onward. Tiny Cynthia Toms lay sick
at home, in dire need of Mary's training, and no matter what,
Mary would get there. She paused once more, glancing back toward
Charlottesville, which lay sprawled in the valley below. Mr. Jefferson's
Rotunda gleamed with each flash of lightning.
candle-lit procession was part of an annual ceremony after
the second year, when nursing students received the blue band
on their cap. In 1974 the requirement of wearing a cap while
on duty was discontinued.
her journey through mud that would surely ruin her new black shoes,
her mind drifted to the hospital where she lived and worked. This
home nursing was something she hadn't bargained for when she agreed
to follow a nursing vocation. Her body longed for the clean, quiet
halls of the University Hospital, the rustle of starched skirts
as her sister nurses checked their patients, the smell of alcohol
permeating the huge wards and the muted hum as patients dictated
letters for their families.
Toms' house loomed large before her, coming out of the rain-swept
countryside like a wooden prow from a stormy sea. She knew it
was the right place, because Josiah Toms had told her supervisor
he'd leave a scarlet cloth on the fence post. The tattered cloth
now rode the wind like a demented elf.
there was an eerie stillness, a calm in the center of the storm.
Cynthia lay bundled in a small four-poster, her brothers and sisters
playing near the fire. Mary closed the door and faced the worried
parents, sweeping off her cloak and hanging it next to the fireplace.
She adjusted her wide cap and smoothed her uniform, as gasps of
admiration sounded from the children.
here's what we need to do," she said firmly. Cynthia's recovery
was now in her capable hands.
about 100 years, University of Virginia nurses have been dedicating
their lives to the pursuit of wellness battling against illness
nursing began in Charlottesville with a class of three who graduated
in the fall of 1903. The original nursing
course, a two-year program, was founded to provide nurses for
the growing U.Va. Hospital. The students lived in the top floor
of the hospital and spent most of their educational time in hands-on
Barbara Brodie, the Madge M. Jones Professor of Nursing, has
been on the faculty for more than 30 years. The director of
the Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry, she wrote Mr. Jefferson's
Nurses, a new book celebrating the Nursing School's 100-year
history. It is available at the University Bookstore or through
the Nursing School. (Click on Brodie's photo)
nurses were a good labor force," said Barbara Brodie, Madge
M. Jones Professor of Nursing at U.Va. and director of the Center
for Nursing Historical Inquiry. "They were eager to learn,
intelligent and dedicated, working long hours for nothing."
These original nurses not only traveled afield, but also dedicated
time toward hospital work. Nurses knew to follow three primary
directives: keep the skin intact, observe and report to the physicians
and follow the physicians' instructions. Many of these early nurses
had little or no high school education, but after two years of
intensive training, they earned a nursing diploma and could pass
the state licensure exam to become a registered nurse. Virginia
was one of only four states in the early 1900s, along with New
Jersey, New York and North Carolina, that licensed nurses, as
well as physicians.
In 1926, alumnae of the University's original two-year nursing
program raised $50,000 to open a program dedicated solely to the
education of women. This led to the Sadie Heath Cabaniss Memorial
School of Nursing Education, which provided young nurses with
quality education far beyond hands-on hospital experience.
it wasn't until after World War II that nursing education was
moved out of the hospitals and into colleges and universities.
It was a slow process for nurses -- and women -- to be viewed
seriously in the world of education. "We did go from a semi-domestic
vocation to training to professional education," Brodie said.
"Nursing advances as medicine advances, but it has been a
struggle. "Entering the diploma program was a little like
entering a nunnery," Brodie explained. "You lived with
all girls, and there was a ban on marriage in the early days."
World War II also led to an appreciation of the value of nursing
care, and the federal government, pushed by President Franklin
Roosevelt, stepped in to provide incentives for young women to
become nurses. Properly trained, they had the opportunity of serving
in the Cadet Nurse Corps.
training in 1942, nurses of U.Va.'s 8th Evacuation Hospital
Unit followed the U.S. Fifth Army in its military engagements
in North Africa and Italy.
nursing program was outstanding," said Kathryn "Kitty"
McGee Hammond, a 1949 U.Va. nursing graduate. Fascinated by a
nurse who had visited her Pennsylvania high school with wartime
advice for medical emergencies, Hammond decided to pursue nursing
as a career. As fate would have it, that visiting nurse happened
to be a graduate of the U.Va. nursing school and helped young
Hammond and two other classmates enter the program. Hammond started
her nursing training in 1943 at the age of 17. Getting "capped"
a year later, in August 1944, made her soar as she accepted a
wealth of new responsibility as an adult and as a nurse.
had a lot of responsibility for kids that age, but I felt like
I was on top of the world," she said.
164,000 nurses signed up for the government nursing programs,
receiving paid tuition as well as $15 each month the first year
of nursing school, $20 each month the second year, and a full
$30 per month the final year. At graduation, they were allowed
to choose whether they wanted to go into military service or stay
in civilian duty at a U.S. hospital.
the war, more nurses were needed in a time when women were marrying
the returning soldiers and staying home as housewives instead
of working, Brodie noted. Even Hammond's training was interrupted
by becoming a wife and mother. She returned to school later, however,
and fell in love with nursing. She devoted 40 years to pediatric
nursing and teaching pediatric care at the U.Va. School of Medicine.
showed that they could excel in nursing after the first male
was admitted into the Nursing School in 1962, and today they
make up about 7 percent of the class.
1950 a baccalaureate program was added to the nursing curriculum
at U.Va., yet women still had to go to neighboring schools, such
as Mary Washington or Randolph Macon, to study two years of arts
and sciences before being accepted into the four-year nursing-degree
program. This situation continued until the late 1970s, when the
University finally embraced full coeducation for undergraduates.
The 1950s and '60s saw a huge growth in the U.Va. hospital and
an even more pressing need for nurses. This required addressing
nursing as a separate educational issue due to a need for graduate
work in nursing research, clinical specialties and providing cost-effective,
efficient nursing for a larger workload. In 1968 the diploma program
finally closed, and the latter half of the 20th century saw the
addition of a master's and doctorate program to the nursing school's
pin is the only item in the nursing students' attire that has
remained mostly unchanged in design over the last 100 years, and
that change has been small: substituting the word "nursing"
instead of "hospital" in the pin's logo. The caps, on
the other hand, have gone, disappearing in the more casual '70s.
Scrubs, white coats and logoed polo shirts have replaced the starched,
hard-to-maintain uniforms, and nursing has become a specialty
occupation, branching ever deeper into today's complex world of
in this more career-centered world, there remains an alarming
shortage of nurses, particularly when one considers the looming
threat of an aging population.
students practice clinical skills in the Laboratory for Clinical
there's an easier way to make a living than being a nurse,"
Brodie admitted. "Yet, I am always amazed by the sense of
altruism and wanting to care for people I see in my first-year
altruism must serve them well, for it is often the nurse who is
the patient's first line of defense in the tricky minefield of
battling illness. Nurses educate patients in how to prevent illness
and how to manage illness successfully on a day-to-day basis.
They deal in practicalities and serve as a buffer between the
patient and the sometimes bewildering medical realm of the physician.
teaches her first-year students a class called "Introduction to
the World of Nursing." In this course, she shares her extensive
knowledge of nursing history and, consequently, of Charlottesville's
history. The course evolved from a desire to help new nurses understand
how far their career of choice has come during the past century.
don't just teach them knowledge, you teach them to become something,"
students organized "Nursing Students Without Borders"
a little over a year ago and have traveled to San Sebastian,
El Salvador three times. This week a group returned from the
country after staying three extra days to help with relief
efforts following a Jan. 13 earthquake.
writer Valarie Massie is also a managing editor with journal services
at ScholarOne in Charlottesville.
Years: A Legacy of Care"
Jan. 16, the School of Nursing kicked off a yearlong celebration
of its centennial honoring the many thousands of nurses
who have learned or honed their skills at the University
during the past century. Among their planned activities:
A "Time Trunk" filled with memorabilia and missives
from today¹s youngest students, as well as from alumnae
from as far back as the 1920s, will rest in McLeod Hall
doctoral research forum in the spring will focus on current
The Zula Mae Baber Bice Memorial Lecture, an annual fall
event, will have special emphasis for this centennial year.
A Centennial Gala Weekend is planned for April 20-22, as
are several other alumni gatherings throughout the year.
information, call 924-0138 or see http://www.nursing.virginia.edu/centennial/Homepage.htm