The Central Maine General Hospital Alumni Association for the training school of nursing was organized in 1901, ten years after the admission of the first student in 1891. In 1909 the first alumni banquet, honoring the graduates, was held annually for 104 years until 2013 when it was replaced by a breakfast honoring the nursing graduates.
Through the years the alumni association has undergone several name changes to reflect the name of the parent institution. Recently change it's name from "The Central Maine Medical Center College of Nursing Alumni Association" to "The Maine College of Health Professions".
The Alumni Association is fortunate to have received two histories, capturing different eras, of the CMGH Nursing School.
Read former superintendent Alice W. Schindel's history from the school's beginning in 1891, through her tenure in 1957.
Bessie McKeen Smith Randlette, Class of 1920, wrote a personal history of the Class of 1920, which was given to us by her niece, Pauline Howe Cushman, Class of 1941. Pauline donated this document to the Alumni Association in 1985. Now, thanks to the Internet, we can share it with all. Enjoy the memories and the histories captured in careful detail by each of these dedicated nurses. Both documents were proofread and lightly edited, with care given to keep the writers' memoirs and styles intact.
HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL OF NURSING: 1891-1957
CENTRAL MAINE GENERAL HOSPITAL
by Alice W. Schindel, August 14, 1957
In 1891 the Board of Directors established a school of nursing, which has been in continuous operation up to the present (1957). The superintendent of the hospital and the superintendent of nurses gave a "twenty- four months training course to prepare young ladies to be nurses." The only field of nursing for graduate nurses at that time was private duty nursing in the home, on a 24-hour duty basis.
In 1902 the course was increased to 27 months to permit students to do private duty nursing in the homes of patients of the staff physicians. Patients paid the hospital directly for this service and local doctors supervised and taught the trainees who were on home cases.
The trained nurses were graduated from the hospital in 1893 with small classes of three to six graduating each year for the next 10 years. In 1903 the first formal graduation exercises were held and the first printed description of the course appeared in the Annual Report of the Hospital 1903.
September 1, 1906 marked a momentous change in the course of progress of our school when Miss Rachel Metcalfe, R.N., was made superintendent of the hospital and nurses. Her vision and leadership and her professional nursing ability gave impetus to many beneficial changes in the training school. Many radical changes were instituted shortly after her arrival; first she requested a full-time practical instructor to assist her in teaching the probationers the basic skills of bedside nursing. She felt that some instruction in "invalid cookery" was necessary and hired a dietitian to supervise the food preparation in the hospital and to teach the student nurses.
Doctors taught whatever they felt nurses ought to know about the sciences, pharmacology and diseases. The first fragmentary individual records of classes and of "private duty in the homes" were set up and the 24 months of courses was increased to 27, to "give students adequate practice in this valuable service without seriously reducing the numbers of students who were to take care of the hospitalized patients."
Miss Metcalfe also requested that the monies earned by the student nurses for the hospital be set aside for needs of the training school. A primitive nursing arts laboratory was set up away from the wards, a room fitted with utensils and supplies normally used in the sick room, where probationers may be instructed in the art of bed-making, bathing patients, back rubs, making various applications, giving medicines and as far as possible to fit them for the proper performance of all ward duties expected of them. This was in 1907.
The following year the first documented "Rules of the Government of the Training School for Nurses in the Central Maine General Hospital" were printed in the Annual Report of 1908. The course was still 27 months; the teaching of nursing was carried out for the most part by the superintendent of nurses' Practical Instructor. The doctors on the medical staff taught "Rudimentary Anatomy and Physiology, Hygiene, Diseases" and other related subjects which they deemed important. The doctors conducted all examinations of the nurses at stated intervals to test their knowledge and skills. The dietitian taught invalid cookery. At the end of 27 months a comprehensive oral examination and practical examination was given by the doctors prior to the awarding of the diploma.
What were the admission requirements for students in these early days of our school?
"Probationers of good moral character and health between the ages of 22 and 37 years of age with common school education (8 grades) admitted at any time when vacancies occurred and accommodations permitted." After three months of probation the young woman was permanently appointed but could be suspended or dismissed for any justifiable reason by the superintendent of the hospital. Good references were required of all applicants with "common school education and the ability to read, write and do figures."
The young woman would come for a personal interview with Miss Metcalfe, bringing with her the certificates of schooling, good health and good character. Miss Metcalfe's keen appraisal of human character and the prospective student's answers to her carefully chosen questions determined the young hopeful's acceptance or rejection.
If she was not found wanting and sleeping space was available for her in the hospital she was then given the printed contract of agreement to sign -- wherein she faithfully promised "to remain in the school for 27 months, to obey all the rules and regulations and to perform any and all types of service required of her which directly or indirectly pertains to the nursing profession." Once this paper was filed away the student was directed to her sleeping quarters, where she deposited her one suitcase of belongings, was given a probationer's dress and then began her duties as a probationer. The attrition rate in these early years was surprisingly low. Drop-outs were due to debilitating illnesses such as typhoid and tuberculosis. Two deaths from typhoid fever are recorded among this early group.
In further describing her training course, Miss Metcalfe indicates that pupils will be expected to serve on the wards of the hospital and also in the homes of the sick, in whatever conditions existed. They will be expected to abstain from idle tale bearing, to be willing always to be generally useful in the homes of the poor, to avoid unnecessary expense and to inculcate healthful modes of living in the families which they served, and at all times and under all circumstances to conduct themselves as is befitting to the members of a noble profession.
In 1909 only senior students in the last four months of their training course were required to take outside cases in the home. Actual fees were set for these services and were paid to the superintendent of the hospital. The superintendent of the training school accepted applications from the physicians in the city and filled them as she was able and as the needs of the hospital would permit. No pupil was sent on such cases until she had completed a full year in the school. For this service, the hospital was to receive $10 a week and the students $10 a month. Money for this service was applied to the general fund of the hospital. Each home case family was expected to fill out the evaluation form about the quality of services rendered, and these were filed confidentially with the superintendent of nurses.
In 1908 the "training school" provided all of the direct patient care nursing which was performed in the hospital. Miss Metcalfe, as superintendent of the hospital, and Miss Mary L. Whitney, as her first assistant -superintendent of nurses and the training school, seems to have created better relationships between the various departments of the hospital. "There is much less friction among the help in all departments" reports the president of the board, "and the discipline is such through the institution that the board is seldom disturbed by being called upon to assist with settling differences which have hitherto fore, in many instances, occasioned unpleasantness."
At this time Miss Metcalfe indicated in her report to the board that not only was a new wing needed for the hospital, but that accommodations for nurses were inadequate and the need for a suitable nurses' home was great. "Thirty students are now continuously enrolled in the school who have no home surroundings whatsoever, which tends to lower morale. Good nursing is essential and a cheerful nurse is a great help in time of sickness." She also noted that the nurses were distributed in various buildings; fourteen lived in a decrepit brick house in two rooms in which there were four beds in each, with night nurses using the beds during the day and day nurses during the night. The rest of the nurses all crowded into a very poor accommodation situated north of the brick house with no room for recreation or visiting. Miss Metcalfe suggested that the wooden building be sold to make room for a suitable nurses' home. She states: "Because of the hard work and many disagreeable duties performed by nurses, suitable accommodations should be provided. They need suitable rooms for meeting after they come off duty, and a suitable sleeping room to have their much needed rest."
In 1909 the nurses' home was renovated and the school seemed to be doing well under the direction of Miss Mary L. Whitney, who did all of the teaching not under the purview of the doctors and the dietitians. It was stressed again in 1909 that the Training School Program was an important factor for successful hospital work and that an entirely new nurses' home, large enough to permit each nurse to have a separate sleeping room with adequate bathroom accommodations, with an assembly room and a classroom, would
be of great help to the hospital and home care of patients. This same request was made continuously from 1907 through 1919 by Miss Metcalfe.
In 1910 Miss Whitefield, the superintendent of nurses who did most of the teaching, resigned after four years of effective service. As the facilities of the hospital increased the need for more student nurses also increased. The average number of graduating nurses ranged from nine to fourteen. But more nurses were needed to handle home calls and to care for an increasing number of patients. We note that in 1911 the "stress of the daily work of the nurses interfered with the classes and bedside demonstrations."
Miss Mabel E. Lamberson was appointed in 1911 and served as superintendent of nursing and the training school and did most of the teaching at this time. In 1914 a night matron, a graduate nurse, was employed to supervise students on night duty. In 1917 Miss Lamberson resigned as superintendent of nurses and training school instructor after five years of service. She was said to be an excellent teacher.
In 1916 the Maine Nurse Practice Act, which provided for the registration of graduate nurses and the approval of training schools, was passed. Our school was among the first to apply for approval and one of the earliest approved schools in the state. This approval has continued up to the present.
In 1917 many changes in the curriculum of the school of nursing were put into effect to meet legal approval standards. The course was still 27 months, but now a "full course of lectures in physiology, anatomy, materia medica, bacteriology, urinalysis, obstetrics, anesthesia, children's diseases and medical surgical diseases" was given by the staff physicians as well as additional "instruction at the bedside." The superintendent of nurses was still giving instruction in the "theory and practical duties of nursing" and the dietitian was still teaching "invalid cookery." Pupils are still admitted if vacancies permit. The age requirement was changed to 21-35 years of age and each pupil now was required to have two years of high school, in addition to the certificate of good health and moral character.
Agreements were still signed by the students with a slight change in the wording. They agreed to remain in the school for 27 months, to obey the rules and to perform any service pertaining to their profession that may be required of them. They no longer were doing private duty in the home but were expected to serve the wards of the hospital, expected to refrain from idle tale bearing and to be willing always to be generally
useful and to conduct themselves as is befitting members of a noble profession. No pay was given the probationer her first month of probation, but she received $8.00 monthly "and found" for the remaining 26 months.
Several graduates of our school became Army nurses during World War l. The influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 did not pass by the educational unit nor the geographical area served by Central Maine General Hospital. One hundred and forty eight patients were admitted and 35 had died by the end of 1918. This epidemic, which came on suddenly, also occurred when a shortage of pupil nurses and trained nurses existed. Ten graduate nurses had been sent by Miss Metcalfe to Boston to help with the epidemic there. Therefore, the entire hospital force had to work long hours and perform extra work.
Miss Metcalfe and her able assistant, Miss Ann G. Harris (1917), who replaced Miss Lamberson, went through varied and unusual experiences throughout the influenza epidemic. A high level of patient care was maintained despite incredible difficulties. The need for nurses for World War l had taken 18 graduate nurses for active military service, but married nurses resumed nursing to alleviate the shortages. It was quite unheard of in those days for married nurses to work.
Forty probationers were admitted in 1918; five were dismissed, 11 resigned during the first month, one died and 19 graduated. The death was due to influenza. Many nurses and doctors contracted influenza but only one student nurse died. Surgical admissions were restricted in order to free beds for influenza victims. Class work in the school was suspended entirely during the peak of the influenza epidemic for nearly seven months and Miss Ann Harris faithfully conducted innumerable small make-up classes. Only seven nurses graduated in 1919.
In 1920 Miss Metcalfe again lost her assistant superintendent of nurses, Miss Ann Harris, after three years of service. The post-war shortage of pupil and graduate nurses was felt by her to be "a real menace to the successful management of the hospital." The public was urged to encourage young women to enter the hospital to "fit themselves for this important field of work." A formal graduation was held this year on June 2, 1920 at Odd Fellows Hall in Auburn to "give the public opportunity to appreciate the work
accomplished by a nurse in training and what might be expected of her in the future." Sixteen nurses were graduated in 1920.
The same year, Miss Metcalfe's long cherished dream of a separate nurses' home was made a reality through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Wilson and their son and his wife. The old home for nurses was removed to make room for the new building. It was believed that the new home would be an incentive to attract young women to take up nurse-training -- and it was. Thirty-two probationers were admitted and six pupils were graduated in 1921. The nursing staff had been further increased to include the superintendent of nurses, an operating room supervisor, obstetrics and a night superintendent. The superintendent also expected to hire "a full time practical instructor" to take charge of theory classes and to give instruction in nursing procedures, as a means of improving the work in the hospital and home when the pupils were called upon to assume responsible duties. This would relieve the superintendent of
nurses of the full teaching responsibility of the pupils. As an additional incentive to attract the young women into nursing "an increase in pay was offered after the first month of probation." Twelve dollars a month for fourteen months was given and necessary books for study were also provided. No tuition, to date, had been charged.
By 1922 the training school seemed to have recovered from the impact of World War l and the great influenza epidemic, with an increased number of young women seeking admission "to fit themselves to lead lives of usefulness." Miss Margaret Bannerman served as superintendent and part-time instructor of nurses and Miss Minerva Dickey as practical instructor. Thirty-one probationers enrolled in the school and 21 survived the probationary period. Morale in the pupil nurses was improved due to the "privileges and comforts of the Wilson Nurses' Home, with resulting increased interest in their work on the wards."
By 1923, some supervision of the student nurses was provided by the day supervisor in maternity, the operating room supervisor and the superintendent of nurses. Senior students served as head nurses. One practical instructor taught all nursing classes to the students and the doctors did the rest of the teaching. The night matron served as superintendent of the hospital, admissions officer, operating room and maternity supervisor of student nurses and patient care from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
An outbreak of diphtheria occurred among the student nurses in 1925 and it spread like wildfire through the pupils. This illness, plus the small number of pupils remaining in the class which enrolled in 1924, reduced the nursing staff appreciably and added tremendously to the labor of those who were able to work. During this time, recruitment of high school students was attempted by inviting them to an "Open House" in the new Wilson Home and providing light refreshments and entertainment by the pupil nurses. In 1925 19 probationers were enrolled and 16 were capped. The class schedule was badly disrupted by resignations of both the superintendent of nurses and the practical instructor in 1925.
The first published curriculum of the school appeared in the Annual Report of 1927. Changes in the curriculum included an increase in the total training program from 27 to 36 months - the present length of the course. The board of directors also stated the school's purpose:
"To maintain a standard worthy of highest ideals of the nursing profession; to offer instruction, valuable experience and to display such personal interest in the welfare of the individual nurse that the school will attract and graduate women possessing the highest skills of womanly character, combined with knowledge and skill to meet the demand of the public."(p. 47 Annual Report, 1927)
The term "probationer" was no longer used. "A four months preliminary period followed by 32 months as an accepted student, if she met requirements, constituted her total educational program." Nurses were on duty from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with two hours off-duty and one afternoon free a week. She was given four hours off-duty on Sundays and holidays. Classes were held when the student was off-duty. A vacation of three weeks a year was allowed. All sick time had to be made up, but students were cared for, free of charge, at the expense of the hospital.
Students were now admitted twice a year in September and January. A high school education was recommended, but a minimum of two years was required. Age had now been set at 19 - 30 years. Practical nursing methods were taught by demonstration and practice in the classroom and on the wards by the instructor of nurses during the first four months. A few classes, usually given by the doctors, were given after this period. The senior student head nurses supervised the younger students, who still gave all of the nursing care to patients who did not hire private duty nurses.
On November 1, 1927, Miss Rachel Metcalfe resigned as superintendent of the hospital after 21 years of outstanding service to the school and the hospital. Her interest in improving the care of the patients by improving the educational program, the housing facilities and teaching facilities for the student nurses who gave all of this care, had contributed greatly to the improvement and progress of the school during her administration.
By 1928 more graduate nurses were added to the small staff of supervisors to supervise the nursing care given by the students on the medical and surgical wards. The administration reported the action was initiated: "For improving nursing care of patients and also because graduate nurses are indispensable in teaching pupil nurses practical bedside nursing."
Miss Alice Westcott, a graduate of Massachusetts General Hospital, was appointed as superintendent of nurses and principal of the training school just before Miss Metcalfe's departure. She was responsible for increasing the course from 27 to 36 months to permit our graduates to be registered in Massachusetts, and for insisting that graduate nurses, rather than senior students, be in charge of the wards.
Miss Wescott also increased the hours of instruction and practice in nutrition and diet therapy and set up a two months visiting nurse public health experience with the Red Cross Visiting Nurse Service in Lewiston and Auburn. She was able to interest the board of directors in reorganizing its training school committee to include Mr. Frank Hoy, Professor Gould of Bates College, one member of the nurses' alumnae association, one doctor and the superintendent of the hospital, Dr. E.V. Call, who replaced Miss Metcalfe and herself. She outlined the functions of this committee to be (a) " studying the needs of the school as an educational institution not purely concerned with temporary service to the hospital but with permanent service to the public; (b) in establishing such equitable relationships between the hospital and the training school and such conditions of student life and work as will prepare for this service." It is no wonder that under such forward thinking administration our school prospered and became one of the very best in this state and in New England.
By 1929 the school and hospital employed 11 registered nurses as supervisors. The curriculum was further enriched and expanded and the standards of the school were high. Affiliations were now established for pediatrics at St. Mary's Hospital in New York, for visiting nursing in Lewiston-Auburn, and plans were completed for a psychiatric affiliation to be held at Augusta State Hospital early in 1930. The student's work day was reduced from ten to eight hours a day, exclusive of classes, with the introduction of the case-method of teaching, although nursing practice was still functional and totally ward-centered, rather than individual and patient-centered. Despite increased discrimination and higher admission requirements, the school prospered and "enjoyed its largest enrollment in the history of the hospital."
One practical instructor conducted all of the nursing classes, assisted by the graduate nurse "….supervisors on the wards, with the bulk of the lectures given to upper class nursing students still carried by the doctors." In 1930 a second instructor was hired to assist the single full-time instructor and the principal of the school with the teaching program. The recreation room in Wilson was dismantled and the space used for a nursing arts laboratory with a mannequin, cupboards, utensils and furnishings similar to what was found on the wards at that time. The high school entrance requirement was now increased to four years.
The reception room in Wilson, after ten years of constant use, was completely redecorated and refurnished by Mr. and Mrs. Willis Trafton, one of the members of the board of directors. The need for expansion of the "present (1930)", very inadequate nutrition and cookery laboratory, the bacteriology laboratory facilities and the serious lack of chemistry laboratory facilities was emphasized by the principal of the training school as urgently needed improvements in her annual report in 1930.
Continued progress within the school was sustained under the leadership of Miss Alice Wescott as principal of the school and superintendent of nurses throughout 1931 and 1932 with no marked changes in the school program nor improvements or additions to the physical facilities. After five years of service she resigned in 1932 and was replaced by Miss Florence Stanfield, who was well qualified to administer the nursing service and the school of nursing.
During Miss Stanfield's six years as superintendent of nurses and principal of the training school she concentrated on continued improvement of the school's educational facilities in order to meet the standards set up in the Curriculum Guide published by the National League for Nursing Education in 1936. She also concentrated on meeting the criteria set up by the New York State Board of Regents to assure the graduates of their school eligibility for registration in New York State, which had the highest legal requirements for registration in the country. Once the school met this goal, its graduates would be assured of registration in any state in the country. Also, an affiliation with the collegiate program in nursing established at the University of Maine became available for college students in our school.
Plans for a science laboratory were completed during Miss Stanfield's administration. It was built in the Wilson Home and opened in 1938. In 1936 she requested and obtained an attractively furnished and decorated student nurses' dining room in the basement of the hospital. Miss Irene Zwissler replaced Miss Stanfield in 1938. She was a graduate of Mt.Holyoke Hospital, had her degree in Public Health from Simmons College and a degree from the University of Maine.
On January 6, 1938 our school was granted full accreditation by the State of New York Board of Regents as the result of the survey and evaluation visit made in 1937 during Miss Stanfield's tour of duty. A request for a survey and accreditation by the National League for Nursing Education was submitted by Miss Zwissler in 1938, and the class hours were appreciably increased during the second year. The continued revision of the curriculum to meet national standards was carried on by Miss Zwissler, but she recognized that the transition from a purely service-apprentice type of preparation to one where educational needs of the students took priority in rendering the service to patients would need to be gradual. She felt that it could be achieved by 1949. Students were placed now on a 48-hour week with one full day off instead of a half day weekly. She also emphasized the need for a new nurses' residence, large enough to house all students and graduate nurses who lived in the residence, with increased classroom and office facilities.
Miss Zwissler was not able to reduce the night duty hours for students who still worked 9 1/2 hour nights with no night off when on this duty. In 1940 she introduced a new tool for the selection of good applicants to the school. Psychological aptitude pre-testing was initiated. Tests were evaluated and administered by Professor Roy Kendall from the Department of Psychology at Bates College. She reiterated the need for a larger residence and a school of nursing library. Gerrish Library had been set up in 1938 and she believed a similar library should be set up in Wilson Home for the nursing department. It must be remembered that the progress of a school of nursing is dependent to a great extent upon the financial and moral support of the hospital administration and by the interest in its well being by the hospital medical staff. The administration supported Miss Zwissler in giving priority rating to her request for a new nurses' residence along with the need for a new X-ray department and modernization of the hospital elevators.
On June 25, 1941, the $10,000 legacy which was given to the hospital to establish a school of nursing library bore fruit. The Edward Curtis True Memorial Library was established and opened. There were other donors to this fund so that after the library was furnished and redecorated a balance of $8,000 remained to serve as an "endowment" fund, not to be touched for three years, at the end of which time,, "the income would assure a steady and substantial increase in the number of books in the library, as new procedures and methods are developed, the books will be renewed." This money was transferred to the general endowment account as the True Memorial Library Fund in 1942.
Other innovations during Miss Zwissler's administration included: The establishment of an obstetrical affiliation for other smaller schools in Maine and the increase in class hours in medical and surgical nursing. Approval was granted for these changes based on the following comments (June 1940) by Miss Zwissler: "Changes in surgical and medical procedures have affected the general bedside care and administration of medications so much that today a nurse is assisting in highly technical and complicated procedures." Transfusions and infusions had increased at an amazing rate and the numbers of medications were increasing as were new procedures.
She mentioned the need at that time for a blood pressure apparatus on every ward, whereas previously there was only one for the entire hospital, kept under lock and key to be used exclusively by doctors, It was a luxury few hospitals could afford. One wonders what she would have said today (1957) when the trends have included adding a bewildering number of even more complicated apparatus, procedures and medications. She inaugurated a sound health program for the students in 1940 with annual physical examinations including chest X-rays and laboratory tests, as well as a complete immunization program.
She impressed upon the training school committee and the hospital administration the need for a new auditorium- type lecture room where the entire student body might meet together. She was concerned with the need, since 1939, of some type of "weekend house" for student recreation and the roof garden on Wilson for sun bathing and relaxation. She was able to set up a recreation fund as well as a scholarship fund to encourage graduate nurses to continue their education. Miss Zwissler resigned on July 15, 1942, after four and a half years of productive service to the school and hospital, to enter the Army Nurse Corps. She left behind a school whose students were carefully selected and whose educational needs and general welfare were considered and met by the hospital administration. Its graduates were in great demand and many joined the military nursing corps.
The 50th anniversary of the school of nursing was celebrated from November 6-8, 1941, and its progress reviewed with pride by all who had shared in its growth. Miss Mildred Lenz, R.N., B.S. replaced Miss Zwissler in 1942 as director of nursing and the school of nursing.
Events of note in 1943 included the following. On January 1, 1943 a three-month affiliation in psychiatric nursing was arranged with Concord, N.H. State Hospital in New Hampshire.
On June 25, 1943 the second anniversary of the True Library was celebrated. $8,459.48 was reported to have been set aside to establish an endowment to perpetuate and keep this fine library up to date. The war years were difficult and the post-war years even more difficult. Our affiliation with the University of Maine continued and an affiliation for the clinical experience nursing students was established with Bates College. In 1943 a school bulletin sponsored by the Alumnae Association was published.
As part of the Cadet Nursing Program it became necessary to increase our housing facilities, and in 1944 the auditorium-type classroom, which could be converted into two separate classrooms if needed, was completed. At dedication ceremonies the auditorium was named Hiebert Hall in memory of Dr. Hiebert, under whose administration our school progressed and prospered.
On January 1, 1945 the Breen-Lange-Curran properties were remodeled for student housing. Miss Metcalfe, who had continued her interest in the hospital, the school and the alumnae association ever since her resignation, was honored by having this residence named after her: Metcalfe 316 and 318.
Miss Lenz served as director during World War II and the immediate post-war period, and she ably maintained the high standards of education, which had been set by her predecessors, under very difficult and trying staffing situations. She resigned in December 1946 to become the Educational Secretary of the Board of Nurse Registration. She was succeeded by Miss Reva Haskins who remained only a short time, resigning to accept a position with the Veteran's Administration. A series of temporary acting directors of nursing followed, including Miss Myerlee Clark, Miss Keough, etc., until 1949 when Miss Eleanor Melledy was appointed director of nursing. Dr. Dean Fisher was then hospital administrator.
From 1949 on, staffing shortages with reduction of the work week for students to 44 hours, including classes and regardless of the shift worked, plus increased turnover of patients and increased acuity of patients, the rapidly advancing progress of medicine and the related disciplines -- together placed extreme strain financially and personnel- wise on the hospital and the school. Demands for increased volume and variety of services were met by physical expansion of the hospital, but staffing these areas was a great problem.
In 1949 a marked drop to 89 in the enrollment in the school, which had been up to 125 in 1945, was the result of a nationwide drop in enrollment during 1947 and 1948. The National League for Nursing Education Achievement Test and Pre-nursing Test battery had been in use for three years and were receiving greater emphasis by the faculty in 1949. Also this year, the need for increased laboratory facilities is cited as a priority need of the school.
It is interesting to note that several recommended physical improvements for the school of nursing were made but few were approved in 1950. The school administration was disrupted after Miss Lenz's resignation, until Miss Melledy's appointment.
In 1950 vacation period for student nurses was increased to four weeks annually and illness allowance to 14 days for the entire program. Many changes in the curriculum were made in order to meet present day demands. The State Board Examination results in 1950 reflected the transition problems of the school, in that only 86% of the graduate nurses passed their qualifying board examinations. A dietary affiliation was recommended in 1950 due to the poor facilities and a public health affiliation was also requested. Improvement and expansion of the three laboratories were again requested because of their total inadequacy to meet the school enrollment and individual student needs. Need for additions to and replacements of many of the furnishings in Wilson Home were highlighted, as was the need to improve the Metcalfe recreation room. It was decided to discontinue the combined Bates and Central Maine General Hospital program since no students had been enrolled since 1949.
In 1951 the school was granted temporary accreditation by the National Nursing Accrediting Service with the hope of procuring full accreditation in the near future. The philosophy and objectives of the nursing school were revised by the faculty in 1951 and minor changes were made which further enriched the school curriculum.
In 1952 the school became an agency member of the Maine League for Nursing. From 1950 on, however, the attrition rate of faculty members, the socio-economic pressures of mid-century living and the changing aspects of medical nursing and hospital care of patients had serious impact on the quality and quantity of service which the graduates of this school were expected to render. To continue to provide good care for the hospitalized patient became more and more difficult. Maintaining high standards of nursing education in the face of increasing service demands became even more difficult as it became more important.
Little, if any, of the listed expenditures, purchases or expansion costs listed in the annual reports from 1950 were for the school of nursing, which shows at this point a change in the administrative philosophy toward this important source of future personnel for the department of nursing service, despite the increasing volume of service being rendered to the patients. Rapid turnover of patients and increased complexity of care was equalled by rapid turnover of nursing staff, instructors and key personnel in the department, all of which had direct impact on the welfare and educational program of every student enrolled therein. Large classes were enrolled during this period and in 1954 52 students were graduated. Many new additions and installations throughout many departments of the hospital were listed in 1954, but for the school of nursing, the only item listed was a replacement of the hot water heater, which after 33 years of faithful service could no longer be mended.
Miss Melledy resigned in May 1954 after four years of frustrating and difficult endeavor to stabilize and improve the school. She was replaced by Miss Helen Alexander, as acting director of nursing until September 1, 1954. Miss Melledy had sought to procure full accreditation by the National Nursing Accrediting Service, at a time when the school could have and did meet criteria for accreditation, but the hospital administration vetoed this request and decided to postpone the survey indefinitely. Fifty-one students were graduated from the school in 1954.
On September 1, 1954 Mrs. Alice W. Schindel was appointed director of nursing service and of the school of nursing. She graduated from the Children's Hospital of Boston and from Boston University with a Bachelor and Master of Arts Degree. She was assisted by Miss Blanche Jacobs, RN, BS, Indiana University, as assistant director of nursing education. Mrs. Schindel's first problem was to recruit faculty members for the many openings which faced her. A well-organized educational program with faculty participation in setting it up was achieved. Many new volumes were added to True Library and some badly needed laboratory equipment was purchased. Metcalfe residences, which were in serious need of repair, were completely redecorated and renovated and the student body government organization was revived and reorganized. A school paper was started, and greater emphasis was placed on the needs of the students as individuals rather than workers.
During 1956 much consideration was given to the need for and the wisdom of applying for full national accreditation. With rising costs of education and decreasing service being given by the school, it became necessary for careful study of our own ability to financially support the high standards of education set by the National Accrediting Service of the National League for Nursing. It was decided to continue to strive toward the goal within the financial limitations of the support which could be hoped for in making the needed physical improvements and additions that had been suggested since 1940, but which became more and more needed as 10 years became 15 and 15 became 17. The curriculum was further enriched this year by a public health outpatient clinic affiliation for senior students and by the introduction of a seminar in human relations for pre-clinical students. The problems of faculty recruitment and the need for better facilities to teach the biological and physical sciences were becoming more urgent. At the beginning of each summer the great problem of procuring qualified instructors and adequate laboratory facilities to accommodate the science courses had to be met and solved in the best way possible.
Visiting instructors from the local high schools and from our own medical staff, augmented by Miss Jacob's conscientious efforts to assist with laboratory practice in these courses -- all limited by our own lack of space and facilities -- were utilized from 1954 to 1956 for three groups of beginning students.
The summer of June 1957 found the school and hospital administration again faced with the irksome problem of lack of instructors and facilities, which was accentuated by the size of the class to be taught that September. Attempts to make arrangements with Lewiston High School laboratory facilities and Bates College teaching personnel were not productive. Finally it was decided to seek help from Bates College by requesting use of their laboratory facilities for evening classes and also to request their faculty members teach the necessary science courses on a part-time visiting lecturer basis. This will again solve temporarily the urgent need for both facilities and faculty. The need for long-range plans for a more permanent solution to this recurrent annual problem was indeed understood by all concerned.
In 1956 Hiebert Hall and the nursing arts laboratory classrooms were repainted. A few additional volumes were added to the True Library and the various ward libraries were considerably strengthened. The needed structural changes and additions to the nursing arts laboratory were postponed, however, until more definite planning to provide better science laboratory facilities might be given consideration.
In 1957 there was much deliberation about whether or not the hospital could truly afford to continue operating a nursing school in the face of the many needed capital outlay items and physical expansion requirements, plus the skyrocketing cost of operating a good school of nursing. The hospital was not established to serve as an educational institution per se, but has for its primary purpose the care of patients. With the school no longer contributing enough nursing services to the hospitalized patients to balance the increasing costs of operation, it has now become necessary for the board of directors and administration to justify those expenditures of large sums of money which must be taken from the general income of the hospital in order to maintain the type of good school which it wished to conduct.
The nursing education committee, after careful consideration of the pros and cons of operating a school of nursing, finally recommended to the board of directors that the school not be closed, that it was essential to the welfare of the hospital and the community and that steps should be taken to apply for full accreditation by the cut-off date of November 1, 1957. A nursery school affiliation was set up by the faculty and approved by the nursing school committee in February 1957. The statement of philosophy and school objectives were revised and expanded by the faculty and
presented to the nursing education committee for approval. After further revision by this committee the revised current (1957) statement of philosophy was adopted. In 1957 Mrs. Schindel and Miss Jacobs began compiling the data and survey materials required for the written application for full accreditation, with generous support and assistance from the entire faculty and from other involved departments. It was ready for mailing by September 1, 1957. The recreation room in Metcalfe was redecorated and new drapes provided early in the summer of 1957. The need for small tables, reading lamps and slipcovering of some of the older furniture was brought to the attention of Mr. Thompson. Room 107 in Metcalfe Residence (a single sleeping room located in a rather noisy section of the dormitory) was converted into a modern laundry by installation of plumbing, wiring, electrical outlets and new linoleum floor covering and the addition of a new automatic washing machine and dryer which was a much needed improvement.
SUMMARY 1954 - 1958
The past three years of productive, concentrated and continuous effort by both the director of nursing and the assistant director of nursing education brought many positive and beneficial changes in all aspects of the school of nursing program, and at this writing the school is back to its former place of respect and confidence in the Central Maine area. A steadily increasing number of inquiries from interested high school students, a high calibre of accepted in-coming students where selection standards could be adhered to without appreciably reducing the in-coming class enrollment, have promised a fine class of 46 students. The well organized processing and screening of all student applications and the written periodic reports of these activities have been of value both to the faculty and the nursing education committee.
The carefully planned recruitment program with early requests sent out to the high school for speaking dates have not only increased the number of invitations for the director to participate in local high school career programs, but have brought in many more letters from interested students than we have received the previous two years. The many physical renovations needs which had for so long been overlooked, were highlighted and reemphasized to the nursing education committee and the hospital administration in all ways: by reports, in writing, by conferences and by tours of the problem areas. Much was accomplished as the list of "Things Still to be Done" became shorter, and the list of "Improvements Made" became longer. Without procuring the support and approval from top administration little would have been accomplished.
Stubborn persistence alone on the part of the school administration, in refusing to be daunted by postponements and delays in getting things done, helped to effect some of the less glaring needed improvements.
Metcalfe residences are now comfortable and attractive, the new laundry which will be completed by September is a wonderful improvement, just as the newly decorated recreation room is proving a joy to students who now seem to gather there in larger numbers. One more need remains, which undoubtedly will be met in the near future; a snack kitchen should be set up in a small room near the housemother's station in Metcalfe. This, with the new laundry, would eliminate any further need for the students to use the basement for recreational and cooking purposes.
In Wilson Residence seven sleeping rooms were completely redecorated with the promise to continue this project until all rooms were fresh and attractive. After this has been done, a new project of providing new drapes and repainting True Library and the present living room with flat finish paint, (neither one of which has had much done for the past ten years) should commence. Some of the upholstered chairs need to be slip-covered or recovered in both of these areas.
Other requested physical improvements which were approved included repainting the walls and ceilings in all classrooms and refinishing the floors. The health office was moved into excellent facilities adjoining the physical therapy and clinic departments. The two rooms vacated by the health office were converted into office space for the assistant director of education and the nursing arts faculty members. The nutrition laboratory in Wilson was repainted and although it accommodates only 14 students it appears to be adequate. Problem areas awaiting serious attention include the nursing arts laboratory, which must be expanded to accommodate more students and remodeled to afford facilities more similar to those on the various wards to which students are assigned for the clinical experience.
If a new biological and chemistry laboratory can be achieved or some arrangements made for the use of these facilities in another institution of learning, the nursing arts laboratory improvements could then be easily made.
At present there is no space for further expansion or improvement of facilities.
True Library has been enriched by the addition of several much needed reference books since January 1955 and good ward libraries have been set up. This particular area must ever be in a state of continuing improvement and enrichment -- a fact which has been constantly emphasized to top administration with reasonably good results. The curriculum has been carefully reorganized and structured into a 16-week semester plan for formal lecture classes, and into a 16-week trimester plan for clinical teaching and experience with 16 lecture hours constituting one unit and four weeks clinical experience constituting one unit of laboratory experience. Rotations were revised to better correlate theory with practice and increasing emphasis was given to the entire clinical teaching program in an all-out concerted effort by the school administration and faculty to strengthen these most important learning activities for our students. A carefully plotted rotation plan was set up and is on file for each individual student with a minimum of change permitted. The cooperation of all the members of the medical staff who served as lecturers for the school was most gratifying. These busy doctors gave up valuable time willingly and regularly to permit our planned curriculum to be presented as set up.
New learning experiences were provided for the nursing students by the establishment: of an excellent out-patient emergency room clinical assignment under an outstanding instructor; by the establishment of a two week's carefully planned clinical experience in the recovery room; and by a two week's nursery school experience. It has been said that the proof of the effectiveness of the educational program is shown by the performance of its product. A definite improvement has been shown in our student's performance in the League Achievement Test administered nationwide. There have been only two failures in the National Test Pool State Board of Nurse Registration examinations since 1955. Our young graduates are doing very well both in this and in other hospitals in first-level general duty nursing positions. The introduction, during the past year of senior seminar review in clinical nursing should assure equally good results in this year's (1957) qualifying examinations.
The faculty was reorganized and have met weekly from September through June during the past three years and by group thinking and group planning have shared fully in many of the changes and improvements of our educational program. The students themselves have seemed happier and have learned much from the extra professional activities program. Student body government was reactivated and an excellent constitution and by-laws set up. Student monitors in the dormitories have been effective in reducing disciplinary and other problems related to group living. Through active committee work an interest-centered sports program has been enjoyed; a chorus with a skilled director, sponsored by the alumni association has afforded constructive recreation for students and also music for school programs.
Greater attention has been given to the important milestones in each student's progress. A very effective Capping service has been held on the last Sunday of February for the past three years. Banding exercises are held each September to give recognition to the progress of each student, which is designated by the award of a narrow black velvet band to the new junior (second year student) and a second black band to the new senior student (third year). This impresses the newly enrolled students, who are expected to attend, with the seriousness and importance of being safe practitioners of nursing, in that emphasis is placed on the increased responsibilities which accompany the new status that the black band signifies. A school paper was started and has had a rather precarious existence but the issues printed were very good. An annual yearbook was adopted in 1956, with the second issue due in September 1957. Better supervision of both residences has been afforded through the hiring of a full- time student health-residence director person who meets monthly with the housemothers and the assistant in nursing education to consider needs and problems and to share in meeting these needs.
A carefully planned guidance program with the assignment of faculty members as student counselors has assisted the school administration in meeting adjustment problems manifested by students so that guidance could be given early. Excellent professional help has been available from the mental hygiene clinic whose services have been freely utilized for students presenting deep-seated adjustment problems. We do have problems, and serious ones, in recruiting qualified faculty personnel. With no collegiate program in Maine there is no local source of supply nor any way that potential faculty members can procure the additional preparation necessary. In order to utilize the core of well prepared faculty members to the utmost, full time junior clinical assistant instructors have been appointed, with duties and responsibilities clearly written up, to work under the supervision of the qualified instructors. It is not the answer to this need but students have had better supervision and incidental clinical teaching as a result.
Continuous revision of the course outlines has been made with general distribution of each outline to all faculty members and to students enrolled in the courses. A master file of all outlines for all courses taught, plus all orientation plans and clinical teaching outlines in the entire curriculum was set up in 1955 and has been kept up to date. Student records are in order and up to date. Although in retrospect a great deal appears to have been achieved toward strengthening the program and toward providing a strong, sound educational program, it has required infinite patience, endless interpretation and education of those not intimately concerned with its actual activities in order to obtain and retain administrative support. This has been carried out conscientiously and in great detail. Careful reports and periodic distribution of important statistical data as well as reference materials have been freely distributed to members of the nursing education committee and faculty so that informed thinking and awareness might be directed toward decision making.
Long and frequent conferences with the executive director were held to explain in greater detail the school program and needs. While there were often points of difference of opinion or evaluation and philosophy freely expressed, there were far more areas of agreement. Without his support, none of the physical improvements would have been made and none of the additional teaching personnel appointed. His willingness to permit the school administration to handle the needed curriculum and educational improvements required without interference helped to facilitate progress in these areas.
During the first two years, when the greatest progress was made, the nursing education committee met monthly and aided in every way possible to implement the most urgently needed improvements. Mrs. R.N. Randall, as chairman, was indeed wholeheartedly interested and gave every possible support to both the director of nursing and her assistant in education. A very democratic and good committee climate prevailed and much was accomplished.
Since February 1956, when the first serious consideration of the need for and the feasibility of applying for full accreditation was given, attempts to evaluate this school's readiness for application were made by the faculty, nursing education committee and the school and hospital administration, and attention has been focused more sharply on school costs and needed improvement and cost of same.
At a joint conference with Mr. Hoy, chairman of the board of directors, Dr. William Sawyer, board member representative on the nursing education committee, Mr. Thompson, executive director of the hospital and Mrs.Schindel, director of nursing, Mr. Hoy and Dr. Sawyer emphasized the fact that the hospital's chief concern was to provide good patient care as economically as possible in the face of mounting operational costs, and that running a school of nursing so long as it could be shown that it contributed to this chief purpose, was completely justifiable. In reviewing figures which proved that the cost of maintaining the school far exceeded the cash value of services rendered to patients by the nursing students, it was pointed out that this deficit was taken from hospital funds at the expense of hospitalized patients. To add to these expenses the additional amounts necessary to strengthen the obviously weak areas in the school just to meet the national accreditation service criteria was impossible without further raising fees which he could not and would not condone until he was more sure in his own mind of the need for doing so. He informed Mrs.Schindel that any continued upgrading of the school program which could be done without further financial losses or expenditures could move forward, but reminded her to hope for no further costly improvements in equipment, additions or renovations, since we could carry on
an acceptable educational program without NLN (National League for Nursing) accreditation. It was on this note that the formal school year closed in June 1956. This feeling seemed to be shared by Dr. Sawyer and Mr. Thompson.
When the fall term opened in 1956 Mrs.Schindel pointed out to Mr. Thompson and to the nursing education committee that the deadline for application for full accreditation would be April 1, 1957, approximately seven months. She emphasized that one school in Lewiston had already filed application and that two in Portland would be filing early in 1957, which could result in three fully accredited schools in the group of five schools in Maine. This would affect recruitment not only of students but of qualified faculty members without which the program would be doomed. The faculty had been working hard, carrying out their appraisal activities in the light of the printed criteria for accreditation and had begun, as they had been authorized to do, to make further changes and revisions to meet these criteria.
Dr. William Sawyer was appointed chairman of the nursing education committee, which was recognized again to permit the addition of a third member of the board of directors, as top administration felt that Dr. Sawyer and Mr. Thompson should have as much informed support as possible in presenting the school progress and needs to the board as a whole. The year opened, therefore, with two important questions:
- Should this hospital continue to operate a school of nursing?
- If so, could it possibly hope to function effectively unless the school was fully accredited?
Mrs. Schindel outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the school program and continued to take the stand that not only was the school essential to this community and to Maine, but that it was already a good school and could be a better one. In view of this conviction, there was no hazard involved in having the program surveyed, since planned improvements were part of the survey and no school was perfect.
After six months of debate, fact finding, statistical analysis and careful deliberation, the nursing education committee made recommendations in February 1957 to the board of directors to continue operation of the school of nursing and to authorize the application for full accreditation as soon as possible. This was presented to the board at its February meeting and subsequently tabled. Following this meeting Mrs. Schindel and Miss Jacobs were asked to attend a post-board meeting conference which members of the board of directors and the medical staff of the hospital were also invited, wherein continued misgivings about the need for current methods of nurses training and the need for accreditation were freely expressed by representatives from the medical staff and one or two board members, to which the representatives from the school were asked to reply. Chairman Hoy presided over this conference and publicly gave support to the two recommendations which had been made by the nursing education committee.
In March 1957 the board authorized Mr. Thompson to apply for full accreditation. Mrs. Schindel and Miss Jacobs, with full assistance from the faculty and Mr. Thompson, then proceeded to complete the report and compile the survey data and materials. The green light came too late to meet the April 1 deadline, but it was felt that despite vacations and changes in personnel usually associated with the summer months, it would be possible to prepare the written application and submit it before the deadline date of November 1, since much of the burden of preparation could be relieved by utilizing prepared and recorded materials already in our file.
The entire year from October 1956 to September 1957 was one of tension, indecision and insecurity. It was a difficult year for many reasons since the school and accreditation itself was the topic of many emotional and prejudiced conversations and arguments. Top administration questioned whether a school was feasible; the medical staff criticized the "over education" of its students. Staff nurse shortages heightened the hostility towards a nursing education program which insisted that the students must be adequately prepared before they attend patients in an unsupervised situation. Students' classes disrupted the continuity of patient care or nursing service on many of the divisions and replacements for student hands and feet were few and hard to come by. Despite the temporary seeming loss of moral support, both from top administration and the key members of the medical staff, the school program was
Mr. Thompson, executive director, and Mrs. Schindel, director of nursing, were subjected to many questions and a reasonably full measure of criticism as they joined forces early in 1957 to keep the school in operation. Misunderstandings arose and important aspects of two-way communication were, as a result, disrupted as the chairman of the nursing education committee and the executive director began to assert more and more authority in fulfilling the stated purpose of the nursing education committee as it now stands: "Shall make rules and regulations for the conduct of the school of nursing and other related activities." The March and April meetings of this committee were different in group climate and camaraderie from those of the previous months. Tension was high and mutual understanding at a new low.
It can only be hoped that in view of the excellent progress that we have been able to achieve through working together, sharing together and believing together in the activities concerned with improving the school, the educational program and the welfare of its students, that harmony will again be restored and mutual trust and understanding will prevail between all administrative levels concerned directly or indirectly with the school.
In reviewing the annals of this school since 1893 one can trace the peak periods of achievement as well as those periods of little reportable progress. It is reassuring to recognize the reflected progress and changes which have occurred in the history of nursing education in this country in our own school's record of progress and change. Even the rumblings and dissatisfactions which have somewhat shaken our school's foundations during the past year are part of a national concern and dissatisfaction.
This unrest stems from many factors: lack of awareness of the great changes taking place in general and in professional education, which have come because of the fabulous progress in care and treatment of man's ills and injuries. When progress is rapid, cultural lag in the traditional concepts of the role and functions of the doctor and the nurse in the care of the patient and in their relationship with each other does make for tension and hostility. It is only when both of these important members of the hospital team are willing to accept the fact that the modern hospital has spawned modern nursing, without which it could not be so "modern" - and that the close interdependent relationship which is necessary for effective patient care in the hospital can only be achieved by well prepared nurses and doctors working together in a harmonious team-relationship. If hospital schools are to continue to educate the bulk of the professional bedside nurses, the age old concept of trial and error learning by blindly giving custodial care to patients over and over again is not sufficient for nurses to carry out the doctors' orders of today. They are not safe practitioners of nursing in the student status until they become seniors. They do not replace needed graduate general duty nurses for nursing service. Unless they are given a sound, carefully planned and implemented educational experience in meeting all of the common problems of modern professional nursing today they cannot hope to serve as effective safe practitioners of nursing after graduation from the school, any more than we can expect the apprentice system to prepare a bright young man to practice medicine without any previous formal preparation.
The training period of the professional nurse does not take place until after graduation, when, through a combination of good in-service programs and continuous and extensive active practice of good bedside nursing care, those precious complex skills which constitute modern nursing care are perfected. For any basic educational program in nursing whether it be the experimental two-year junior college program, the traditional three-year hospital diploma program or the four- year collegiate program, to be effective we must accept the fact that service rendered to patients during the learner stage is incidental to the development of those skills which she must acquire and utilize as a graduate nurse. With new responsibilities have come new courses and the need for additional knowledge. The problem lies in finding funds to carry on sound programs. If all of the energy which has been, and is being expended, to criticize trends over which no one has control might only be invested in gaining better understanding of the reasons for our changing curricula, and in seeking sources of financial support outside of the hospital funds, what a Utopia it would be - and what stress and anxiety might be avoided. In reviewing the history of our school's progress and existence for the past 64 years, one is proud to have been a part of its record and its achievement during one of the most controversial, turbulent and difficult periods of the whole history of nursing education.
What lies ahead no one can predict. The future of this school rests largely with those whose function it is to chart its course and to guide its progress. Perhaps this record will contribute in some small way to the wisdom and judgement of those individuals who now hold or may in the future be charged with this serious responsibility.
August 14, 1957 18 Alice W. Schindel
History of the Class of 1920 at Central Maine General Hospital
Property of Class Member Bessie McKeen Smith Randlette, Class of 1920
Given to her niece, Pauline Howe Cushman, Class of 1941
Donated to the CMGH Alumni Association, November 1985
A note from Pauline Howe Cushman:
Dear Fellow Alumni,
So pleased to receive the Alumni Newsletter. Thanks to Elsie Lauten for adding my
name to the mailing list. I am a 1941 ( Feb.) graduate who is now retired from nursing.
I was a med-surg supervisor of nursing in the Veterans' Administration. We were
always so pleased with the CMG graduates who joined our service.
I am enclosing a check for $7, of which five is for membership and two for the
tickets sent to me. Also, I am enclosing an old and battered copy of the history of the
class of 1920. My aunt, Bessie McKeen Smith Randlette, was a member of that class.
I'm sure the alumni will appreciate it more than my children.
May all your efforts continue to thrive and keep alive the high standards and training we
all partook of. I shall be forever grateful for all days at the CMG.
God Bless Us All.
Pauline Howe Cushman. '41
History of the Class of 1920 CMGH
by Bessie McKeen Smith Randlette
The task of presenting this history appeared rather a difficult one, as hospital life, its every aspect being so essentially different from school life, seemed likely to appear rather dull and uninteresting to the general public. However, we have done our best to make it as varied and interesting as is possible for a training that has such a serious and responsible an objective.
Having made the momentous decision of embarking on the uncharted sea of hospital training, and having gathered together the required number of laundry bags, napkin rings, gingham dresses and white aprons, one afternoon in 1918 saw us and our belongings deposited on the cement walk before the C.M.G. For a moment we gazed in awe at the imposing exterior of the unknown, then, seeing a flight of stairs in the immediate foreground, we mechanically ascended and opened the door. The kindly voice of the superintendent, Miss Metcalfe, greeted us and the cordial welcome we received that evening from the girls as they came off duty gave us fresh courage for our new work.
The next morning we were up quite early and struggling valiantly to make our unruly locks conform to the edict "Hair must be coiled neatly on the top of the head." After partaking somewhat sparingly of breakfast we tiptoed self-consciously into the reception room. What a battery of eyes was focused upon us. The bibbed and aproned beings seemingly numbered in the hundreds. Seven o'clock left us alone to gaze at one another in dumb apprehension. Soon our superintendent of nurses, Miss Harris, appeared and introduced us to our various wards, leaving us in the charge of an older nurse, who proceeded to initiate us into the mysteries of trays, scrub brushes, antiseptic solutions and brass polish. We had visions of stroking fevered brows, fanning patient sufferers etc., but our first duties were rather irksome. Brass polish completely destroys one's manicure and cleaning clothes was rather smelly.
Reproof rather than reward seemed to meet our best efforts, and how our poor feet and backs ached from the unaccustomed hours of standing. However, we soon came to take pride in keeping our serving room and bathroom spotless, our trays neat and inviting. The knowledge that we were only a few out of many treading the same road served as a bracer. If we were allowed to perform some trifling duty for a patient, how proud we felt.
Pride sometimes takes a fall is borne out by the following experience of one of us. "Miss B. you may answer bells today," said the head nurse. So when the next summons came, into the room stepped Miss Badger with her best smile and a proud sense of importance filling her whole being; at last she is to do something worthwhile. But imagine her feelings when the patient, after a glance in her direction, turned her head away and said, "Will you please send a nurse to me?"
Our first promotion, the receiving of our caps at the end of six weeks, bolstered our courage and new probationers appeared then to take our places. Practical work and demonstration now followed our textbook instruction and as we began to make beds, give baths, take pulses and temperatures and give special care to patients, we felt we were really on the royal road to nursing.
A few weeks more and one morning after an agonizing half hour, during which mirrors, safety pins, collar buttons and the assistance of all the older nurses in the house were much in demand, we appeared in the glory of uniforms. This greatly increased our self esteem and it was only by vigorous restraining that our companions managed to endure
More responsibility fell upon us with this dignity and we soon became familiar with the preparation of patients for operation and taking them to the operating room, assisting with the ward dressings and making rounds with the doctors in the head absence. Great was the day when we were first permitted to give out the medicines. How painstakingly we read and re-read the label before pouring out the fluid. Having read of dire results which had been the consequences of an overdose explains the care with which we measured out the exact number of drops of castor oil for some poor sufferer.
Studies also increased in difficulty. Materia medica, obstetrics and bacteriology now loomed before us. Poor Dr. Buker: let us hope that his superhuman patience with us in the last mentioned subject will someday receive its reward. Lectures by various members of the medical staff now claimed our close attention. One or two of our number knew shorthand and how enviously we gazed at their queer little quirks and pothooks, which made such short work of note taking. Dr. Goodwin's description of tuberculosis and its ravages filled us with a wholesome dread of the disease and caused us to look with suspicion upon even our dearest friends for some time afterwards; while Dr. Sawyer made anesthesia so inviting that we were eager to put ourselves into his hands for experiment.
An event which always brought cheers to us was the annual bet of Drs. Pierce and Cunningham in regard to the Bates-Bowdoin game which resulted in a grand "peanut drunk" for us nurses. We do not, of course, encourage betting but in this case we cannot but hope that this custom will continue.
Each task and study as it came was a little harder but we mastered them all; and one by one we were promoted to the position of diet kitchen nurse, X-ray nurse and operating room nurse. At last we arrived at the oft envied goal of head nurse. To paraphrase an old saying, we soon discovered that "uneasy lies the head that runs the ward." We went to bed with a load of care on our minds and awoke in the morning with it still there. Running the affairs of a ward sounds simple but it proved to be about as nerve-wearing a process as any, and in spite of our best judgement, many were the tangles we encountered, which only the maturer minds and greater experience of Miss Metcalfe and Miss Harris could straighten out for us. But this too passed and now with nearly three years of preparation behind us, we stand on the threshold of graduation, rather fearful, it is true, but still eager to put our hard-earned knowledge into practice in the
world of cares and responsibilities.
Let us not neglect , before closing this "brief and simple anna," to express our gratitude due our hospital superintendent and her assistant who have labored so faithfully in the management of hospital affairs and to all the institutional firms or private individuals whose gifts of time, labor or money have benefitted the hospital in any way.
As we look back over our training school days and realize the vast amount of knowledge we have gained and the poise and the self confidence which such knowledge cannot help but give to all conscientious young women, we feel a profound
respect for the pioneers in the profession, whose labors, amid criticism and contempt, have brought nursing to its present high plane of service. May we strive to be worthy of the example of self-sacrificing service which they set and carry as our guide, these words, taken from the pledge of Florence Nightingale, "I will pass my life in purity and practice my profession faithfully. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standards of my profession and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. With loyalty will I aid the physician in his work and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care."