The NursesFew in Salisbury now can remember the Peninsula General Hospital School of Nursing. Now, aspiring candidates receive their training at Salisbury University. Medical care has become so specialized that a nurse cannot perform across the board remedial care that they once did. I am sure that anyone of a certain age can remember when a nurse was thought of as a substitute doctor. The person in that stark, crisp white uniform commanded total respect from everyone. Each wore a cap that signified from where they had graduated. It was a badge of honor and pride.
The former School of Nursing was started in January, 1905, shortly after the hospital was opened in 1904. The Superintendent of Nurses was Helen Van Devanter Wise. She got the school up and running, leaving in 1909, to return to her home town of Leesburg, VA. She moved on to private duty in Baltimore and Philadelphia, before returning to her Alma Mater, the University of Maryland School of Nursing, in 1917. In May of 1919, she returned for good to Salisbury. She is also credited with the development of the Salisbury Municipal Park as well as the establishment of the Children’s Home. She retired in 1933, but the benefits of her endeavors remain around and with us.
In 1904, Miss Wise organized a Training School to help meet the nursing needs of the hospital and the community. The first class of three students entered in January, 1905, all of these composing the first graduating class in 1907, leaving behind six “underclassmen”.
Miss Wise saw the need for a nursing home for the nurses in training and also for more classroom space. She brought the idea before the Board of Directors. In 1906, they decided to build one. It was completed, with students occupying it on February 13, 1908. Students lived on the second and third floors, with classrooms on the first floor. When it was completed, the entire property was valued at $100,000.
The first class to graduate from the new School of Nursing was in 1910. There were just three graduates. The graduation totals did not advance much in the early years as evidenced by the following years of graduation and the number of graduates: 1911 ( two graduates), 1912 ( three graduates), 1913 (no graduates), 1914 (one graduate), 1915 (five graduates), and so forth. It was ten years before the graduating class had grown to seven and six more years before it reached its highest number of ten.
Before they graduated, they were known as “probationers” and, along with classes, performed various duties in the hospital for familiarization. The four years of intense study and training made them more than prepared to meet the medical needs of our community.