Student Nurse's Uniform (1957)
The student nurse uniform shown above
was worn by Frankie Cameron Hall, who entered the Methodist Hospital School
of Nursing in 1957. Her class was the last to be accepted at that school.
When it closed, they transferred to the Mississippi Baptist Hospital in Jackson,
graduating from there in 1960. Some former nursing students have remarked
that most of them had an ink stain or two on their uniform pocket.
Nursing has always been crucial to the
sickness and health of the community, yet the development of nursing as a
profession is much more recent than one might think. In 19th century Mississippi,
nursing functions such as care of the sick, sitting with the dying, and childbirth
assistance were usually handled by relatives or slaves. In 1880, the Mississippi
Manuscript Census identified a 168 people in 25 Mississippi counties as "nurses";
68% of these were children being paid to care for younger children. The first
nurses' training school in Mississippi wasn't established until 1898.
The early 20th century was a time of considerable
growth in community awareness of nutrition, hygiene, and practices to prevent
illness. As the number of hospitals grew, trained nurses were sometimes brought
in from out of state to take charge of patient care. The resulting introduction
of new ideas helped to develop nursing as a more respected profession. At
a time when women had limited opportunity to pursue education or employment,
nurse training programs began to be seen as a viable option for those looking
to better their circumstances.
During this time period, the nursing profession
in Mississippi also began to organize and become regulated. The nursing alumnae
associations of Hattiesburg and Natchez met in 1911 at the Natchez Charity
Hospital and formed the Mississippi State Association of Graduate Nurses (MSAGN),
which would later become the Mississippi Nurses Association. The MSAGN soon
successfully opposed a bill in the state legislature that would have outlawed
the care of black hospital patients by white nurses and proposed a bill that
became the state's first nurse licensing act. In 1933, state law began to
require annual renewal of the nursing license and gave the Mississippi State
Board of Examiners for Nurses more power to regulate nursing standards and
The advent of World War II highlighted
some of the problems with nursing education in Mississippi. As had been the
case during World War I, most of the nursing programs in the state were small
and did not comply with national standards. Therefore, it was difficult for
Mississippi nurses to meet eligibility requirements for military or Red Cross
duty. Only five nurse training programs in the state (in Vicksburg, Jackson,
and Greenville) were able to provide nurses for this type of employment.
By the middle of the 20th century, there
were serious shortages of both nursing students and nursing instructors in
Mississippi, as well as a relatively small number of African-American nurses
compared to the high population of African-Americans in the state. A study
of nursing education recommended the training of nurses in existing colleges
and universities rather than in training schools that might be opened by new
hospitals. As a result, legislation was passed that authorized and provided
funding for the University of Mississippi School of Nursing and scholarships
for nursing students. The program took 4 ½ years to complete, with
two years at the university and the rest of the time at a hospital. All of
these developments led to an improved public perception of the nursing profession.
Since that time, the improvements in standards of care and training and the
establishment of hospital emergency rooms, post anesthesia recovery rooms,
and acute care units have led nurses to specialize in various areas of care.
The nursing uniform will be on exhibit
on the 3rd floor of McCain Library & Archives until September 14. Please
feel free to come by and see this piece of Mississippi nursing history. If
you have any questions about this item, please contact Special Collections at 601.266.4345 or Ask-a-Librarian.
For more information about nursing
Sabin, Linda E. Struggles and Triumphs:
The Story of Mississippi Nurses, 1800-1950. Jackson, MS: MHA Health, Research,
and Educational Foundation, 1998. (McCain Library or Gulf Coast Library RT5.M7
Keyes, Reita S. History of Nursing Education
in Mississippi. Oxford, MS: University of Mississippi, 1984. (McCain Library
RT80.M7 K48x 1984a)
Text for this "Item of the Month" prepared by Diane DeCesare Ross.