“We had a class several times a week at night given by the Chicago Modeling Agency to teach us manners, how to walk properly, etc. At the time we hated it, but it was useful later.” – Nancy Thar Fiedler
Imagine having to take a modeling class as part of nursing training. As far-fetched as the idea seems in today’s world of theory and clinical-based instruction, Nancy Thar Fiedler, a 1960 graduate of the Evanston Hospital School of Nursing, shares her experience in the new display, “Nursing School Memories: Nursing Education in the Mid-20th Century,” currently on view at East Carolina University’s Family Medicine Center in Greenville.
The exhibit is located on the second floor across from the elevators in the Family Medicine Center, 101 Heart Drive. Memorabilia from Fiedler’s nursing school experience are featured along with objects, photographs and archival documents from the collections of The Country Doctor Museum. The items help tell a story of shared camaraderie of nursing school students as they advanced through rigorous programs marked by enduring traditions, high expectations and long hours.
The exhibit focuses on the history of three-year diploma training programs at local hospitals from 1940-1960. While attending classes, nursing students were scheduled to work in hospital wards and received on-the-job training.
Nursing school traditions including capping ceremonies, the awarding of class pins and lighting of Florence Nightingale lamps which signified students’ progress to graduation. These events occurred at nursing schools across the county and were augmented by banquets and graduation events to form an identity unique to each school of nursing. Caps, Florence Nightingale lamps, invitations and a junior class banquet poster from the Rex School of Nursing in Raleigh (circa 1947-1948) are on view in the exhibit.
By 1960, four-year baccalaureate degree programs were becoming more popular. By the end of the 1970s, most three-year diploma programs had closed and student nurses were pursuing their two or four-year nursing degrees at colleges and universities. An early style of ECU’s nursing uniform, cap and pin design also are on display to highlight the growing difference between hospital and university-based programs. Dr. Frances Eason and Dr. Kathleen Sitzman of ECU’s College of Nursing graciously reviewed the content and scope of the exhibit.
Fiedler considered nursing to be “a profession of dedication” when she entered nursing school in the late 1950s. Many would agree this description is still true today. The Country Doctor Museum invites you to take a few minutes to see this new exhibit in ECU’s Family Medicine Center.
The Country Doctor Museum
The Country Doctor Museum, located in Bailey, is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday. All tours are guided and available every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Group tours can be arranged. For more information, visit http://www.countrydoctormuseum.org