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‘The shoulders of those who came before us:’ SON turns 70

Published on Thursday, November 8, 2018

By: Kate Royals

As the 70th anniversary of the University of Mississippi School of Nursing approaches, its top leader maintains that while much has changed since the school’s creation in 1948, the work done today wouldn’t be possible without its history.

This is true in many ways, said Dr. Kim Hoover, dean of the school since 2010, but especially in the School’s unique emphasis on service learning and giving back to the community through its clinics and other efforts.


“We have the opportunity to go into these communities because they trust us,” she said. “ … What we do today is on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

The School of Nursing, located on the Jackson campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is celebrating its anniversary Friday with a reception, tours of the school, remarks from nursing and UMMC officials and a panel featuring former students from the past seven decades.

The School of Nursing is the second-oldest of the seven UM schools on the Medical Center’s campus. It also holds the distinction of being Mississippi’s first baccalaureate, master’s program and collaborative doctoral programs for nursing.

In 1948, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law authorizing a Department of Nursing in the UM School of Medicine, then based on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford – the state’s first baccalaureate degree program for nursing students. Lawmakers gave $60,000 to the department for equipment and personnel.

In 1956, then-chair Christine Oglevee moved with the department to Jackson, a year after the Medical Center opened. In 1958, the department was granted school status and Oglevee became dean.

Jeanette “Jay” Waits graduated from the School of Nursing that same year. She was part of the first class of eight students to do all of its clinical training in Mississippi and mostly at the Medical Center.

In this archive photo, 1958 School of Nursing graduate Jeanette Waits, third from left, visits with a group of UMMC nursing students.

Before that, students went out of state – commonly to Cincinnati – because of a lack of hospitals in the Oxford area.

“We were the first class that went to the state hospital for psychiatric nursing, the first class that went to the Health Department for public health and we also went to the (Mississippi Tuberculosis) Sanatorium for TB experience,” she recalled.

She remembers spending six weeks there and getting to work with patients that had undergone chest surgery.

“At that time, infectious disease was a big thing and was a required experience for all RNs – not necessarily TB but some kind of infectious disease experience,” she said.

Once on the Jackson campus, students did most of their training in UMMC’s University Hospital, surrounding hospitals and Department of Health clinics. They also shared office space with the School of Medicine.

The School of Nursing's education building on the UMMC campus was built in 1963. It can be seen in this undated photo to the lower left of the main hospital.

But the move to Jackson presented another problem: a lack of housing for students. At the time, female undergraduate students were not allowed to live off campus unless they were living at home. The Medical Center leased an apartment building on Lakeland Drive for the students until the women’s dorm was occupied in 1960. Waits was one of those, along with Sandra H. West, who graduated from the school in 1968.

West remembers the requirement for living on campus all four years (the bachelor’s program was four years instead of two at the time). She also remembers other aspects of the school that are vastly different from today’s world.

“We had to wear starched uniforms including a nursing cap and white stockings,” she said. “ … And everything was glass. Glass IV bottles, glass monitors that included mercury in them at the patient’s bedside.”

In this archival photo, Sherri Farmer, left, nursing student, "caps" her little sister, Sandra H. West, nursing student, during a capping ceremony n 1965.

In addition, “Smoking was very common. Our faculty smoked, and the physicians smoked when making rounds with their patients.”

Christine Oglevee served as the first School of Nursing dean. The SON's medical education building is named for her.

But West said the school was forward-looking in many ways, thanks in part to Oglevee, who remained as dean until 1974. Under her leadership the school enrolled its first master’s degree students. Oglevee taught classes to freshmen on the history of nursing and professional nursing while West was there, she said.

“Looking back on it we are really grateful that she did that and we had contact with her as an educator as freshman students,” she said. “She was a visionary leader in establishing the first baccalaureate nursing program in the state of Mississippi.”

Before UMMC’s program, the only options for nurses in the state were diploma programs, a two- or three-year program accomplished in a hospital with no academic ties. Graduates received a diploma instead of a college degree.

In 1998, the School of Nursing founded Mississippi’s first urban health center staffed with nurse practitioners. The UNACARE Clinic provides primary health care and education to members of the midtown Jackson community.

The School also manages clinics in schools in Jackson and the Delta, in addition to a mobile clinic, and boasts affiliation with more than 200 hospitals, community health centers, health departments and other facilities.

Students and faculty are happy about some of the changes in the way things are done over the past 70 years, however. One of those changes is the practice of using a simulation lab instead of fellow students for experience giving shots or starting an IV. 

“Even the (clinical) simulation (experience) is a change from the School of Nursing before,” Dr. Jennifer Robinson, associate dean for research and scholarship, said. “It used to be you did it on each other first.”

In this photo from 1997, instructor Debbie Macsherry shows a group of nursing students an IV.

Hoover, who attended undergraduate nursing school elsewhere, laughed remembering a time she started an IV on her instructor.

“That was traumatic… for both of us,” she said.

The school has come a long way – even in the past 15 years. Tripp Purviance, a 2006 graduate of the School of Nursing who works in orthopaedic surgery at the Medical Center, reflects on the technological advancements since his time as a student.

When he was in school, the concept of online classes was still new, and materials weren’t as easy to access.

Now, he says, there is almost instant access to class materials, and simulation models “are much more realistic and interactive now, which provides a more real-life learning experience.”

The 70th anniversary event begins at 1 p.m. Friday with a reception and self-guided tours of the school.

SOURCES: “Promises Kept” by Janis Quinn