Sylacauga Hospital School of Nursing – Remembrances of Sylacauga by Ginger Clifton
The very first yearbook for the Sylacauga Hospital School of Nursing was the 1960 edition of the Stat and Prn which Mrs. Phyllis Cooper was kind enough to share with me. Last week I shared with you about the 1961 edition, so go backward with me one year as today we look at that 1960 edition.
Along with this first book Phyllis has an original pamphlet that gives us some historical information about this school. One class was admitted annually to this fully accredited school by the State Board of Nursing. Candidates needed 4 units of English, 2 Science units, and 2 mathematics units; they needed to be physically and mentally in good health, and check their purposes for desiring this training. Liking people, having a sense of humor, and possessing integrity and reliability were desirable character traits for potential nurses.
Not only did the nursing school have a beautiful building with classrooms and dorm, but also benefitted from its affiliation with the 100 bed Sylacauga Hospital which offered the students clinical experience and possible jobs upon completion of their studies. Students had a 40 hour work week including classes, and a good health program that included generous sick leave and holidays. Tuition the first year was $250, and the second and third years were $125 each plus books, hospital insurance, and student activities. A limited number of loans were available. What a bargain for an excellent education, but that amount of money was hard to come by in that day. As I recall, my salary was $165 a month, but like these nurses I had excellent insurance and health care.
In addition to basic science classes taught by instructors from the University of Alabama Birmingham, for college credit, there were nursing courses taught by the faculty and doctors. As in university schools of nursing, there were affiliations with facilities in the state to complete pediatric nursing (3 months), tuberculosis nursing (1 month), and psychiatric nursing (3months). These experiences gave nurses familiarity with Children’s Hospital, Bryce’s Hospital in Tuscaloosa, and the Jefferson County Tuberculosis Hospital . The clinical experiences that the students had under the supervision of local instructors, and the special medical conferences held here were bonuses. Experience working with good nurses and doctors supervising was the crowning selling-point for this school, experience in obstetrics, surgery, and medical fields. My remembrance of working at the hospital during this period was that these student nurses were held to a high standard of dress and behavior. All nurses at that time wore uniforms, and RN’s and LPN’s who worked on the floors wore caps that indicated where they had received their training. Getting that cap was a goal for these students.
Living with a view of the field across from the hospital, I was aware that the nurses played softball and volleyball on occasion; but now I know that had inside recreational opportunities and places to gather for basketball, ping pong, meetings, or fun. The community welcomed student nurses in civic activities, and churches provided venues for ceremonial events when students received their caps and participated in taking the Florence Nightingale Oath of Nursing.
These yearbooks speak to us of the planning that went into this school. There was a Student Council, an Annual Staff, Feature pages that included Miss Sylacauga Hospital School of Nursing, a Valentine Sweetheart, Class Favorites, and Who’s Who. There is even a Last Will and Testament, A Class History Page, and a Class Prophecy Page. I covered in a previous articles how these diploma schools were closed when junior colleges with nursing programs became an unwanted competition. Yet just this past week we see where CACC is implementing a new training for LPN’s in Talladega. There is now a shortage of nurses.
I was glad to hear from a former contributor to Remembrances, Don Stephens, who had good memories of the great doctors we had living in our community in those days. There are 21 listed in this book. He remembered when he entered Howard College (now Samford) that Dr. Whetstone charged no fee for that physical. He remembered Dr. Max Vaughn who delivered his first child and charged him no fee because he was unable to afford insurance at the time. I remember when Dr. Vaughn came to Sylacauga from Goodwater. My grandfather was taken ill while staying at our house, and Dr. Vaughn came by our house to check on him. It was a kinder, gentler time. There were more doctors and nurses who practiced Christianity first and medicine as a sideline. People valued an education and had good work ethics. Insurance companies and government were not as intrusive into patient care allowing doctors to make good patient-care decisions based on their education and expertise. In Sylacauga we have much to be proud of, and we all have a responsibility to support our fine staff at Coosa Valley Medical Center. We can learn from remembering Sylacauga Hospital School of Nursing, and It was not so long ago at that.
With special thanks to Phyllis Crysel Cooper, Joyce Merkel Chambless, Mary Asherbranner, and all the nurses who were trained at Sylacauga Hospital School of Nursing. Thanks as always to Samantha Machen and the staff at B.B. Comer Memorial Library.
Sylacauga School of Nursing Reunion June 14, 2023 1st Row L to R Bobbie Renolds, Katherine Elliott, Mary Culberson, Joyce Chambless, Sheri Atchley, Genell Poe, Annette West, Darlene Mathis, and Phyllis Cooper. 2nd row L to R: Carolyn Garrett, Martha Sherbert, Rita Brown, Carolyn Jackson, Joan Morris, Barbara Johnson, Judy Griffen, Trisha Griffen-Weston, Cindy Crowe, Jane Gilliland, and Edwina Forester. 3rd Row L to R: Camille Foshee, Carol Patterson, Alberta Cook, Linda Wheeler, Martha Vaughn, June Strickland, Jamie Horton, Marilyn Walker, Sid Gambrell, Debra Duncan, Judy Milan, and Delila Prince.