From Starched Aprons to Surgical Scrubs

July 28, 2009

Contact:Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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WACO, Texas -- A century ago, nurses wore blue-and-white striped dresses and starched aprons. Their duties often included cooking for patients as well as caring for them -- and nurses gave up nursing if they married.

These days, nurses wear scrubs, train on simulator "patients" and have careers which may include military duty. Their ranks -- unlike in the early days -- include men. And marriage doesn't come between nurses and their desire to serve.

Through all those changes, Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas has helped prepare students to serve. Its history is captured in a new exhibit at Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex in Waco.

Celebrating a Century of Service, a 1,000-square-foot exhibit, will open with a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting Aug. 17 and will run through April 18, 2010, in the History of Baylor University Exhibit at the Mayborn. The Baylor exhibit hall was made possible through a donation by Marie and John Houser Chiles during the capital campaign for the Mayborn Museum. They are members of the nursing school's Dean's Board.

More than 200 items, from yesteryear's wool nursing capes and apothecary bottles to modern scrubs and a hospital bed, will be on display, said Ann Garrett, coordinator of exhibits at the Mayborn.

"One of the things that is so exciting is that we've collected these items from alums or the families of alums," said Dr. Judy Wright Lott, the nursing school's dean.

"They don't just say, 'Here. You can have this uniform.' They tell you either about their own experience or those of the family members," Lott said. "They're so proud, either of their careers or those of the family members."

The school's contributions to the military and missions are highlighted in the exhibit.

One individual who helped obtain items for the exhibit is Jac Harding of San Antonio, whose mother, the late Earlyn Marie "Blackie" Black Harding, was a 1938 graduate. She enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps and volunteered for duty in the Philippines before the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese began bombing the Philippines, the nurses set a hospital in the Malinta Tunnel.

Harding's mother was one of 66 nurses who were held as prisoners of war for three years after Corregidor, an island in the Philippines, surrendered to the Japanese.

"It's important the word gets out to the younger generation," said Harding, who arranged the loan of wartime nurse uniforms from the So Proudly We Hailed Museum in Kerrville, Texas.
"My mother would have approved of this exhibit."

The school's Christian mission is reflected in well-worn Bibles and mementos from mission stints, among them woven baskets and wooden drums.

Today, the school has more than 300 students and more than 70 full- and part-time faculty members and staff. More than 4,000 students have graduated, many of whom have participated in mission work, school officials said.

Through photographs, news articles and videos, the exhibit traces the nursing school's origins, growth and future.

The school, which began as a nurses' training school for the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium, opened in 1909. It provided students as the sole nursing staff for the sanitarium, which was chartered in 1903 and is now the Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

The school was renamed the Baylor Hospital School of Nursing in 1921 and became the Baylor University School of Nursing in 1936, shifting in 1950 from hospital-based training to university-based instruction.

In 2000, its named was changed to the Louise Herrington School of Nursing in honor of Louise Herrington Ornelas of Tyler, who gave a $13 million endowment to the school. All faculty members are registered nurses.

In the early days, students' classes and hospital work often made for 12-hour days, said Dr. Linda F. Garner, professor of nursing at Louise Herrington School of Nursing. After graduation, they went on to private duty. But that changed with the Depression, when many people could no longer afford to hire them. Nurses found jobs in hospitals in return for room and board, she said. During World War II, many went off to war.

The changing times are reflected in the exhibit, from striped uniforms to World War II uniforms to modern scrubs -- including camouflage ones such as those worn by nurses in Iraq and Afghanistan, museum staffers said.

Vintage nursing tools include glass syringes, ceramic oil lamps, medicine spoons, mercury thermometers and a red-letter sign warning, "SCARLET FEVER. CONTAGIOUS. KEEP OUT."

Items reflecting modern nursing education include mock-ups of hospital settings. A visual display will show simulator "patients" are used to train students. Software allows instructors to control realistic functions as pulse and breathing to prepare students for real-life situations.

"We want to honor and celebrate the alumni of the first 100 years, but we also want people to get excited about what the school will be doing for the next 100 years," Lott said.

Admission to the Mayborn Museum is $6 for adults; $5 for senior citizens; and $4 for children. The Celebrating a Century of Service exhibit is included at no additional cost. Other museum exhibits include forest and cave dioramas and a replica of the Waco excavation site of skeletons of Columbian mammoths.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 am to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is at 1300 S. University Parks Drive in Waco.