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Interview with Lillian Dixon Newton, January 22, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Lillian Dixon Newton, January 22, 2004
January 22, 2004
This interview with Mrs. Newton spans her training as a nurse at James Walker School of Nursing. The brunt of this interview was looking through her collection of artifacts remaining from the school. This serves as a video catalog of objects with her narrative.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Newton, Lillian Dixon Interviewer: Mims, Luann / Pate, Brenda Date of Interview: 1/22/2004 Series: SENC Health Services Length 60 minutes

Mims: This is an oral history interview for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Special Collections at Randall Library. My name is LuAnn Mims, with me is Brenda Pate. We are talking with Mrs. Lillian Dixon Newton regarding James Walker Memorial Hospital nurses.

Mims: Miss Newton, you graduated from James Walker in what year?


Mims: Where did you come from originally?

Newton: Wilmington.

Mims: You're a Wilmington girl.

Newton: Yes.

Mims: Okay, what made you choose to come to James Walker Hospital?

Newton: Well, back in those days, we didn't have the means to go any other place. I was at home here you see. It's changed a lot. You know we lived in the nursing residence there at the hospital. They furnished your meals. It was not too expensive and so I didn't really have much choice, but I'm very glad I went there because of the experience I received and the reputation of the School of Nursing there.

Mims: And after you graduated how did you spend your career in nursing?

Newton: After I graduated I worked a year in the operating room. Then I went to St. Joseph School of Anesthesiology in Joliet, Illinois. I was accepted at Duke and at Charity Hospital in New Orleans which are very good schools of anesthesia, but this was an accredited school and I had to wait almost a year to get into this school and that's why I went there.

Mims: Did you return to Wilmington?

Newton: No, after I finished anesthesia school, my roommate was from Charlotte, North Carolina. We had been in nurses' training together and while we were there, we were talking about seeing the world, all the places that we would like to go. We wrote to Bermuda and we were told that nurses didn't give anesthesia there that we could come and work as staff nurses if we wanted to. We looked into going to an oil camp in Venezuela and then we became aware of this position that was open at Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii.

So what we did is we applied, we were accepted. Then we had to tell them we didn't have the money to get there. (Laughter) So they were glad to have us come so they paid our way. We went by train to San Francisco and stayed at the Catholic hospital there. The Sisters of St. Francis arranged that for us. Then they paid our way from San Francisco to Honolulu. We went with the understanding that we would stay there for two years, which we did. It gave us an opportunity to sort of be at home there and not a tourist.

Mims: So how long did you stay there?

Newton: Two years.

Mims: And then where did you go?

Newton: I came back home and I worked at James Walker for the summer and then I went to Sampson County Hospital in Clinton and worked a year. I had met my husband in the meantime and I really didn't want to go too far away. My roommate married an engineer with the Arabian American Oil Company and he was afraid that she would be very lonely and he wanted me to come to Saudi Arabia. So he had arranged for me to go to New York and be interviewed. I was and I was accepted there.

Then I thought if my husband said the right word, I just might not go. He wasn't my husband at that time. And so I decided to stay here and get married instead of going. I worked at New Hanover Hospital after I was married. I also freelanced anesthesia in several hospitals, anything within southeastern North Carolina. I worked at the Babies Hospital. I did anesthesia in doctors' offices. I have quite a list of hospitals. Are you interested in all the places I've freelanced?

Mims: Sure.

Newton: Okay, when I was in Hawaii, I freelanced anesthesia at the Japanese hospital, which is Kuakini Hospital in Honolulu, then the mental hospital there. When I came back to the States I worked at Sampson County Hospital for a year. Then I came back home and worked at James Walker and I freelanced at Johnson County, Smithville, Jacksonville, Elizabethtown, Southport, Babies Hospital and I did T&A's in the pediatricians' offices. I go back a long ways you see.

Mims: And all the time you were a dual career because you were a housewife?

Newton: Yes, I was a mother, but that was back in the days when you had a housekeeper to live in and that's when you had ladies to come and do your cleaning. They just didn't do the cleaning you know. They came in the early morning and they stayed and being on call all the time at the hospital, we had four nurse anesthetists at James Walker Hospital so that meant we took 24 call every fourth weekend so I had to have someone living here so it worked out very well for me.

Mims: And now you represent all of James Walker nurses alumni?

Newton: Yes, we still have an active alumni although the last class was in '66. I have pictures I'll show you. Sometimes we have as much as 20 people to come and we're all getting along in years and we do have a homecoming every five years. That'll be coming up in 2005. I think we had about 250 members and guests the last time coming we had in 2000.

Mims: And that's generally here locally?

Newton: Yes.

Mims: And since you are in that position you have got a wide variety of memorabilia that you're going to talk to us about today.

Newton: Yes and this was passed on to me by Daphne Jeffords. Now she was the Assistant Director of Nursing as James Walker was closing and she had collected these things through the years. She had established the James Walker Alumni Scholarship Fund. When she realized she was quite ill, she called me and asked me if she could send those things out here and would I keep them, that someday maybe we could use them. So many of these things had come from her. She had a lot of insight, foresight and aren't we grateful that she did.

Mims: Yes! And you said that when you have these homecomings like for the last one you put together like a little display?

Newton: I did posters for the last homecoming and we put them together according to the years. Everybody enjoyed looking at what you looked like in '42 or '43. When we were discussing 2005 homecoming, they said why didn't I keep these things and I said I thought it was time for us to let somebody have them where they would be in a permanent collection.

Mims: So have many of the other nurses given things to you?

Newton: Oh yes, yes, and they've been very interested in this and that we keep it alive. Our scholarship fund, I also had pictures of some of our recent recipients.

Mims: So this is still going on?

Newton: It's still going on, but you have to realize that your money does not bring in as much as it used to. Right now we only have one recipient. Back when it didn't cost so much to go to nursing school, I noticed… and I have some books on this that you all might be interested in, right now they're at the auditors, Daphne had started a book from the time the scholarship fund was started. Everybody who donated and then she kept a record of everybody who were the recipients. Back in those days you gave them $50 and that would pay for them to go to be a nurse.

Mims: Where is this scholarship received at now?

Newton: Right here, I'm the principal manager of the scholarship fund.

Mims: They're attending what school?

Newton: Oh, we have a variety of schools. We've had several from Cape Fear Community College. They have a very good reputation. I understand that no one has ever failed the state board for nurse's there at the college. I'm on the Nurse Advocate Board at the college [UNCW] and we've had several graduates from there.

Mims: Well, let's look at some of the stuff that you have here.

Newton: All right, why don't we start over here. This is a book that was passed on to me by Daphne and this is a list of all the James Walker graduates and let me see and then the way they did it, of course we didn't have a computer and an easy way of doing things so they'd have to do it by hand, this was only through '61, this book, but I do have an address book that goes through '66, the last ones.

These are pictures and I have not been able to catalog a lot of this. Would you like for me to go through these?

Mims: Yes.

Newton: This was one of the housemothers. That was since my time, I don't remember her name. This is a dietician, Oveta Boyd and she was there for many, many years. We rotated through the dietary department and she was one to instruct us. As an old maid, she got married and went to Hawaii to live and we used to hear from her quite often.

Mims: Now this was in the day where nurses had to know dietary, why?

Newton: Well, we were responsible for setting up the patients' tray and seeing to their dietary needs, but we only had one dietician for the entire hospital so she depended on us as student nurses to see that the patients had good nutrition and it was a learning experience for us also.

Behind the old hospital on the side, this is the newer part of the hospital that was the tennis court for the students. This was the blood bank and this was one of our supervisors, Miss Russ, and at one point the James Walker students, you see them in student uniform, they were in the Azalea Festival Parade. I might be able to identify some of these, I don't know.

These are the steps of the nurses' residence and this is a senior student. You can tell by the band. Now these caps are on display in the historical exhibit at the hospital [NHRMC]. This is what the rooms looked like. They were very small and you received two towels a week whether you needed them or not. You changed your bed linens every other week.

Mims: It appears to be a single room. You didn't have to share a room?

Newton: No, we had one room that was shared, one double room. Most of us had the single rooms. Of course back in those days things were very strict. That was your life living at the hospital. You were supposed to be in study hall if you were not working from 7 to 9 and that meant you were in your room. You were not out in the hall talking or anything. Now you were allowed to stay out on Wednesday until 9:00. On Saturday night, we had to sign in and sign out to the nurses' residence so they would know we are, on Saturday night, I think we could stay ‘til 10:00.

Mims: Who monitored that?

Newton: We had a housemother there and we signed in and out and ladies didn't go out without stockings. So there were certain things that they looked for.

Mims: Was there a parlor where you could have visitors?

Newton: Oh yes, there was a parlor and they would come and take them down to the parlor and then she'd call for us to come down, that we had guests there. I remember at one point I had a date and of course we had no air conditioning. The windows were up and my date was downstairs and I looked out the window and I yelled, "I'll be right down" and I was restricted for that because ladies do not yell out the window. I learned a lot while I was there.

This is the parlor in the nurse's residence and you can see the senior band here, the narrow band was the junior band. That looks like it must have been decorated for Christmas. This is the float again. These are some classes. You see when we went to class, we had to be and this was back in the 40's, we had to be in uniform, we could not go dressed like this.

This is Lynn Sidbury Chamblee. I can see her, I don't remember what the year is, but we could certainly look that up.

Mims: So when you attended classes, you had to be in uniform, in nurse's uniform? Why did they change the rules do you think?

Newton: Well, things changed a little bit. They were allowed to be married as things came about and they did not live in the nurses' residence as now you know, they don't have a residence, but then they have to maintain themselves. This is a student nurse that worked in the nursery. These are the supervisors at the hospital, some of them I can identify, some I can't. Here's Irene Privett, I remember her very well.

All right we had the Cadet Corps come in, in the 40's. The Cadet Corps was something that it was kind of a branch of the military and they did give funds to some of these student nurses. You can see that they had uniforms. They were required to go to meetings and if there was a need once they graduated for them to be called for the military, they could be called up. Several of these were in my class. My family did not want me to be in the military. I'm sorry they didn't cause I've had friends who had been in the military and done very well for themselves.

This is one of the rooms. You can see the window up here because they had no air conditioning and we didn't really mind it back in those days. This is one of the nurses in the pediatric department. You know that must have been a few years ago, not as far back as I go because there's a television. We used to have these teas, I'm not sure where this is, but when we had a teacher, if we went out someplace we had to wear hats and stockings and heels.

We had a routine. We had to be downstairs which was kind of a rec room downstairs. We had to be down there at 6:00 in the morning if we were going on duty at 7:00. That meant we had a vesper services, we usually sang a song and had a devotional and everybody as they stood in a circle like this, the length of their skirt had to be the same. You wore regulation shoes, which was a Vitality shoe with a thick heel about like this.

My class was the first class to wear white stockings. So when I was there, those who had come a year before me wore the black stockings until they had worn them out you see. As we came upstairs, the Director of Nurses stood there. In your hand you had your scissors, your fountain pen and what else, I don't remember, whatever else you would need for the day. If you didn't have it in hand, you had to go back upstairs and get it. You did not go back on duty without these supplies. Later on I'm told that they had a thermometer that they had to show that they had.

Mims: Did you have pockets in your aprons at all?

Newton: No, there was a pocket up here in your uniform. I think there's a student uniform, I can get one, on display at the hospital. It was at one time a striped uniform for the James Walker graduate. For the community graduate it was a blue uniform with a white uniform and the apron was a wrap-around thing and in the back, that was where we stuck our scissors. There were two buttons back there, you'd stick your scissors back there and then you could always keep up with them, you see?

Mims: What color was the stripe on the James Walker?

Newton: It was a blue and white chambray stripe.

Mims: And Community was solid blue.

Newton: Yes. That was on display at the hospital. Whether it still is, Janet [Seapker] changes those things from time to time. This is the basement of the nurses' home where we had our classes.

Mims: That lady looks like she's in a uniform?

Newton: Yes, she does! Now this girl graduated in '45. That's Frances Potts. But I don't remember someone coming in uniform to teach us. This might have been through the Cadet Corps that they sent someone you see. You notice we're kind of getting away from things here. This person has their street clothes here so things do change.

Mims: Now nurses don't wear their caps, they’re in scrubs.

Newton: Right you can't tell who the R.N. are and who the C.N.A. is. We had a piano in the parlor in the nurses' home and this shows some fellowship and fun and somebody who could carry a tune.

Mims: I heard about a Glee Club.

Newton: Yes, they had a Glee Club and then they had another, maybe it will come to me. This is the student cap. Back in my day after you had completed six months satisfactorily, you received a plain white cap and you were known as a freshman student. The cap used to signify how long you had been in training and what you were qualified to do.

After the end of the first year and you were into your junior year if you had satisfactorily completed everything, there was a narrow band and then when you got way up high there as a senior and you were on your way out, there was a wide band. And back in that day when you were at the nurses' station and charting and of course you did everything by hand which is a little bit different today with the palm pilots and things that they have. I saw that at the nurse advocate meeting the other night and I was very interested in all of that.

Mims: Tell me about the material of that hat. What was it made out of?

Newton: It was just a cotton fabric and our graduate cap …and I have some pictures of that was white linen, it was hemstitched around the edge and what you had to do is press it out flat and then you would fold it. This is the material, this is a cap that goes back and I have a picture of this that goes back to 1904. I was trying to see if I knew how to fold it, but I have some pictures and that will show you. You see this is just a plain cotton fabric.

This is one of the first caps that the graduates were and I have pictures of this. I think this goes back in 1904. As we go through these pictures you Wilmington see some of these.

Mims: What made the cap so stiff because that one doesn't look like it would sit on the head very well.

Newton: Starch, no… but I'll show you the picture of how it did. I tried to fold this. It sort of came around like this you know. Perhaps I haven't folded this like I mean. I'm sure some of the girls my age in the alumni you should know how to do this.

Parnell: Because of the caps, did that somehow dictate your hairstyle?

Newton: You didn't dare have your hair down on your color. We had white stiff collars and you sent the collars and the cuffs and the aprons to the laundry. You were committed to send two a week I think it was. It seems to me we could wash the chambray uniforms, so no your hair was never allowed to be down on your collar. You had to wear a hairnet to keep it up.

Parnell: And did they supply the uniforms?

Newton: That was all what you paid in the $50 to go to nursing. I think they buy their own uniforms now, they pay their own uniforms now, they have their liability insurance, which we never had liability insurance. The people were not so cognizant of being able to do back in those days. In being in anesthesia, I can refer to that they used to say if somebody died under anesthesia, “they just couldn't take the gas,” you know, now you have to find out why he couldn't survive the anesthesia.

This is another book that Daphne had passed on to me of the graduates and you can see as they change the addresses, they did this by…I have not catalogued these; they are just a lot of newspaper prints. This is a record of the meetings and this one starts in '56. This is the Alumni Association meetings that you all might want to look at. I also have a history over of the formation.

Mims: Who were some of the people that decided to begin an alumni association?

Newton: Miss Beadie Britt. She graduated in 1925 [1929], I think it is. She was always very active in the Alumni Association. She encouraged us as senior students to go to these meetings and we used to meet in the homes or in the nurses' residence in the parlor and she was very active. I have some names over there. Walk over here now and let me show you this history.

This is a history of the school of nursing.

Mims: Is this the one that Dr. Fales did or did somebody else do this?

Newton: No, this one was done long before that. I don't know who did this. It was just somebody I'm sure that was interested in it. This is it in the early months of 1923, the desire for the formation of the Alumni Association. The charter members, Lillian George, class of 1915, Mattie McCullen 1911, Evelyn Armstrong 1914, Lossie Cotchett, class of 1918.

Now Miss Cotchett, she married a Lynch, she went out to Texas and worked out there for a while and she came back here to retire and I had the pleasure of knowing her, class of 1914. She was very active when I was a student nurse. She's the one … she worked as a public health nurse. They made like $40 a month and one year we decided that Miss [Georgia] Ezell had been retired for such a long time and we tried to help with some of the graduates too that needed it on special occasions so we decided we would give her a check and it was really not a lot. Some of the girls said went to take it with her and she said, "My dears I have learned to live on what I really need and would you give it to someone who really needs it.”

When she died, she had left some money to the School of Nursing at the College [Wilmington] and the front foyer of Hoggard Hall was refurbished by her with oriental carpeting and there was an old picture of James Walker, I think, it was that was in the lobby of the new part of James Walker Hospital that was in the foyer. The picture had become damaged. Dr. Rosenkoetter called the Alumni Association, asked us to comment on that and that we might want to restore that picture. And I can remember it just as you walked into the extension which was the new part in those days, I can remember seeing this picture over there to the right. We had it restored and we have it at Cape Fear Museum

Other people, Augusta Futch, 1918, May Houston 1907, Pearl Nixon '07, Gertrude Petteway '08, Lois Toomer '08 and Mattie Cutchin [1918]. There's some really notable people, Mrs. Will Rehder, most people know that Will Rehder is a florist around here. She was one of our graduates many years ago. This has the offices, the first offices of the association and it was organized April 11, 1923 and reorganized in 1928. I guess they were getting up with the times in 1928. I guess they were getting up with the times in 1928. So you can see how we changed in 2000.

Miss Lois Toomer class of 1908. First vice-president was Florence Caldwell, class of 1903, I think she was one of the first graduates and she did not pursue nursing, she later went into x-ray as an x-ray technician and when I came back to James Walker to work, she was an x-ray technician. We would go down there to do cases in x-ray.

Mims: I want to think that Dr. Fales tells us a story of a Dr. Caldwell.

Newton: That's her husband.

Mims: That brought the x-ray in and unfortunately drowned on the Cape Fear River. That's what I thought.

Newton: Right. Second Vice-President, Helen Houston Armstrong, 1910, May Houston was the Recording Secretary 1907, Jesse Stuart that's Mrs. Will Rehder, she was the correspondence secretary in 1904, Mattie McCullen was the treasurer, 1911, and then we had Lena Forest Allen 1911 and Mollie Holton Boney, class of 1913 as director. There's a lot of information in there and it's very interesting.

Here's another history of the Alumni Association that I read it years ago. Its something on the School of Nursing and how things have changed. And you will notice look at some of these. The teachers in the School of Nursing were not degrees people. It was considered if you were an RN then you were qualified to teach the students, but that changed as time went on. I think it was Miss Paneel and I have a picture of her, when that was I my day and we thought, "Boy, she's kind of hoity-toity because she's got a degree.”

This the Alumni Association and let's see if we've got…. we used to send out a newsletter. I don't know why we didn't put dates on these. I guess if we knew we'd be coming to this, we might have. There are a lot of these that you might be interested in.

Mims: Once you graduated what was the process to obtain your state license?

Newton: You would apply and you went to Raleigh and took an exam to show that you knew enough about it to be licensed in the state of North Carolina.

Mims: Was this just a written exam?

Newton: It was a written exam if I remember.

Mims: No practical skills?

Newton: No practical skills. That was supposed to be done by your supervisor; you were not supposed to even get there if you didn't. Do they have the practical skills today in the exams? Now my qualifying exam as a nurse anesthetist as I was in Honolulu in '48 so I've been a certified registered nurse. Being certified came a little bit later when they decided that anesthesia was changing so rapidly that we needed to be recertified every two years to how that we had kept up with the progress in anesthesia and the latest techniques and whatnot.

Mims: Well, for somebody who doesn't know what the job entails can you give us a brief idea of what it is like?

Newton: What the R.N?

Mims: The nurse anesthetist.

Newton: When I went to anesthesia school in 1948 we were using such gases as ethylene and cyclopropene. That was the days before the days that they were using the carter, the Bovey units in the operating room. Cyclopropene and ethylene got very explosive gases so you had to be as technology went forward and they found out rather than tying off the bleeders how they could just zap it with a curette and it would cause homeostasis. Then the doctors wanted to move as rapidly as they could so we had to find another agent rather than these explosive agents.

When I came back in 1951 to James Walker we were still using cyclopropane and that's when we used to put the patients down with oxygen, gas and ether which is not a very pleasant way to go to sleep and I had worked in OB/GYN Hospital for two years over in Hawaii and we had used the explosive agents over there so some of the doctors came to me and asked if I would help teach how to use the cyclopropene but that's passé now you know. Not only are you using the EKG monitors but there are many other technologies used in the operating room.

Mims: So what were you responsible for? What exactly did you do in the operating room?

Newton: As a nurse anesthetist, and we did not do pre-op visits back in those days, what we would do is the doctor would do the history and the physical. You would look on the chart and try to evaluate the patient as far as an anesthetic risk. You would check if the patient had been NPO, had nothing by mouth, it's not safe to put anybody asleep. If they've had something to eat, better to use a spinal or one of the agents.

The doctor would go out and scrub. At most hospitals they had scrub rooms in between the two operating rooms with big windows so the doctor could see the progress you were making in putting the patient to sleep. So you would go on in putting the patient to sleep. So you would go on and put the patient to sleep and as you got the patient to where you thought the patient was in the proper plane of anesthesia, then you would tell the circulating nurse you can go on and prepare the patient.

If it was abdominal surgery, you would have to scrub up the abdomen and scrub up the field whether it be the hand or leg or whatever it is. So you would render the patient to a sufficient plane of anesthesia. Then as the case is closing, as the doctor is finishing up the operation, he would tell you. You were responsible for your record, what the surgery was.

You would have to get the pre-op diagnosis before the doctor started the case. It was our responsibility back in those days if it were a right hernia or a right kidney then you would ask the patient. You would get that information and write it on the chart so there would be no mistake, you know take out the left kidney when it was the right. Then you released your patient to the recovery room. I can remember when I was a student nurse we did not have a recovery room and we'd bring these patients who had had ether back to the floor and we as student nurses would sit with these patients sometimes for hours at a time.

So we've come along way that we have a unit that has the expertise to take care of surgical patients and they would keep the patients in the recovery room until they met a certain criteria which had been set up in the recovery room and if there was any question about this criteria, they would call somebody from anesthesia to evaluate the patient and see what we thought and if we felt like the patient should be kept a little bit longer, well they were willing to do that.

Mims: What year did you retire?

Newton: I retired in 1986.

Mims: So you saw some changes.

Newton: I saw a lot of changes and see I volunteer over in the surgical waiting room at Cape Fear Hospital and I'm on the outside looking instead of on the inside looking out now. But I've really learned a lot by being there because surgery has changed so much. See the laparoscopic surgery, where they used to make big long incisions, now they make just a little buttonhole incision.

To do an appendectomy many times they used to do a right McBurney incision. It was quite long so they could be sure that…and the relaxation of the patient is not what it is today. And now my nephew had an appendectomy and they did three little buttonholes and then one little tiny incision you see. This leads to a quicker recovery and when you had an abdominal incision, you stayed in bed for 10 days. You don't do that know. You get up walking. They found out this is what you need to do, to move around.

Mims: So where do we go from here?

Newton: I've spoken to you about the scholarship fund that we have. I have some pictures here. When you give a certain amount of money to Cape Fear Community College well then you go into the Order of the Cape Fear and this was the year the financial picture was better and we had given, I don't remember how much, $5000, I think, and this is picture of all the scholarship funds, the managers of all the scholarship funds. There I am right in the middle of everything.

This is a young lady who worked in a doctor's office. She had a daughter in college and most of these people that go to Cape Fear Community College, they've had a first career and they've always wanted to be a nurse. She works in a doctor's office and she always had wanted to be a nurse so we had sponsored her. This is another picture. This is the night they had had the sponsor and recipient banquet. Here she is here.

We always thought in our scholarship fund that everybody ought to be able to pass these courses or else we wouldn't support them. This girl called me up and she kept in touch and she tried to work to. A lot of these people tried to work while they were going and that's a hard thing to do while they were going to nursing school. She called me up and told me and said, “I hate to call you and tell you this, but I have failed pharmacology.” And I said I was really sorry to hear that, and what did she intend to do about it? She said she was determined to be a nurse. So we talked about it and we decided we would go on and support her, which we did. Having a home to take care of, a child, a daughter in college you know, we really felt very sorry for her so we did support her. She went on and passed it and she noted that at the recipient of scholarship dinner that they had and said what it had meant to her that she was able to finish.

This is our alumni group. We support Hospitality House even though we're moving along in longevity. We go at Christmas time and take a covered dish and invite anybody who's a guest in the house there to keep with us. This is Miss Bertha Meier right here. We did have associate members, those who graduated from schools away from here. This is Rebecca Burr, she was an associate member.

Mims: I've heard her name before.

Newton: She was a public health nurse and she graduated in Charlotte I think it was. This is at the same one with pictures I think we made. Okay this girl works at New Hanover Memorial Hospital. She was one of our recipients, Gabby Pike. I don't remember these two names but this was another banquet that they had that works in the doctor's office. That's just a few of the things that our Alumni Association has done.

As to our scholarship fund, this was in 2000 and we had just sort of written up a short thing, a synopsis of what the scholarship fund had done and the people that represented it to begin with. Fourteen hundred women have been assisted through the scholarship fund whether it be through books, fees, tuition according to their specific needs. As I told you when you used to go to school, $50 would get you started and then you'd have to buy your books along and that sort of thing.

Scholarship payments have been given to the following schools and this was through December '99, Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington College, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington, East Carolina, Fayetteville, Tech, so it doesn't have to be right here although we'd like for them to come back to this area and work. This is some information on that.

These are some papers that Daphne had set up when the hospital was getting ready to close, the necessary papers to go toward the scholarship fund. I have the book that I told you about that has from the beginning the donations as well as up to present each recipient that we had.

Mims: Well I know that there was a critical shortage of nurses at this time. Has that always been the case?

Newton: When I graduated, you got paid $50 a month. That was a long time ago. They sort of cautioned you, you needed to be an example or we're not going to hire you.

They really did not have a shortage at that time because if you didn't get your work done, you just stayed on duty and you didn't get paid overtime. You were just there to do the job, not to work by the hour. And I can remember as nurse anesthetists, we got paid a flat amount per month no matter how much call we took. That's not the way it is now, but things have changed quite a bit. You look at how things have expanded over at New Hanover.

You know they've got to have somebody on call over at the heart team, somebody for the trauma team, somebody for any emergency that might come in and they're running about two or three operating rooms from 3 to 11 when we closed down at 3:00, then you did emergencies. Now they have scheduled patients at 8 and 9 at night.

So to get back to your question about the shortage of nurses, they had to change things. People were not going to into nursing and spend their life in the hospital and have no family life. You know, things had changed and not only that it was more the degree nurses were doing the paperwork and when the CNA’s came along, certified nurses assistants, they were doing much of the patient care with the RN doing the supervision.

Many times there would be one RN supervisor over several units. This didn't lend itself to very good supervision and they found out when the critical care units came in that sometimes they had to have nurses on a one to one basis for a patient. You were not able to have six or eight patients as you used to. Now you might talk to someone today because I understand they say they have a critical shortage, but then all of a sudden a few years back anybody who were at the top of the scale financially that they had to go because they could bring in younger people.

This made a critical shortage at that time. They had to rehire some of these people, but they rehired them at a lesser amount because they didn't have the longevity. They had a five-year period at the hospital that you were evaluated every year and there was a certain scale according to your evaluation what your pay raise would be. I'm not quite sure what it is today. And of course it's quite different than in my day.

These are the alumni papers, the first people that were involved in setting up the scholarship fund and this is a letter that Daphne Jeffords sent out asking for donations, you know, anybody what was interested in perpetuating this. Mrs. Kidder was one of the first ones and these are other things. These are the officers at the time who had to sign the papers and then Mr. Holland who was as long as I can remember was on the board at the hospital, he was very instrumental in helping with this. That's just some letters in reference to this. This is a homecoming that we had.

I have a copy of the original trust fund for the scholarship and have made a copy of that if you're interested.

Mims: Let me ask you, you asked about critical units, what time frame did that come into play?

Newton: When we were at James Walker, we had a special unit that was supposed to be for the critical care patients. You've got to realize that we didn't keep a lot of critical care patients back in that day. They'd send them to teaching institutions like Duke and UNC. I can remember that unit but it was only like or 10 beds and now they have a Critical Care Unit for so many different things. Heart patients. They need special monitoring. I don't think we have a burn unit here, but we do have an oncology unit. These patients of today, you better ask somebody of today what critical care patients they have because they really expanded to provide the care that's needed by this patients who are trained…

Mims: That's what I wanted to hear, what you thought

Mims: Well, let me ask you this, did you know any of the Community nursing students?

Newton: Oh, put that on the list, I worked at Community Hospital.

[Subject asked for a break in tape]

Mims: So Community nurses came over to James Walker to work?

Newton: Yeah at the point they went to integrate the staff of nurses but they only went to work in the colored ward, which was a separate unit out behind, and I have a sketch of James Walker and how the buildings are. We had a colored emergency room and we had a white emergency room and out the colored emergency room just across the driveway from the white emergency room, that's where the colored emergency room was and they did deliveries and everything over in the colored ward.

But this was closed down I believe shortly before we left James Walker. And of course everything was integrated when we came into New Hanover.

Mims: But you could come into Community Hospital to work?

Newton: Yes, we would do anesthesia over there. I got to know quite a few of the doctors. Of course they were not on staff at New Hanover.

Mims: Can you name some of the doctors you worked with?

Newton: Yes, Dr. Upperman, Dr. Wheeler, Dr. Eaton, Dr. Roane, anyway when we had the opening of the new corridor we had gotten two people, Miss Widde and I've forgotten the other one involved in helping with this and they finally found a uniform, but they didn't have someone that someone would loan that you know they might have done away with them. So they had one made. Janet Seapker had one made about the version that they gave her.

So on Community's side as you come into the front of the hospital, they had a table over there with things from Community. On this side over there we had a table with things from James Walker. I went over to look t their table. They had pictures of their doctors and I said, "Well, where is Dr. Wheeler's picture, I don't see it here?" And they said his wife didn't wish for him to be recognized. So that's what that was all about

Mims: Who were some of the doctors you worked with at James Walker Hospital? We didn't talk about them?

Newton: Long time ago when I was a student in surgery, there was a Dr. Jim Robertson, Dr. Donald Koonce and Dr. George Johnston. Dr. Johnston was OB/GYN. Dr. Koonce was surgery. Dr. Robertson was surgery. Dr. Joe Hooper, his son Joe Hooper came back her in Neurology. He's passed away now. They were sort of at the top of the top of the heap. We had Dr. McEachern. See these doctors also taught the nurse anesthetists, these taught us physiology and pharmacology and things that we needed as student nurses so we could be qualified for the state board exam.

Mims: But working with some of these older doctors, what did you learn about the history of this area as far as medicine was concerned?

Newton: I considered Dr. Koonce and Dr. Robertson and Dr. McEachern, they did what needed to be done. Dr. Charles Graham was another one. If we didn't have a neurosurgeon, if somebody needed burr holes because the pressure on the brain, they did these things and the patients as far as we knew seemed to be doing all right with those things. See we didn't have the helicopter and so we didn't think the patient would make it to Chapel Hill or to Duke or to one of these teaching institutions.

Orthopedic surgery, I have done many cases for Dr. Jim Robertson and I was not unhappy with it back in those days. Dr. R. Bryant Hare, he was a urologist, he was the only one we had here and I didn't think there was anything wrong with his practice either. So we learned to have faith in our doctors.

And see we didn't have an anesthesiologist back in those days. You were by yourself and as a woman you might as well realize by yourself many times you weren't as strong as a man. If there was a problem intubating a patient, many times, the doctors and that's why they were looking in there, they were responsible for the anesthesia, they were responsible and many times they would come in and help us intubate the patients.

Dr. Carl Black was another. He was ENT and he did the bronchoscopes back in that day when I went to free lance anesthesia out of town many times I would ride with the doctors because the hospitals didn't want to pay you transportation you know to go to these places. Finally, it got so they paid your transportation if you needed to come and stay awhile, but I would go with Dr. Black to Kenansville and to Burgaw. I didn't put Pender Memorial Hospital on there, I worked there too.

Mims: Did any of these older doctors ever talk about like I heard about the chloroform men in town? He would work with one of the bone doctors and he would go and set the legs. Did you ever hear about him go and set the legs?

Newton: I would see chloroform used. We have an old mask on display at the hospital like we used to use that we would use to use that you would spray chloroform. There's another doctor, a white doctor, Dr. Mebane and he's the one and he and Dr. Sinclair started Cape Fear Hospital. They had a black resident over at Community Hospital and Dr. Mebane would also come in and advise him and scrub with him and that sort of thing. Where were we?

Mims: Oh I'm sorry. We got off on the chloroform.

Newton: Oh ok. What you would do with the chloroform. It was kind of this spray kind of thing and you would hold it up over patient's nose like this and spray it like this and it was quick and very pleasant for them to take and this was good if you had a Colliers fracture here because you could snap it back in place real quick and the patient wouldn't mind it all you see.

So and then came Vinathene that you would put on the mask as you would put the child or the adult asleep. I've given many drops the anesthesia for an adult. I don’t think I would want to do it today because there are many more pleasant ways to go to sleep and everything. Chloroform, Vinathene, ether and I remember when we were doing drop ether for the T&A's for the tonsils, and you insufflated and they did a history of anesthesia and we were able to find an old insufflations and an ether hook…

Mims: I'm not familiar with those at all…

Newton: Ok, when you get the child to sleep with the Vinathene and the ether so you did not intubate the child back in this day. You do now because once you intubate the child you have control of the airway but we were not that far along in technology back in those days. It was considered a major thing to intubate the patient but it is not today. They teach the EMS people to do intubations if they go out into the field you see. They are very well trained in that because they have come to our church to speak to us before.

To get back to the insufflations, once you head the child asleep, you got out of the doctor's way, there was a mouth gag you put in and you put the ether insufflations in one side, oxygen in the other and then you sort of adjusted it and it would bubble through and keep the child asleep and of course once they removed one tonsil there might be a little bleeding down there and they'd put the suction down there and the nurse anesthetist supposedly would get the suction supposedly would get the patient down a little bit deeper and everything.

Dr. David Sloan was one that I've done many tonsils for this is the way he preferred it done and they had their own little set of guidelines to go back as far as anesthesia goes if the patient is kind of swallowing a little bit, you know that the anesthesia isn't too deep, that it's on the right plane, but he did, I must say he got pretty good about it. When I was going to the Babies Hospital, well we got so we would intubate, that's when nitrous oxide came in, that was a gas that was real quick and you could get the patients down. I've done Dr. Koseruba in his office, I did T&A's and he had a gas machine so we got really uptown for that time and everything I guess I'm very fortunate or realized that I was in trouble. I know I never lost one of these patients.

But you've got the doctor back in that day right there with you. Today with upgrading and everything the surgeons know very little about anesthesia. They depend on the anesthesiologists or the nurse anesthesiologists.

Mims: When did the monitoring machines come in?

Newton: When we were at James Walker, I had been to an anesthesia meeting and they were talking about these EKG monitors. We were using explosive gases and they had to be on a 5' level because the gas was supposed to be down here and if you were using electricity up here but it didn't say you had the leads up here and you didn't have the transistors that you had today. This was a hardwire to the patient. And we had one and I suggested, by that time we had an anesthesiologist that had come in.

Mims: Who was that?

Newton: Dr. Jim Robinson. He was our first anesthesiologist. We stood it in the corner. We didn't use it. It was just too much trouble to bother with it. You didn't use the EKG, but about this time the stethoscopes that you would put right here to listen to the heart beat came in and we'd each have an earpiece so we could listen to the heartbeat. We didn't have the automatic blood pressure cuffs that you have today. So you spent your life pumping up that blood pressure cuff and you've got to take this thing out of your ear and put the stethoscope in your ear and we finally wised up and put a stop clock on it so that we could listen to the blood pressure as well as time went on.

Mims: So the training did you have to go for this advanced training or did you just pick it up.

Newton: That's where recertification of nursing anesthetist came in. When we moved to New Hanover we had to have a procedure book and you had to keep a book of why you hired people and a record of the references. And for a while it was not necessary for a nurse anesthetist, and I'd been working on the history of nurse anesthesia in North Carolina and I was trying to recall the days that we didn't have to have to have liability insurance, we didn't have to be a registered nurse in North Carolina. But now you do.

So once these new things came out, you set up a procedure, you had classes in it in continuing education. If you were going to do something that was new, you had to be supervised by someone. You had to do so many cases and it had to be logged into your records into your folder with all of your qualifications that you had successfully completed this. We started to do A-lines at New Hanover and for a while, as the newer doctors came in, they thought that was a good way to monitor the patients.

I was lucky to have someone from Duke and she had built a house over here at Figure Eight. She was very accomplished in setting up procedures and writing them up and she helped a lot with this. I had people in my department who said I'm not going to do those. I haven't been trained. And I said, I'll tell you what, then you will get no more raises in pay and you will not be on the call list, you'll just do the cases when these are not needed.

We finally got around to where everybody was certified or they quit over it. I'm not quite sure how we did that. You have to show that your people are up to date on all these procedures that they're using.

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