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Interview with Mary Alice Whitfield, July 7, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Mary Alice Whitfield, July 7, 2004
July 7, 2004
This video taped oral history with Mary Alice Whitifled took place at her residence in Wilmington on July 7th, 2004. It was conducted by LuAnn Mims for the Health Services Series. Miss Whitfield was a 1941 graduate of James Walker Hospital School of Nursing. She later attended UNC-CH Public Health Program and obtained her master's degree. Her career led her to the fledgling nursing program at Wilmington College where she was a clinical instructor for twenty years. Her recollections include time at James Walker and the associate degree nursing program at Wilmington College.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Whitfield, Mary Alice Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview: 7/7/2004 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 60

Mims: Today is July 7th, 2004. I am LuAnn Mims with the Randall Library Special Collection Series on Southeastern North Carolina Health Services. Today we are talking with Mary Alice Whitfield who is a 1941 graduate of James Walker Hospital and was also one of the first faculty members at the Wilmington College School of Nursing. How are you doing this morning?

Whitfield: Fine.

Mims: You doing okay?

Whitfield: Yes I’m doing okay.

Mims: Um, just want a little bit of your background to find out where you’re from, where your family was from. Did you grow up in Wilmington?

Whitfield: No, I grew up in Sampson County on a farm about three and a half miles northwest of Clinton. Clinton was my county seat. I graduated from Hall’s High School. I was valedictorian of my class and president of my class, if you could believe that.

Mims: I can.

Whitfield: And what else?

Mims: What kind of work was your father doing?

Whitfield: He was a farmer.

Mims: What kind of crops?

Whitfield: Crops?

Mims: Uh huh.

Whitfield: Well shug, he grew peanuts…acres of peanuts he would sell, cotton and tobacco were the two main money crops…cotton and tobacco. And I certainly did learn how to pick cotton and I learned how to do tobacco and all…all that kind of stuff. Sugar, I worked.

Mims: But you were valedictorian of your high school class?

Whitfield: Yes I was and president of my class. I couldn’t believe it when my classmates said they wanted to elect me president. I just couldn’t believe that they…I said, “well, go ahead, at least you’ll be…do what you want to”.

Mims: Well, how did you come by being interested in nursing?

Whitfield: Well, to tell you the truth, that was about all the money my parents could raise to pay for the admission and the uniforms. And they just didn’t have the money to send me to college. I wanted to go real bad to a university and major in English and Literature. That was my ambition but I never discussed it with anybody. And I had an uncle who…papa’s brother who was an attorney, a lawyer, and I asked papa, “Ask Uncle Pete, see if he can’t help me go to school.” And he talked with him and when he come back he said, “Well, all she’ll do is get married.” And when he was dying, you know who took care of him? Yes. I took care of him.

Mims: This was a time when women were not really thought that they needed to further their education, that their place was in the home.

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: But you all along knew you wanted to do something else?

Whitfield: I…yes I did! I read a lot. I can remember my first day at school. There was this bookcase with these books, and I make a little beeline to get me a book to bring home for mama to read to me. And papa thought I was too book bound. All the way through, he thought I read too much. He thought his daddy read too much. And…I didn’t know grandpa because he passed away before papa ever got married, but I understand he loved books and had a lot of books.

And when he passed away grandma had them to sack up his books, take his books and take ‘em out in the woods and throw them away. And I thought, “Well how…we were children…how we would love to have seen what grandpa read.” And, you know, but she didn’t have…she was Virginia Adeline Lee from…what’s that county up above…Johnston County. And I don’t know how far grandma got in school, I have no idea, because she passed away while I was still really young.

Mims: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

Whitfield: Oh yes, there were eight of us children. I was the oldest of eight and right many of ‘em went to school. Let’s see, Charlotte…she got her master’s degree in Christian Education and Ann went to Kings Business School there in Raleigh and she went…that’s where she met her husband to be. She didn’t pay him much mind and I was working at Rex Hospital, and she was going in ... coming in to Raleigh and her boyfriend came to see me. He wanted to know…he wanted Ann to be his guest at one of the dances over at Chapel Hill because he was a student there. And she turned him down.

And I said, “Well leave it to me and I’ll see what I can do for you.” He wanted to be…he told me how much he thought of her, how he loved…what he…and I thought, “Well, I’ll see what I can do”. And of course I…I got her to go with him. And finally she married him. And they have a place down here a Wrightsville Beach and that’s where they are right now. They’ve been there a month. They live in Charlotte…outskirts of Charlotte; I don’t mean they live in the city.

Mims: What led you to James Walker Hospital? How did you find out about it?

Whitfield: Well, let’s see. There wasn’t but two hospitals close by to me. One was Highsmith in Fayetteville and the other was in Wilmington of course. And I had an aunt that had a real sick…she just loved James Walker and she persuaded me to go to James Walker because they were so good to her when her baby was sick. And I’m glad she did because I worked in Public Health in Fayetteville several years and I was glad I didn’t go…didn’t graduate there. And…is there anything else you want to know?

Mims: Oh sure! So you applied to James Walker and got accepted in here.

Whitfield: Oh yes I did.

Mims: How about the financial end of it?

Whitfield: Oh you know…that…the other place was kindly expensive but James Walker, all it cost my parents was my uniforms and admission fee; I guess you would call it, and that was it. Our nursing was considered…as a student nurse…was considered, I guess, payment, because they took care of our laundry which was wonderful, our uniforms, caps, and…I’ve still got my cap.

Mims: Do you?

Whitfield: Yea, it’s at home.

Mims: I hear a lot of nurses talk about their caps and how special it was to receive those.

Whitfield: Yea.

Mims: Do you remember when you got your cap?

Whitfield: Oh yes. It had…why do they have to think that nurses were…well I don’t know…they thought that downgraded us a little bit I think…those caps did, because maids wore caps. And I didn’t feel that way about it. I didn’t feel that way at all. I was proud of my cap.

Mims: I can imagine so. You got that after about six months or so? And they had a big ceremony.

Whitfield: Yea.

Mims: And then, I know, as you progressed through the school, they gave you different bands?

Whitfield: Oh yes, I forgot about that. A little black band if you were a junior. You were freshmen, then a junior, then a senior, and the seniors little black band was wider than the juniors black band.

Mims: But you liked your hat.

Whitfield: Oh yes.

Mims: What about the training uniform, do you remember it?

Whitfield: Let’s see, yes, it had a…I don’t know what to call it…a vest? It was white. And it buttoned on the back to your…the skirt that you had to wear. And they did all our laundry, I mean, we didn’t have to worry about that. Of course we had…and you couldn’t have your hair down on here, you had to have short hair. And I remember I didn’t have the money on semester or something, to get my hair cut, and it was down on my collar, and that old superintendent of nurses came up on the floor where I was working and got after me about my hair. And I felt like running from her. But I guess I got it cut. I got a classmate to cut it. Well, anyway…

Mims: But they were very particular about the way everybody’s appearance was.

Whitfield: Yes, yes.

Mims: You had to project a very professional look about you. And I understand that there was a lot of talk about how to treat, you know, the doctors with respect and the graduate nurses with respect, and you know, I guess that helped you as you progressed through the school to know where everybody’s position was.

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: Do you remember any of the rotations you had to do when you were a student?

Whitfield: I remember some of the cases I had…we had to write on…you had to turn in a term paper and I remember I wrote on this man that had diabetes. What was your question?

Mims: Just your rotations through the different departments.

Whitfield: Oh yea. This is easy; they started me off in the man’s ward. And I had this little boy, I guess he was about eleven or twelve years old, had gotten burned real bad. Oh Lord have mercy, his arms were in terrible shape. And he was one of my first patients, I remember that. And also I remember that I had an alcoholic that I had to take care of in that group. And then a man was admitted from Southport one night, I was on night duty, and got a call to be ready for him, and he was…had appendicitis. And of course, they had waited ‘till too late to get to the hospital, and I believe he died that night. You remember things like that.

And I remember about helping the doctor with transfusions and helping an intern, apparently he had never done a transfusion and he did it wrong, and I hated to tell him it wasn’t going to work. So I had to call him and tell him it wasn’t working. And when he got back down there I thought “Well you’ll just have to tell him how to do it, and how it’s got to be done.” Which I did, and I wondered…he learned a lot that night. I hope appreciated what I did for him. And it wasn’t long after I graduated and started to work at Rex Hospital that I didn’t call on no doctor to do my transfusions, I started all of my transfusions.

Mims: Well I know at one time the nurses weren’t even taught how to do IV fluids.

Whitfield: That’s right.

Mims: That the doctors did all of those?

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: Right. So that was…that’s something that’s different then from now. So…do you remember a rotation that you didn’t like? A specific department you maybe didn’t like at all?

Whitfield: Well I…we had a section called the Bear Building that was all…all from the…where the commun…what did we…?

Mims: Yea, communicable diseases?

Whitfield: Uh huh.

Mims: Yea.

Whitfield: And also joining that building was the black ward where the blacks were, where they delivered their babies. And I don’t remember but one black patient, male patient, and he had…I believe it was syphilis, I don’t…he was…of course it killed him. But I…I remember how he was broke out all over from the disease. I don’t know why I remember that, but I do.

Mims: He was in the colored annex?

Whitfield: He was in the colored ward.

Mims: Yea, did you…did you ever work…have to work down in that section as a student…in the colored ann…colored ward?

Whitfield: Yea, yea, I worked there in the colored ward as a student. I sure did.

Mims: Well, after you finished all of your classes and everything, do you remember any of the doctors that you worked with at the time, I mean, when you were in training?

Whitfield: I remember Dr. Koseruba. Oh, who else do I, now he was an intern. Oh, you know, when I was first assigned to Labor and Delivery and my experience in the delivery room, there was a girl about sixteen years old, single, delivering a baby. And she cried and carried on so bad, I just couldn’t stand it. I got out of that…ran out of there and left…and here come the intern running after me. He meant I was gonna go back in there and watch that delivery. But I guess I felt so sorry for the girl and that pitiful cry…I just had to get out of there. But I went back and they didn’t ever have to do that again.

Then they put me on night duty in Labor and Delivery. There was no way I could take care of all those patients…no way! How they thought one little old student nurse could do it, I’ll never know. I don’t remember what happened that two were sent up there…two senior students were sent up there to help me and they reported how bad it was on that floor and that I needed help. But I want you to know they got me some help. Why do they expect so much of you?

Mims: A lot of responsibility is placed on these young girls when you guys got there.

Whitfield: It’s terrible! It’s terrible!

Mims: Yea.

Whitfield: And I remember…it’s funny you remember something like this…and it’s during…we were in the war, and there were so many…well on…and on the sun porch there was this girl who gave birth to a baby and the man who got her pregnant was stationed in South America. But I guess he…she let him know that she had given birth to…I believe it was a little boy, never mind what it was, I guess it was a little boy. They let him come back to Wilmington and marry her, right there in that sun porch where I worked.

Mims: Really?

Whitfield: Yea.

Mims: That was…

Whitfield: That was nice!

Mims: That’s something to remember.

Whitfield: Yea. Now a few little things like that you remember.

Mims: Yea. What do you remember about living in the residence home…in the nurses home?

Whitfield: Well, I was up on the third floor at the very end of the hall. I had the farthest to go of anybody. I had to come from all the way…down all those steps…and one night on night duty…on call…I’m running down those steps hard as I can to get down…get to the operating room, and my foot got caught in the hem of my uniform and I fell down the steps and rolled all the way down…

Mims: Oh…did you get hurt?

Whitfield: No, I…God was with me, I didn’t get hurt. How I rolled down that floor…rolled all the way around that curve…down to the bottom floor. And you know, we had…we had to have a hostess or something of the kind, some lady who kept…well she wasn’t on duty at nighttime, but we had that.

Mims: To keep tabs on where the girls were?

Whitfield: Uh huh. She had to know where we all were; we had to let her know. And they didn’t want us…oh, and just before we…my class got there, a real pretty…she was a pretty girl with red hair, and I guess they thought it was alright when they wanted to go downtown, they got permission to go…and let ‘em go. And some old black guy got hold of her…I don’t know what he pulled…raped her.

Mims: Oh no! A nursing student?

Whitfield: So then…uh huh…so we had to have, so…we had a rule by the time I got in school that you could not go downtown by yourself. There would have to be two or more of you so you were protected. That was terrible.

Mims: Yea. I understood they even told you to stay off of certain streets, to just walk on like, down Red Cross.

Whitfield: That’s right, there was a certain street you had to walk.

Mims: Um hum.

Whitfield: You couldn’t to down any of ‘em. I wish I could remember the name of that street but I can’t.

Mims: What do you remember about downtown Wilmington at that time when you were a student? What was there to do?

Whitfield: Well they didn’t let us…we didn’t get down there very much. I don’t know much about it. It was hard times, you know.

Mims: Yea, it was beginning of the war…was coming along and you know, things were starting to get busy here in town. Was the…the Nurses Corps hadn’t developed yet…the Nurse Cadets? That…they came along until a couple of years later.

Whitfield: That’s right.

Mims: Right. So, what was your graduation like?

Whitfield: Well, um…I had to lead…you know, what hap…we had to memorize this…I used to could still say it, but I can’t no more…I led that, we graduated, we used New Hanover High School…their stage, for our graduation, and I led the…the pledge, I recon you’d call it. I led that. What else did you ask me?

Mims: Just wondering what your graduation was like. I understand that there was like a dance or something before the graduation.

Whitfield: I must didn’t go, I don’t remember. Oh yes there was! Oh yes, I went, I remember. The men who kinda…I don’t know if they sponsored us or not, but at the country club we were entertained…each class before graduation, at a dance at the country club, Cape Fear Country Club.

Mims: Cape Fear Country Club?

Whitfield: Uh huh.

Mims: And I know that a doc…a particular doctor usually sponsored a certain class. Do you remember who the doctor was that sponsored your class?

Whitfield: No, I certainly don’t.

Mims: Do you remember getting flowers?

Whitfield: Shug, I don’t remember.

Mims: That’s okay. After graduation you had to take the State Board.

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: What was that like?

Whitfield: Well I was real proud, there were over three hundred of us that took that and I ranked number six from the tenth…from the top.

Mims: Wow!

Whitfield: I sure did, I was number six from the top of the scores. And everybody was talking how they wished I had…we had to work so hard at James Walker, I decided I wasn’t gonna…oh and they begged me to stay, be an employee, and that they…they knew I didn’t have any money, I don’t guess many of us did, that I could live right there in the nursing home and…until I made enough I could get a private room in somebody’s home. I turned ‘em down, I said, “No, I ain’t staying here.”

Especially…there was one graduate nurse…I worked on her floor…and I wor…what was her…I remembered her name some well, she calls the hosp…calls the nursing home, and blesses me out for getting a patient up and the patient fell. And I knew nothing about what she was talking about. The black orderly saved me. He told her I was not on duty when that…when they got that woman up, that it was not me that was responsible for that woman falling.

Mims: Hum.

Whitfield: Can you believe it? And so this is what she said to me as she got to the bottom of it…the next day or two…she said…I’m there washing my hands at the lavatory and she said, “Let this be a lesson to you.” I thought to myself, “What kind of lesson are you talking about?” But I didn’t…I…you didn’t talk back to ‘em. I didn’t open my mouth. But that thing…that was…kept me from going back there to work. I…I went through…my doctor…family…our family doctor felt that Watts Hospital was so wonderful. I applied there and got a job just like that.

Mims: Watts Hospital?

Whitfield: Yes. And I didn’t like that place worth a cent. So I decided I believe I’m leaving here, I’m going to Rex Hospital. I applied to Rex and got a job within twenty-four hours, caught the bus and left that…I worked there two weeks at Watts…and went to Rex Hospital, and worked there until I decided to go back to school.

Mims: What department were you in at Rex?

Whitfield: At Rex Hospital? Shug, I…I don’t remember.

Mims: Okay. So you felt that you wanted to continue your education?

Whitfield: Yes, I did, and so I learned that the state wanted nurses to do Public Health work and they were giving scholarships, would pay for your education, so I applied for that and got it, and got…I guess you would call it a certificate in Public Health Nursing.

Mims: That was like a one-year program at Chapel Hill?

Whitfield: Chapel Hill. And I worked there…I worked at…let’s see now, I worked two years in Golds…yea, Goldsboro Health Department, and left there and went to work in Fayetteville, and worked there four years. And when I learned about how they wanted nurses to get into Public Health assured them they would pay for our education, I took advantage of that. And I kept going back until I got my masters degree in Public Health.

Mims: Really?

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: From Chapel Hill?

Whitfield: Uh huh, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Mims: Right. So you never got your BSN, you went straight into the Public Health program and got your certificate and then continued until you acquired the masters.

Whitfield: Yea, uh huh.

Mims: Cause, I know that the BSN program was only offered at a very few schools here in North Carolina.

Whitfield: Was what honey?

Mims: Was only offered at a handful of schools…I think only two schools offered the BSN program, so I’ve been wondering where people were getting their, you know, their upper degrees.

Whitfield: Well I got mine at Chapel Hill.

Mims: Um hum.

Whitfield: University of North Carolina.

Mims: What did you do from there, after you got your masters in Public Health?

Whitfield: Lordy mercy. Well, I went to Greensboro to work in the Health Department there, and somebody…they were fighting…getting a school of nursing started that year, and somebody called Dr. Reynolds and gave him my name and told him that I had a degree…masters degree, and he writes me. I’m never met him, he writes me. And I kept that…wants me to come for an interview…and I kept that letter about two weeks. And mama said, aren’t you gonna answer that man’s letter? So I did…got an appointment, and go down for an interview, and he took me just like that. So…well it’s get back…get your things together and get back here and find a place to live and…

Mims: This happened so quickly. You must have been at the right place at the right time. Was this Dr. Frank Reynolds?

Whitfield: What?

Mims: Was this Dr. Frank Reynolds that sent you the letter…do you remember?

Whitfield: I don’t believe I do.

Mims: You don’t remember who it was? Did you meet Miss Booe, Luetta Booe before you came down here…did you know her?

Whitfield: They…Dr. Reynolds had her come over to his office and…while I was living in Greensboro and sent her up to my house in Greensboro to interview me, if you can believe that, but he sure did. And in fact she must have been impressed.

Mims: What did you think about her? What did you think about your initial meeting with her?

Whitfield: Well she was a…tell…was she a major in the Army during World War…?

Mims: I think so.

Whitfield: I think so. And I though, Lord have mercy, I don’t want to work with anybody that’s got a major, she’ll want to boss you around like I don’t know what, I don’t want to work for somebody like that. But I came. Because I think mama and papa were wanting to come back east, so I come as much for them as I did for myself.

Mims: Uh huh. Well, we read…we’ve been reading a lot about the development of the program and the understanding was that the James Walker School of Nursing was going to close and that they started putting this program into place, and it became known as James Walker Memorial Hospital Associate Degree of Nursing at Wilmington College.

Whitfield: I don’t remember that.

Mims: You don’t?

Whitfield: No I don’t. I don’t believe we were called that. Whoever said that…

Mims: It’s in all this information I’ve been reading. So what do you remember about the program staring?

Whitfield: Well, honey, I was right there in it.

Mims: Right.

Whitfield: There was just three of us, Luetta Booe, Dorothy Dixon and me. And I know that when it came time for our mental health and all that stuff we had to go to Goldsboro to that…where you send psychiatric patients.

Mims: Was this Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro?

Whitfield: Uh huh.

Mims: But you guys had to develop this program. You didn’t just take what James Walker was doing and put it in place at Wilmington College, you guys developed this…this program.

Whitfield: Yes, we did. We had to write up all this stuff. I wish you had some of it to look at.

Mims: And it was going to be developed as a two-year associate degree program?

Whitfield: Yea, I believe it was. It couldn’t of been a three year cause that’d be in a hospital.

Mims: Right.

Whitfield: I guess it was honey, you got me there. It certainly wasn’t a four-year, I don’t believe. But it is now. And got to be before I left there.

Mims: I understand also at this same time the community college here; Cape Fear Technical Institute was looking at developing a nursing program. Do you remember anything about what they were doing?

Whitfield: You talking about the black school?

Mims: No, we can talk about the black school, I was talking about Cape Fear downtown, that now has the LPN program.

Whitfield: I…I don’t remember having any contact with them.

Mims: Okay. Well, what do you remember about Community Hospital…the African American…?

Whitfield: I just remember that the university wanted me to be represented when they were closing that school, and go to those meetings, and be darned, I think they elected me secretary and I had to keep a record of our meetings when they were closing that school. That’s about all I remember about it.

Mims: Do you also remember Bullucks Hospital at all? Bullucks Hospital downtown.

Whitfield: No I don’t.

Mims: There was a private hospital downtown called Bullucks Hospital.

Whitfield: Yea, I know where it is.

Mims: We heard at one time they had a school of nursing…do you remember…

Whitfield: I understand that when I first went in training that they had a school of nursing, but I don’t know anything about it.

Mims: We don’t either. But we’ve heard about…about it, but nothing other than just hearing about it. So we didn’t know whether they were like a rotation for James Walker or Community, or whatever, but I guess, you know, we’ll just…

Whitfield: I don’t believe they were.

Mims: So the two diploma schools closed in Wilmington and Wilmington College was developing this associate degree of nursing. I know you were…you were hired probably a year or almost two years before the students started coming…or…do you remember getting hired and the students arriving…how did that work?

Whitfield: Well, I remember us, you know, scanning their applications, and I guess they were required to come in for interview, I can’t remember…I just don’t remember too much about it.

Mims: Were you happy to be out there?

Whitfield: Oh yes, yes I was. I enjoyed my work there.

Mims: You did a lot of the clinical supervision didn’t you?

Whitfield: Yes, goodness yes.

Mims: And that was going to be at the new New Hanover Hospital when it opened up?

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: We understood that that hospital was approached about a nursing school and when they declined is whenever the college said they wanted it. You don’t remember anything about the development of how that worked out? Well what do you remember about those first few years? Did your training at James Walker help you in seeing how to train these new girls?

Whitfield: Oh Lord have mercy, you got me, I don’t know much about it. I know that we took a few boys in.

Mims: Oh you did!

Whitfield: Yea, and we had one…he was really, he was a wonderful male student and you know he went on to become a…he…I guess he went back to school, somehow, I can’t tell you about it, but he got a job up at…in Virginia. What’s the capital of Virginia state?

Mims: Richmond?

Whitfield: Richmond. And he was so good they made him head nurse there. And he wrote me and told me about it, yea. And his sir name was Smith and so help me if we didn’t get another Smith from…I got…from Brunswick County. His name was…was his name Charles Smith? I believe it was but don’t quote me. But that’s how smart he was. And then I hear from one of our graduate ladies who had gone out Midwest and she had become director of nurses at the hospital she was working in. So, I thought, well we didn’t do so bad after all.

Mims: Wow! Well, did you help at any of the implementation on like of the design of what their hats were going to look like or their pins?

Whitfield: Oh yes…yes we did all that. I just remember working at it, but I can’t tell you…

Mims: The details.

Whitfield: Details.

Mims: Cause, from our research we’ve figured out that it’s the beginning…the first year that puts all this stuff into place, so I didn’t know what you could remember about…

Whitfield: I…I just can’t. I wish I could. If I made up something and told you...(laughing)

Mims: How about the racial issues…UNC…Wilmington College was accepting black students at this time and…

Whitfield: Yes, and we hired a black nurse to help us teach.

Mims: Really?

Whitfield: Yes we did. She…and she wasn’t there when I went but I guess…I had…maybe I’d been there about three years when we hired this black nurse to help us. And you know she was so interested in getting her degree that she would commute to Greensboro to take courses? She did, until she got her…whatever it was she was working for.

Mims: Hum. That’s interesting.

Whitfield: She was a good…she was a good gal.

Mims: But you didn’t…

Whitfield: I think she felt…she inherited my office when I left and I had a whole lot of reports that I had that I knew she’d like…I don’t remember…I guess it’s all those pledges that nurses had to learn back then.

Mims: I didn’t know how that worked out, because I know that at James Walker there were no blacks taking the school of nursing program. Nor boys…no guys were nurses either, so didn’t know how that experience went whenever you developed this program at the college.

Whitfield: Uh huh, but we took a few. And I remember when we took a black man for a student nurse. I don’t know how…he didn’t know a thing about getting anyplace on time, and he come and talked to me, and said that he had a little girl. I took it he wasn’t married, that it was his illegitimate daughter…that what made him late, he would go by the house where the mother lived to check on the baby to see how she was doing. And one of the nurses got so tired of him being late, she got where when she started her class she’d get up and shut the door. And I believe she locked it so he couldn’t get in. But we didn’t need somebody like that no way.

Mims: Where were the classes taught…at the college?

Whitfield: Yes, it was called Hoggard Hall. It was upstairs on the second floor.

Mims: How many rooms did you have?

Whitfield: What?

Mims: How many rooms? Do you remember how many you had?

Whitfield: We had one…I don’t…we had a room that we lectured in, plus a room where we had hospital beds and stuff for practice. That was it, two rooms.

Mims: So this is a different situation from what you were trained in, because you were basically living at the hospital?

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: And now these girls and guys that were coming here, they had classes for so many hours and then they had their practice for so many hours, but then they got to go home. They didn’t have to stay in this hospital environment?

Whitfield: That’s right.

Mims: How do you think that affected their training?

Whitfield: Shug, I simply don’t know how to answer that because I don’t remember us comparing their training to our training. And they didn’t know anything about how we trained.

Mims: Right.

Whitfield: So…

Mims: You were kinda doing them a favor because of the responsibility factor. I mean, they weren’t really made responsible early on, were they?

Whitfield: No.

Mims: But you guys were.

Whitfield: Yes, absolutely or you got shipped.

Mims: So it seems like this newer program was more academically based.

Whitfield: Yes, it was. It was. And they had to take courses from other…let’s see, the physics teacher…her classroom came right up to our original office…we had…we had to share offices together until they got more space for us in Hoggard Hall. But…

Mims: And a lot of your training was taught by physicians there at the hospital.

Whitfield: Oh yes.

Mims: But now we’re dealing with this new program, you’ve got various professors in other specialties teaching the girls. Is that correct?

Whitfield: Uh, huh, yes.

Mims: So it’s kind of a different thing we’ve got going now. And you said you were there whenever they developed a four-year BSN program?

Whitfield: Yes I was.

Mims: Okay, how did that…do you remember any details about that?

Whitfield: No I don’t except working out how they were going to meet the schedule. And it wasn’t long after I left, they cut out going to Goldsboro to that mental institution and sent ‘em out to Davis Nursing Home to learn…to take care of senior citizens, I guess. That was the way that was replaced. And I believe I was with a bunch of ‘em one time when we’d go out to the mental health institute here at downtown Wilmington just to hear the lecture, or just to hear a little bit about the planning for students to go there for mental health.

Mims: Uh huh. So you kinda got rid of the traveling out of town and used the local stuff.

Whitfield: Yea.

Mims: Do you remember how it worked with the girls that were in the two-year program going to the four-year program?

Whitfield: No, I don’t believe it do. I don’t.

Mims: And now they have a masters program out there.

Whitfield: Yea, I heard about that.

Mims: What year did you leave Wilmington…the college?

Whitfield: I wish I had a diary, I’d go see.

Mims: I wish you had a diary too cause I bet it’d be full of information.

Whitfield: Honey I don’t know what year I left there.

Mims: Uh huh. You started in like sixty-five or so?

Whitfield: Yea, I’m sure.

Mims: I think the four-year program came along in the seventies some time. So you were out there for a lot of changes.

Whitfield: Yes.

Mims: Yea. And you were instrumental in a lot of those. The program still is very strong, so, there is always the talk that there’s a shortage of nurses, that you know, they always need more nurses, more nurses.

Whitfield: I understand there’s still a shortage.

Mims: Still a shortage.

Whitfield: And that some have been imported. Is that true?

Mims: Yea, I was reading something the other day about they were…they were gonna allow more workers permits for nurses from other countries. I know that a lot of people get into nursing not necessarily for bedside nursing, but to go into some kind of specialty with an expanded role, so I’m just wondering if that kinda creates a little bit of the shortage itself in that regard.

Whitfield: It probably does.

Mims: Cause you were trained bedside nursing. Weren’t you trained with bedside nursing?

Whitfield: Yes. Bedside nursing.

Mims: Looking back now, are you glad that you picked the way that you did, or would you…?

Whitfield: Yes, yes, I’m glad. Medicine was changing so, I felt like I needed to go back to work on some of the floors just to pick up…especially in maternity, you just seem to…I really felt…(knock at the door)

Female voice: Hi.

Mims: Hi.

Female voice: Oh, you’ve got…oh! You guys are busy!

Mims: Yea, we’re almost through.

Whitfield: You telling a story?

Female voice: No, I came…I need to get a weight.

Mims: Okay. Well, I think we’re about through.

Whitfield: Okay.

Mims: Thank you so much for talking to me.

Whitfield: Oh, you’re welcome.

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