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Collection reflects changes in nursing school

By Brenda Gunter, MLIS
archives intern
Gunter processed the Connie Brady collection as part of her practicum at the McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center.

Connie Brady was a nursing student at the Shannon West Texas Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in San Angelo, Texas, from 1960 to 1964. The nursing school in San Angelo was affiliated with the hospital of the same name and now operates through Angelo State University. Nursing students completed their clinical training at the hospital.

A collection of Brady’s handwritten diary and notes, school publications, and nursing publications became part of the HAM-TMC Library McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center in 2010 after it was purchased in an online auction. Although the collection is tiny, about 1/4 cubic foot in size, it is rich in information, offering a glimpse of how nursing schools operated during the mid-20th century.

Items in the collection include a 1964 diary Brady wrote for a nursing course, school-related correspondence and papers, school publications, and nursing publications. The material is in good to very good condition.

The school employed the “big sister” system, in which senior and junior students mentored the younger ones. A typed paper lists initiation rules for young women attending the school. (Although the materials do not state whether men could attend, they were written for an audience of young unmarried women.) The requirements are similar to fraternity or sorority rules, with an expressed purpose of making students feel welcome and familiarizing them with school traditions.

For example, Rule 13: “P.C.’s (freshman students) using the coke, candy, or cigarette machines or the water fountain must address the object in the following manner: “Mr. Coke, Mr. Candy or Cigarette machine or Mr. water fountain [sic], I so earnestly desire to partake of your refreshing repast.” While reciting this, the P.C. is to bow three times.”

Connie Brady Student Nursing Papers

Excerpts from the Shannon West Texas Memorial Hospital Shannon Memorial School of Nursing Bulletin 1961-1962:

Because of the difficulty for the student to adjust simultaneously in a professional and marital status, the faculty of the School of Nursing advises all students to postpone marriage until completion of the three year course.

Students may be permitted to marry and remain in the school upon the approval of the Guidance Committee. Every case will be considered individually by these committees and such things as class averages, nursing skills, emotional maturity, professional and social attitudes, and study habits of the student will be considered.

Make-up should be moderate in amount. Make-up should not be applied in the dining room. Perfumes or colognes should not be used.

Chewing gum on duty is unprofessional and should not be indulged in.

Excerpts from diary of Connie Brady, 1964:

Brady's diary.

March 13, 1964
Today things were very gay and the patients had a very nice day. After feeding the patients we had morning exercise, then group singing, and then a patient dance, which was enjoyed by all. After lunch we had a remotivation group where the group was very attentive and alert. Then came afternoon nap. This was a very enjoyable day.

March 14, 1964
Today I spent in the dorm washing clothes and recopying notes. I enjoyed a movie Saturday night with a very nice boy.

March 18, 1964
Dear Diary,
Today I realized how attached you could become to some of these patients on Ward 14. Most of them are real sweet and starved for affection.

March 20, 1964
Today was our last day on Ward 14 and realized [sic] what these patients had become [sic] to mean to me in the last two weeks. … In the afternoon when it was time to leave our patients cried, this gave us the feeling that we did give them something even if it was only two weeks short. What a pretty day for the first day of spring, but what a sad way to end it.

Wednesday, May 6. 1964
I still can’t figure out what these girls have because I still haven’t got passed at [sic] by the doctors. I’ll have to practice on a come hither look just acting normal doesn’t work [sic]. Oh well I won’t worry about it. Written in red ink, in a different hand, on the line following this post, a comment reads: “Don’t you DARE — ”

While the profession may have come a long way, baby, since the days when Connie Brady attended nursing school, her diary ably demonstrates that caring is central to it