Nurses celebrate museum's one-year mark  

Mar 08

By Jeanette Lach -, (219) 933-3267

GARY | Alumnae from the former Methodist Hospitals School of Nursing celebrated a milestone Wednesday when they gathered for a luncheon at the hospital's Northlake Campus to mark the one-year anniversary of the Nurses Museum housed there.

The Methodist Hospitals School of Nursing operated between 1923 and 1967, graduating 772 nurses with diplomas, said Amber Raza, Methodist spokeswoman.

Made possible by alumnae and supported by the hospital, the Nurses Museum showcases the evolution of health care and the nursing profession during the past eight decades. The museum has seen 149 visitors in its first year.

"I think that we needed to leave some historical information to the public and the future," said Hazel Witte, museum director, and a 1945 graduate.

The museum, which is on the first floor of the hospital's administration building at 600 N. Grant St., displays nursing uniforms through the decades, the instruments nurses used, books, newspaper articles and a hospital bed, among its artifacts. It is housed in the former nursing student dormitories.

"When we were in training, we drew blood, did blood work, respiratory treatments. Now they have laboratories, respiratory therapy but in our day the nurse did all that," Witte said.

During World War II, more specialized diagnostic equipment became available for nurses to use. But perhaps the biggest change in nursing over the decades has been the switch from nursing schools granting diplomas to baccalaureate programs at universities, said Sharon DeVries, a 1964 graduate of the hospital's nursing program. DeVries still works as a nurse at Chicagoland Christian Village in Crown Point.

"When we were students we lived in the dormitory next to the hospital and worked all three shifts, you were at the hospital's beck and call plus we had classes and to study," she said.

All the teaching was done at the bedside, she said.

Now, nursing students are in a college atmosphere and it's not all clinical training but academic as well.

The hospital's nursing school closed with its last class of nurses in 1967 precisely due to that switch in training.

There is one thing, though, that hasn't changed through the years, DeVries said.

"Bedside nursing and working with the patient. ... The nurse is the advocate for the patient," she said.

The Nurse Museum is open from 1 to 3 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month but visitors and groups need to make an appointment by calling (219) 886-5972. Methodist Hospitals has a campus in Gary and Merrillville.

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