4TH FLOOR NORTH in McLeod Infirmary in 1960. From left, nursing students Linda Norris, Betty Thompson and Belinda Howle. Photo courtesy of Belinda Howle Bonnoitt.
Brenda Harrison Editor
Like everything else, the cost of education has increased dramatically in the last 57 years. Belinda Bonnoitt, who enrolled in the nursing program at McLeod Infirmary’s School of Nursing in 1957, shares the cost of her nursing studies and recalls some of her experiences. The fees for the three-year nursing program totalled around $250. These fees covered the cost of instruction, uniforms, textbooks, lab fees, physical exam, as well as room and board, laundry of uniforms, bed linens and towels. There was an extra $25 fee for books the second and third years. The student nurses lived in the nurses residence, called the Nurses Home by locals, located at the corner of Cheves and Dargan Streets. The new Florence Museum has been erected on that site. Not covered by fees, but required were two pair of white shoes (preferably Clinic No. 411, Red Cross No. 603-406 or Girl Scout No. 110), a watch with a second hand, white slips and white stockings, fountain pen, two laundry bags, a shoe bag, a housecoat and bedroom slippers. Mrs. Bonnoitt said the nursing program was a full 12 months for all three years. Students got two weeks off in the summer.
“We worked in the hospital, got off at 7 a.m. and went to class at 8 a.m. Then we had to find time to study and sleep,” she recalls. “As a freshman, I remember working on 5th floor North at night all by myself.” In the dormitory, two students were assigned to a room. They ate their meals at the hospital next door. Phyllis Madden was the director of the School of Nursing and Kenneth Gallier was the hospital administrator, said Mrs. Bonnoitt. Students had to sign in and out to leave the nursing residence. They were not allowed to stay out until midnight until their junior (second) year. Their overnight stays were limited and there were places that they were not allowed to go. Also, they were not allowed to wear jewelry and were not allowed to enter the program if married. Students who got married while in the program had to quit unless they had permission. Students were addressed by their last names. When instructors or doctors entered a room, the nursing students were required to stand up until told to sit down.
It was mandatory for freshmen to study in their rooms for two hours. Afterwards they could study with other classmates. Those joint study periods were so beneficial, Mrs. Bonnoitt said. If not for the help from other classmates, she doesn’t think she would have made it. After completing clinicals, students nurses received their nurses cap in a formal capping ceremony. Freshmen received a short stripe on their cap. Juniors got two short stripes, seniors got three and upon passing state boards, the registered nurses each received a long full stripe for their caps. Thinking back, Mrs. Bonnoitt realizes that the structure for the program was similar to the military. However, she was grateful for the opportunity and enjoyed her classmates. “It was a good class,” she said. She and her classmates graduated in 1960 during a ceremony held at Central United Methodist Church. She went on to a nursing career which spanned 40 plus years.