nursing service was well managed by the students."
The Hitchcock SON was growing, so in 1920 the Billings-Lee building was constructed to house student nurses. Dora-Jane Johnson, R.,N., a 1929 graduate of the school, was typical of students of the 1920s. She went on to work at MHMH as a teacher and supervisor, retiring in 1973. A 1987 article in a DHMC newsletter described what nursing school was like then: "Dora Jane was tossed immediately into work. Her supervisor took her to the Dartmouth students' ward to give a bed bath. With some advice from her supervisor, and cooperation from the rather amused student, Dora-Jane's nursing career was launched.
"Most probies lived in rooms on the third floor of the rotunda, which the students called 'French flats.' As space became available, students moved to the relative luxury of rooms in Billings-Lee.
"On successful completion of probation, students got a nursing cap and kerchief and could expect to earn $8 per month for the remainder of the first year of training. Second-year salary rose to $10 per month, and the final year the amount rose to a hefty $12 per month.
"Most of the students were happy under these conditions, which seem severe and restrictive by today's standards. Rules were adhered to closely—a student caught smoking faced expulsion, and marriage was considered beyond the pale of students. A 12-hour shift was the norm. . . . Uniform inspection and a brief chapel service began the day before the 6:30 a.m. breakfast and 7:00 a.m. start of the shift. For entertainment, one night each week students could . . . stay out until 11:00 p.m."
In its continuing effort to keep up with national trends in nursing education, the Hitchcock SON was among the first to volunteer to be graded by the national Committee on the Grading of Nursing Schools, in 1929. School officials weren't surprised to learn that they needed to address several problems: lack of student supervision; limited student understanding of medical and surgical nursing; lack of opportunities for student rest and recreation; excessive work hours for students; student fatigue; and a lack
of funding or endowment for the school. In response, officials expanded the curriculum by getting senior nurses to teach more classes. It was still at least 100 hours short of the 885-hour minimum required for accreditation, however. But MHMH found it impossible to shorten the workday to the recommended eight hours until 1938, and even then only in certain wards.
An addition to Billings-Lee was completed in 1937 and given the appropriate, if not very creative, name of Building 37. Although there was more emphasis on education by that time, the Hospital still counted on having student nurses do the bulk of the patient-care work.
Dorothy Coutermarsh, B.A., R.N., a 1940 alumna, laughs as she recalls how right
after her capping ceremony, where students received their nursing caps, she had to report for night duty on one of the wards. "I was alone as a three-month student in charge of a whole 32-bed unit of female patients. Students were the only staff that they had in the hospital except for this one R.N. who circulated." Student nurses were so busy that they "didn't even have time to sit down," continues Coutermarsh. "When we came on [duty], the food came up in a truck and we had to serve all those trays. . . . We had to take bath basins to the bedside so patients could do their own baths. We had to bathe them, we had to [change and] clean the sheets every day because patients were in bed from 12 to 14 days. The head nurse was responsible for making sure the assignments for the day were carried out. She had to make rounds