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Part Four Starting Nursing School

Dorothy made plans to attend college with the aim of becoming a nurse. She had her sights set on the University of Nebraska School for Nurses. In order to be accepted into the nursing program, students typically needed to have completed two years of college courses first. Dorothy’s friend Helen came up with the idea that they should attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, mostly because Helen wanted the prestige of going to a state university on scholarship. Dorothy’s father refused to let her apply for scholarships and declared that they would pay their own way. She and Helen planned to take classes to get enough credit hours to apply for the incoming nursing class the following September. But the attack on Pearl Harbor that December changed everything.

On January 1, 1942, Dorothy and Helen received letters from Charlotte Burgess, the Director of Nursing at the University of Nebraska School for Nurses, asking if they would consider starting nursing school that February without having taken any other college courses. Since Clarkson School of Nursing used South High School teachers for science classes like Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, and Chemistry, classes Dorothy and Helen had already taken at the same school, Ms. Burgess had decided that they could join the nursing class at her nursing school, though she admitted it would be difficult. Ms. Burgess told them that they would room together, learn together, and support each other in that class of eighteen students. Though she was excited to start nursing school, Dorothy remembers that it was still really difficult: “Here we were in school with all these students who already had the maturity of at least two years of college. Some already had teaching certificates!” Dorothy struggled and persevered, making sure to dedicate herself to studying, but Helen had failed out by August.

 

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Part Five University Hospital

Ms. Burgess was an accomplished woman and a role model to Dorothy. She had gone to college and earned her diploma in nursing before serving as an army nurse during World War I. After that, she received her Bachelor of Arts at a school in South Dakota before earning her Master of Arts from Columbia University. She was already in her 70s by the time Dorothy joined the nursing class. When Dorothy was a senior in her program, Ms. Burgess had fallen down and hurt her back. She was kept at the University of Nebraska hospital for about two months, and Dorothy was assigned to personally care of her during the day as well as lead the team that was caring for her the rest of the time. Dorothy sighs and then laughs while remembering what it was like to