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 have Ms. Burgess as a patient. “My only problem with her as a patient was that she wanted her coffee hot. And all we had were gas burners, so I would run with it. We didn’t have fancy thermo cups then. I’d get it to her and she’d say, ‘This isn’t hot enough!’ So I’d haul it back there and I’d boil it again. It was all probably on purpose just to see how far she could push her nurses.”
While Ms. Burgess was laid up, the nursing school was going through accreditation. Dorothy was asked to help Ms. Burgess keep the school going, so she learned a lot about running a school of nursing during that year. But around this time, the United States government started the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps because the war had created such a high demand for nurses. Dorothy only had six months of school left and didn’t want to join, but Ms. Burgess said everyone should join. They got paid $30 a month, but Dorothy couldn’t help the service any since she wasn’t at least 21 at the time. By this time, the Dorothy’s graduating class had dwindled from 18 to 7. Three students were sent to serve at veteran and army hospitals in San Francisco, and the other three went to Denver. Dorothy stayed in Omaha on account of her age.
The University hospital was run by teachers and students at that time, with a head nurse in charge of each floor. Ms. Burgess told Dorothy that since she was staying and had already passed her state boards in June 1944, she would eventually be filling in as Head Nurse of Ward H, the women’s medical ward, when Mrs. Cochran had her baby. Well the baby came just a week later, and Dorothy found herself running an entire ward. A short time later, someone in Pediatrics fell ill, so Dorothy went up and ran that floor for two months. It was then that the Head Nurse of Ward C/D developed a facial paralysis and would be gone for three months. Ms. Burgess assigned Dorothy to run C/D, the men’s surgical ward, in her absence. Dorothy was nervous as it was a 42-bed floor and she wasn’t even 21 years old at the time, but Ms. Burgess just looked at her and said, “You’ll do fine. My office it right outside the ward door.” Ms. Burgess’s tough assignments for Dorothy show how determined and ambitious Dorothy was, even at such a young age.
As Dorothy was doing all this work and finishing up requirements, Ms. Burgess asked her where she wanted to end up. Dorothy enthusiastically told her that she wanted to work in the operating room. As it turned out, the operating room was going to be losing a supervisor soon. The assistant supervisor was leaving for the military, so Ms. Burgess told Dorothy to go up there and start as a staff nurse before the supervisor left, at which time she would become the new assistant operating room supervisor. As Dorothy quickly found, it was rough, tiresome work. At the University of Nebraska Hospital from February 1945 to December 1948, Dorothy worked a busy schedule. She’d go to work at the operating room from 7 a.m. to noon and go back to the hospital at 6 p.m. where she’d serve as hospital supervisor until 11 p.m. During that time, she was also on-call and ran the emergency room since no one else was down there. While this was all going on, Dorothy also served as a clinical instructor for other student nurses.
In December 1948, Dorothy became a supervisor at Clarkson Hospital because they were having problems. One of the doctors at the Medical Center, Dr. Perrin, asked her to apply and “straighten them out.” Dorothy had already accepted a supervisory position in Long Beach, California, but the job wasn’t scheduled to start for several months. Dr. Perrin told Dorothy that he was sending the nurse currently in the role to school in Philadelphia to learn how to do her job properly. He promised Dorothy he wouldn’t keep her more than six months. Dorothy reluctantly agreed since it wouldn’t interfere with her position in California, but the problem at the hospital was much worse than she had anticipated: “I quit in one week. It was that bad! It was terrible!” But Dr. Perrin told Dorothy she should give it a chance. Dorothy’s