Museum Exhibits Milford Nursing School

Nurses 3
Phot from the Milford Museum. Taken in 1957.

The Milford Museum,located at 121 South Walnut Street, has opened a new exhibit featuring the Milford Memorial Hospital School of Nursing from 1925 to 1976. The majority of the collection on display was given to the Milford Museum in 2010 by Physician Liaison and Registered Nurse at Bayhealth Medical Center Chris Foard. Mr Foard received the collection, which includes records and memorabilia from the Nursing School, from Mrs. Amelia Donovan McSweeny who graduated from the school in1934.

Originated by a group of concerned citizens that saw a need for a hospital in Milford and to provide women instruction to care for their patients, the Milford Memorial School of Nursing began with limited facilities on the top floor of the Windsor Hotel in 1907 on NW Front Street. In 1912 another house on NW Front Street was donated by Dr. William Marshall and incorporated as the Milford Emergency Hospital.

In 1921, under the supervision of Mrs. Ruth Battles, an 18-month nurses program began. During the first years the student living quarters were located on the upper floor of the hospital, later moving next door. The students graduating in 1932 affiliated at St. Christopher’s in Philadelphia for pediatrics and communicable diseases, and at the Delaware State Hospital for psychiatry. On April 9, 1938 the Milford Memorial Hospital on Clarke Avenue was dedicated and the class of 1938 was the first to graduate from the new facility. Graduates continued to live in the old residence and second floor of the old hospital until 1947 when they moved to the Baynum home on South Walnut Street.

In 1953, the new hospital wing was completed, increasing the capacity of the Hospital to 135 beds and 32 basinets. The next wing was completed in 1969 which expanded the beds to 175. With graduation in June 1976 of its largest class, consisting of 28 members, the Milford Memorial Hospital School of Nursing was closed.

The nursing school was chosen to become a public exhibit by Claudia Leister, Executive Director of the Milford Museum, because of its importance to the proliferation of the hospital in the Milford community. Ms. Leister is intrigued by not only the school’s influence in Milford but by the technological advances that have occurred in the medical community in what seems like such a short period of time. In one of the original documents handed to the nurses, title Nurses Duties, they were required to “clean and dust” the sterilization room and operating room every morning.”

“It is amazing to me to see things change so rapidly with technology,” commented Ms. Leister. “The Nursing School was very formal and reminds you of a classical vision of a sorority or dorm life. These nurses were given the same respect as are given to policeman or firemen.”

The Milford Memorial Hospital School of Nursing exhibit will be on display at the Milford Museum through June. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 3:30pm and Sunday from 1 to 3:30 pm. Executive Director Leister plans to present the history of the fire company in Milford in the Spring.

“I really think that museums can and should give education about our community so the next generation can learn,” commented Ms. Leister. “When you know these things you apprentice the community and want to share.”