Uncle Mort Sees Nurses

June 11, 1914

I delight in telling what I think—I shall go on just as before, seeing whatever I can, and telling what I see. – Emerson

I very much enjoyed the privilege on Tuesday of attending the commencement exercises at Springfield State Hospital and witnessing the large class of nurses receive their diplomas. I was much impressed with the dignified character of the ceremonies, particularly with the notable address of Dr. Meyer, of the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, of Baltimore. He praised the nurses for their devotion to their profession and dwelt upon some of the trials and difficulties they have to overcome.

Being somewhat familiar with the character of their work in such an institution as Springfield, the most famous institution of which Maryland boasts, the first of its kind to do away with bolts and bars and to give patients the freedom of buildings and grounds, the thought came to me, how little could have been accomplished here after all, had it not been for the nurses! And then, as I listened to Dr. Meyer, I was overwhelmed in contemplation of all the wonderful achievements that had been worked out because of the nurses!

It requires genuine courage and unusual application to undertake to become a nurse in an institution like Springfield, notwithstanding its high character and advanced methods. To be constantly with the insane and to give the best that is in you in the effort to draw them back to normal conditions, to meet their whims, amuse them, put up with unexpected and unusual trials, when the poor clouded minds fail to understand what it all means, to study and observe the individual traits and to endeavor to clear away the mists from the clouded intellect—all this requires a keen perception, more than ordinary resourcefulness, a perfect confidence in one’s self, a positive character, kindness and courage—the sort of courage that is never curbed and that always inspires hope and faith.

Behind all these qualifications is genuine love for mankind; This is the real motive behind the nurse. And what could be more commendable or more patriotic?

The young woman or the young man, who undertakes the work I have outlined, who dedicates his or her life to the alleviation of the ills that come to poor humanity through disorders of the mind, should be held in the same high esteem as the man who goes forth in battle for the honor of the Flag, to die if need be in defense of his country, or for the love of humanity. General Funston is accomplishing much for humanity in Vera Cruz, but he could really do very little without the man behind the gun.

And so it is in the hospital—very little indeed can be accomplished without the nurse behind the doctor!

The general in the field can plan his campaign against the enemy and work out new problems, but he is helpless until his scouts come in with reports concerning surrounding conditions and until open country can be mapped.

And so the trained, scientific mind of the physician at the head of a great institution like Springfield, can plan the details and work out new problems to meet individual cases, but he is practically helpless until the nurse reports her observations of these individual cases and of general conditions and brings helpful suggestions.

Much depends upon the nurse. She is the power and the force behind the science. Without her Springfield hospital would be a barred prison, as all State asylums for the insane used to be. The nurse has made it possible to take down the bars and permit the poor unfortunates to come forth into the sunshine and enjoy Nature’s blessings. She should have a place on the right of the line and at the head of the column when we come to review the great advances that are being made in the methods of the care of the insane.

It is the same in the general hospitals, in field hospitals, in Red Cross hospitals, afloat and ashore. Without the nurse to minister to the wants of the wounded, to call back the dying boy in Blue with words of courage and comfort and cheer, to help him take a new hold on life—oh what an awful toll war and pestilence and disease would take if it were not for the nurse!

All honor, then. To the devoted young men and women, who enter upon this great work at Springfield or in any hospital. It is an heroic calling. Hats off to Springfield’s class of 1914! May full measure of success come to every member. To the best greetings and congratulations that go from this community to these worthy young people, I wish to add mine. UNCLE MORTIMER.

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