History of College Infirmary Nursing

Nursing in Schools and Colleges


            During Governor’s Swain’s administration as President of the University of North Carolina, Dr. Wheat of the English department lived on a lot where the Women’s Building (Spencer…) now stands.  On one corner of this lot was built and equipped a three-room cottage for the College Infirmary.  The ladies of the community took turns in nursing the sick students.  Among these volunteer nurses were Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. Fetter, Mrs. Mallette, wife of a practicing physician, and Mrs. Wheat.  Dr. Wheat was also helpful and sympathetic, and it is most likely due to his influence that the infirmary was placed near his dwelling.  Lee Couch, a white man… was for years a nurse and orderly.

            There is a no doubt that there were later infirmaries, but definite information is unavailable.  In 1889 and for several years thereafter, the sick students remained in their rooms where meals were sent from their respective boarding places.  For some years the University of North Carolina has had a large and well-equipped infirmary, with two nurses.  Special nurses are often summoned.  Surgical cases are taken to hospitals in Durham. 

            In Salem Academy much nursing was done by the teachers, especially in the care of children.  Many of the girls who came from plantation homes had scabies.  At times there were so many cases that a special building and nurse were set apart for them.  In a later building, rooms known as “sick rooms” were set aside and a practical nurse was placed in charge.  During the severe epidemic of smallpox, the teachers helped, as they had during the epidemic of black measles. 

            With the 20th century came the trained nurse who followed Mother Peck’s long years of service. 

            The 27 years of faithful service of Miss Betty Armfield at G.C.W. are remembered by many appreciative students and their mothers.  The nurse gave medicine for minor ailments, but called the doctor if there was fever of if unusual symptoms developed.  Students in other schools were cared for in much the same while.

            A well-equipped infirmary was early constructed at the Normal and Industrial School in Greensboro.  A graduate nurse was in charge, except for a short time.  From its opening, the “Normal” has had a woman as resident physician: Dr. Anna M. Grove has acceptably filled that position except for in the first year, and during several leaves of absences.

            It was the rule of the school that any student who had been exposed to any outrageous disease should at once report this fact to the school doctor.  While one student was at home for the Christmas holidays, measles developed in the home.  The mother went out into the yard for an airing, before going around her student daughter.  However, in due time this student developed measles.  Two other cases also developed.