On this date in 1896, the St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, NC, opened its doors, one of the first hospitals for Blacks in America.
Its beginnings were primitive, with a single cold water faucet in the kitchen and a wood stove to heat water and sterilize equipment. During its first six months of operation, the hospital cared for 17 inpatients and 35 outpatients. An additional 223 people received St. Agnes’s medical and nursing care in their homes. The first head nurse was Marie Louise Burgess, a #black graduate of the New England Hospital for Women and Children.
Students would clean, cook, and make beds during the six-month trial period. If they passed and wanted a career in nursing, they entered the hospital as student nurses. Most of their education was on-the-job training with the matron, staff nurses, and physicians on wards, in the operating room and on home visits. They also heard lectures, which focused on the diseases and conditions of the current patient population.
In 1898, St. Agnes graduated its first two nurses after a training program of 18 months.
The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York