An in-depth look at Durham’s Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 09:54 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Evelyn Pearl Booker Wicker of Fuquay-Varina has written a history of Durham’s African-American hospital-based school, Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing, filled with memories from alumni and historic photographs. “Voices: Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing, Durham, NC 1903…” covers the history of the school that operated from 1903 to 1971, educating hundreds of African-American women during the Jim Crow era. “Voices” grew from an undergraduate nursing research project, “A Brief History of Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing,” while the writers were enrolled at NCCU in 1971. The book published this year is dedicated to Ruby Jewel Bell Borden, who died early in the project. Wicker is a 1963 Lincoln graduate who currently serves as part-time faculty at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh. After graduating from LHSN she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from N.C. Central University, a master’s degree in public health from UNC Chapel Hill and a doctorate in adult education from N.C. State University. She spent 50 years as a nurse and was the first nurse elected to serve on the board of health in Durham County. “Voices” is available at the Durham County Library, including the Stanford Warren Branch, and the library at NCCU. Copies are available for purchase ($25 softcover; $35 hardcover) by contacting Evelyn Wicker at 6109 Sunset Lake Road, Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526, email, or phone 919-552-2791.
Below is an excerpt from her book:

The Beginning of Lincoln Hospital Nurse Training School:
In 1901 Lincoln Hospital opened its doors to the Negro citizens of Durham, North Carolina. In the early 1900s, Durham was plagued with poor health that was primarily a function of environmental conditions. The city of Durham was experiencing rapid growth. People poured into the factories and mills, which led to unhygienic living conditions. The town had one main street sewer, but there were no provisions for garbage collection or for cleaning the mud- and manure- mired streets. Outdoor privies were common, and communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, small pox, and typhoid fever were rampant throughout the community. These conditions formed the backdrop for the establishment of hospitals for all the citizens of Durham, both Colored and White.
In Durham, both the Negro and White leaderships were exerting parallel efforts to establish separate hospital facilities for their respective segments of the population. Although the populations were segregated by law and physically separated by railroad tracks, communicable diseases knew no boundaries — poor health conditions in one sector certainly affected the other. Due to the philanthropy of several Whites, Watts Hospital was opened in 1895, along with the Watts Hospital Training School for Nurses. But these institutions were exclusively for the White citizens of Durham.
In 1901 Lincoln Hospital was incorporated and began operating for Colored citizens in a framed building on the corner of Proctor Street and Cozart Avenue. The voices of a few key people launched Lincoln Hospital as well as Lincoln Hospital Nurse Training School, which followed in 1903. Dr. Albert G. Carr, who had championed the cause for hospitals in Durham, was behind the movement for both Lincoln and Watts Hospitals. Dr. Carr was the family physician for the Dukes, a prominent Durham family. Mr. W. H. Armstrong, Dr. Carr’s butler, and Mrs. Addie Evans, his cook; Dr. Aaron M. Moore, Durham’s first Negro physician; Mr. John Merrick, a leading Negro citizen and barber for the Dukes; and Dr. Stanford Lee Warren, an obstetrician, convinced Mr. Washington Duke that a hospital where Negro descendants of slaves could be treated with dignity and respect would be more serviceable than a monument. Thus began Lincoln Hospital. 
Dr. Moore served twenty-two years as the first superintendent of Lincoln Hospital, from its inception until his death in 1923. He was recognized for his labors as a physician, administrator, entrepreneur, and businessman as well as for his deep religious convictions.
The original charter of the board of trustees of Lincoln Hospital authorized the establishment of a training school for Colored nurses. It stated, “As such corporation they may establish, conduct and maintain a hospital in the county of Durham, for the reception and treatment of persons of the colored race, who may need medical or surgical attendance during temporary sickness or injury, and for the training of nurses under such rules and regulations as they may from time to time establish.”
Lincoln Hospital Nurse Training School was founded in 1903 and incorporated into Lincoln Hospital in 1905 through the concerted efforts of Dr. Charles Shepard, one of the original pioneers and leaders of Lincoln Hospital, and Ms. Julia Latta. Ms. Latta, a registered nurse and a graduate of St. Agnes Hospital School of Nursing in Raleigh, was the first superintendent of nursing, a position she held from 1903-1911.
Ms. Latta served in many roles. In addition to her administrative and educational roles, she supervised the cooking, housekeeping, and laundry for the hospital. In 1907 the hospital employed only two paid employees: Ms. Latta and a janitor.
The responsibilities Ms. Latta carried out were consistent with those of other hospital nursing departments and nurse training schools at that time. The North Carolina Board of Examiners for Trained Nurses revealed that during the very early years of operation, most hospitals had a staff that consisted of only the superintendent and an orderly. This circumstance was noted by the Inspector of Training Schools for Nurses, a position the board established in 1917. The laws established by the state legislature authorized the Board to create special positions.
Relationship Between Lincoln Hospital Nurse Training School and Lincoln Hospital:
The relationship between Lincoln Hospital, its nursing service, and the training of its nursing students was a close one. Responsibility for the school was delegated to the superintendent of nursing, who performed the dual roles of supervising the nursing service as well as the nurse training school. The budget for the training school was integrated into the hospital budget; operations for the school were listed as line items in that budget. Over time the graduate nursing staff came to share the responsibility for patient care and the teaching of new students. Their salaries were apportioned between the hospital and nurse training school.
During the early years, students provided the majority of the patient care in the hospital. In addition, they also provided home care in the community. This care in private homes was a source of income for the hospital. The Board of Examiners for Nurse Training Schools in North Carolina and the Standardization Board viewed the practice of sending students into private homes as undesirable. By the 1930s the practice had been discontinued. 
The value of the nursing students to the operation of the hospital can be confirmed by the fact that in 1914, after thirteen years of operation, Lincoln Hospital had on its payroll only two paid employees. The rest of the patient care was carried out by thirteen nursing students. During this time the hospital averaged between fifty and seventy-five patients. It is obvious that the majority of the patient care was being provided by students.”
(Excerpt courtesy Evelyn Pearl Booker Wicker)