Patio Dedication Celebrates Medical Center’s Current, Former Nurses

The Telegraph - May 11, 2017

NASHUA – Louise Bergeron, who graduated in 1950 from the former Nashua Memorial Hospital School of Nursing and went on to care for the hospital’s patients for 50 years, remembers sterilizing needles on Bunsen burners, boiling catheters and cleaning up delivery rooms after a baby was born.

Pat Goudreau said her mother, the late Veronica Buckley Gaudreau, loved the nursing school so much she became a lifelong member of its alumnae association. When she died in 2001, she was buried wearing her nursing cap and pin.

And among Catherine McCarthy Cadorette’s favorite memories up until she graduated from the school in 1951 was how she got from the nurses’ residence to the hospital every day: “There was a tunnel that led from the west side of the residence, under Dearborn Street, into the (hospital) kitchen,” Cadorette said Tuesday as she perused photos and other historic memorabilia of her longtime employer, now called Southern New Hampshire Medical Center.

More than a dozen retired nurses, plus numerous family members of those who are deceased or were unable to attend, took part in Tuesday’s dedication to its nurses past, present and future of a newly installed patio on the Prospect Street side of the hospital.

The event, part of the hospital’s ongoing observance of its 125th anniversary this year, featured as special guests its former nursing school’s alumnae who graduated between 1948 and 1962, when the school closed.

“Nurses are on the front lines of caring … while the foundation of Southern New Hampshire Health is its physicians, the glue that holds the care together is the nurses,” Mayor Jim Donchess said during Tuesday’s brief speaking program.

Foundation Medical Partners Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Dorf cited the School of Nursing’s “early, and lasting, contributions … from when it first opened in 1899 through 1962.

Its graduates “set high standards … and paved the way for nursing’s achievements today,” Dorf added.

Cheryl Gagne, the hospital’s vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer, said organizers of Tuesday’s event “recently had the pleasure of talking with some 23 alums, or families of alums,” of the nursing school.

“These dedicated students not only did bedside nursing, they did the cleaning and sterilizing for the hospital,” Gagne said while painting a picture for guests of what Nashua’s nursing school looked like in the early- and mid-20th century.

A three-year program “was, by all accounts, intense,” Gagne said, adding that “many did not make it” to the first milestone – the capping ceremony at six months.

As they learned, nursing students “followed their patients into surgery, provided bedside care before and after, freshened rooms and flowers, and delivered and helped with meals,” Gagne told the group.

Some students studied for periods of time at other hospitals, rotating as part of the “affiliations” program, she said.

Wherever they went to study or work, each student wore the obligatory “white uniforms with pearl buttons, white nylons, white ‘Minnie Mouse’ shoes, and no jewelry of any kind,” Gagne said to laughs.

Also bringing smiles was her description of how students spent their little leisure time: “roller skating in the corridors” was among their exploits, as was “going into town” for ice cream at the former Rosebud’s or shopping at the former Miller’s clothing store and getting “their first-ever charge card.”

Class of 1961 graduate Esther Riopelle was among the Miller’s shoppers, and also recalls walking to the Yankee Flyer, Nashua’s iconic diner at Main and East Hollis streets.

“I had a great experience … I loved my classes and my instructors,” Riopelle said of her nursing school experience.

She said she and her fellow students “were well prepared for our jobs,” and recalled her stint at Children’s Hospital in Boston in an era when patients’ oxygen came from tanks rather than built-in concentrators.

“If the tank ran out and had to be changed, I didn’t need to call for help,” Riopelle said. “I asked for a wrench and did it myself.

“People were impressed,” she added with a laugh.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, or @Telegraph_DeanS.

Posted: 5/11/2017