Fifty young women began the three-year program, but only 35 graduated in 1968, indicating how challenging the program was for its time. And a notable achievement it was. These nurses could stand tall because their coursework, clinical training and weekend duties more than prepared them for the work they were about to encounter.
Five decades later, in September 2018, 33 of the original 35 graduates from that class gathered in Muskegon for a 50 Year Anniversary celebrating an event that seems like a lifetime ago. Long gone is the home for student nurses next to the hospital, where these ladies lived during their training, but their recollections were clear as they shared memories from some of the best years of their lives.
These student nurses received “room, board and laundry service” along with their training, and practically ran the hospital on weekends. There was plenty to keep them busy. They enjoyed monthly teas, looked forward to their half-way ceremony and even formed a choir. At Christmastime, they recalled the “Hanging of the Greens,” but nothing could outweigh the importance of their “Capping Ceremony.”
These nurses came to Muskegon from far and wide for their reunion: North Carolina, the Upper Peninsula, Florida, Nebraska and even Grand Rapids. Although the Hackley Hospital School of Nursing closed in 1982, it re-emerged as Muskegon Community College’s Associates Degree of Nursing in the same year.
Kim Maguire, CNO, expressed her admiration for these nursing trailblazers: “It was an honor to meet and speak with these nurses and give them a tour of Hackley today. It was touching to hear them speak so fondly of their time here. What a wonderful legacy they are for this institution.”
The leadership of Mercy Health Muskegon thanks House Supervisor Malinda Simons and Will Hignite, from staffing, who assisted in the tours. And special thanks go to all of the nurses working that day who took a moment to speak with our honored guests.