Phyllis Carter Collins, Class of 1947

On Oct. 7, alumni of the Peter Bent Brigham School of Nursing (PBBSON) gathered at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center to reminisce, celebrate and learn.

This year, 69 alumni who attended the gathering welcomed a special guest, Phyllis Carter Collins, RN, a member of the Class of 1947. Engaging and witty, Collins regaled her fellow PBBSON alumni with colorful stories from her years as a nursing student during World War II.

“I’m from before Penicillin,” said Collins as she recounted memories of sterilizing and reusing many now-disposable items, such as glass syringes, needles and rubber gloves.

Collins enrolled at the PBBSON after her high school graduation. Normally, the school required incoming freshman to have completed one year of college to be accepted into the program. However, the war had caused a nursing shortage across the U.S., as many nurses were serving overseas. Given the shortage, the college requirement was waived.

Collins also discussed how the clinical learning experience differed during the 1940s. In those years, nursing students were expected to staff the hospital. In 1944, a 48-hour work week (comprised of six eight-hour days) was implemented. Therefore, class time became incorporated into the work day.

Collins recounted that social life was almost nonexistent for her and her classmates. They had a 10 p.m. curfew and were allowed one “late” (pass) per month. “If you didn’t care for the boy who asked you out on a date, it was very convenient to say, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any lates left,’” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

Upon graduation, Collins had hoped to become a public health nurse in a rural area, perhaps where she might need to visit patients on horseback. But her path instead led her into nursing education. I am sure that generations of nurses who learned from this wonderful teacher are all better off for having had her as their teacher. She is an inspiration to all who meet her and truly exemplifies the Greatest Generation.

The PBBSON Alumni Association, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, welcomes all graduates of the school. Please visit the association website for more information:

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