Florence McClain, Student Nurse Portrait, c. 1929

This is a portrait of Florence McClain as a student nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland.

Florence started “nurse’s training” (as it was called then) in fall 1928 and graduated in spring 1931. Exactly when this portrait was taken during that period is unknown. I’m inclined to think it was closer to the beginning of it than the end.

Being a student nurse at this time was not easy. Between classes and the hours a student was expected to put in at the hospital, the days were long and (often) the nights longer. I don’t know how true this was of Good Samaritan specifically, but a cynical view of nurse education at this time was that hospitals viewed student nurses primarily as free (or nearly free) labor, with any obligation to educate seen as secondary.

And if you weren’t in class or working at the hospital, you were living in a dormitory. According to the 1930 census, Florence was living in a dormitory with 92 other student nurses, plus a house mother and one registered nurse (whose function in relation to the student nurses, if any, is unknown to me).

But it wasn’t drudgery every minute. I remember Mom (Florence) mentioning going to church, to concerts, to the theater and to ball games, at least. During Mom’s last year as a student nurse, her brother Bernard was also in Portland going to business school and they would do things together when they could.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Mom gained some life-long friends during these years—two in particular: Dorothy Holmes (later Weeks) and Shirley Briggs (later Elliott).