Anniversaries are an important part of people’s daily life, but for a group of women that have served people throughout their lives that gathered on Tuesday, it was a special time together.
These women are from the Graduating class of 1966 from the Dominican School of Nursing that was in Great Bend. They gathered at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Convent on Tuesday to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
“We all come from different parts of Kansas and a few from other states,” said Donna Staab, one of the grads. “It is a great pleasure to be able to get together and reminisce about the time be had during nursing school.”
The nurses brought with them memorabilia from their time at the school and shared this with each other. They enjoyed looking trough some photo albums.
The gathering for the Anniversary was not the only thing on the agenda. These nurses had dinner Tuesday night and after breakfast at the convent this morning, will visit some sites in Great Bend.
The history these nurses share is something they will treasure throughout their lives, they said. They had one story that they were very proud of and that was when they were ask to move all the patients from the old hospital to the new one.
“We were the first class to be ask to help with the new hospital,” Theresa Voelkel said. “When people came to the hospital they seemed to a bit lost, when they asked for directions they were told to ask the student nurses because they knew were everything was. The reason we knew that is because we were ask to clean and get the hospital ready for its opening and we also the ones that moved the patients from the old hospital to the new one.”
According to St. Rose Health Center, the hospital traces its history back to Oct. 1902, when three doctors asked the Dominican Sisters to establish a hospital in the Great Bend area.
Surgical cases at that time were sent to Wichita or Kansas City. General care was not available.
None of the seven pioneer Sisters, who had come from Brooklyn, N.Y., in April to establish the Dominican foundation, were nurses. However, the Sisters responded to the challenge and petitioned their previous Dominican community for a Sister nurse.
In April 1903, Sister Loretta Feinler, a registered nurse and pharmacist, came from Brooklyn to open a hospital in Great Bend.
Interested citizens rented and equipped one of the dormitory buildings of the old Normal College for the new hospital.
It was named St. Rose after the Peruvian Saint known for her compassion to the sick and poor. St. Rose Hospital had eight rooms, five for patients, one for sterilizing, laundry and kitchen, one for the dining room and another for the reception room. The first patient was admitted on April 5, 1903, and the first operation was performed four days later.
In less than a year, many patients were refused admission due to lack of space. Thus began a period of rapid growth for the hospital.
As early as 1906, formalized education for nurses was provided in conjunction with clinics and hospitals. St. Rose Hospital Training School was established in September 1917 and later became the Dominican School of Nursing.
The three-year diploma program was phased out in 1971 when Barton County Community College began offering Associate Degree Programs in Nursing.