Charity Hospital Transfers Control to Delgado - Students Get Associate Degrees in Nursing

By: Dee Shedrick
Eleven students enrolled in Delgado Community College's-Charity School of Nursing program in hopes of becoming registered nurses in 1991. Two years later, they walked across the stage wearing the signature nursing pins all graduating nursing students wear on their lapels during graduation. But one thing was different; they had degrees in their hands, instead of the diploma they would have received after successfully completing their training when the school originally opened in 1894 by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Charity was unable to continue to fund the program and Delgado gladly stepped up to continue the tradition.

Pins worn by all nursing students graduates during commencement ceremonies and the first class to graduate with associate degrees in nursing
Delgado and the director at that time, Sally Cooper (1980-1992) had their work cut out for them by taking over Charity. "We had to phase out an entire year and transition from a hospital to a college system, says Joan Hodge, assistant dean of academic affairs. The original program took almost four years to complete. They had to maintain their accreditation and update the program, while condensing the curriculum down to two years. But the buck didn't stop there.   Shortly after the merger, Dean Gayle Barrau (1993-2000) had to contend with astronomical numbers in enrollment because of the oil bust in the 1990s. Head Librarian, Sharon Robinson recalls, "The nursing school saw a lot of male applicants who used to be in the oil industry." Oil companies were relocating to Houston, so unemployed men decided to try their oil slicked hands to nursing.

Nursing school was dedicated to Sr. Stanislaus Malone of The Daughters of Charity in 1950
Each leader of the school faced specific challenges during their tenor. And for Pat Eagers (2000-2011), who was dean until recently, probably dealt with one of the biggest challenges of them all, Hurricane Katrina. Many nursing students did not return after the devastating storm, but the school still managed to pull off a graduation in January of 2006 with 162 graduates.

"Patients are sicker; there are new discoveries in science, health, technology and the volumes of information that need to be taught has drastically changed how nursing students are trained and how they treat patients," said Hodge. "Not to mention the development of more drugs, added Robinson. Currently, Dr. Cheryl Myers is executive dean of Delgado’s Charity School of Nursing. Myers will have to revise the curriculum that has not been updated since the merger in the 90s.

Pictures from Delgado Charity School of Nursing yearbook, 1992
Throughout the years, Delgado's nursing school has maintained its examination pass rates in the 90 percentile. The school graduates over 200 students every year and Delgado's nursing students are highly prized by employers in and out-of-state.    The nursing school located downtown was built to house 500 students, however, over the years the building has had to accommodate 7-800 and has graduated over 4,000 students since 1992. The school has been through many changes since it was ran by the Sisters of the Daughters of Charity and it doesn't look like change will stop anytime soon.

Other notable milestones from 1990-1999:
  • Nursing students serve in the Gulf War.
  • Delgado library became computerized, utilizing LOUIS (Louisiana online university system).
  • The Michael L. Williamson Gymnasium was built for the basketball team.
  • Delgado began to offer associate degrees in dental hygiene and technology, (although the program does not exist today).
  • The Student Life Center was built for the City Park campus in building seven, but was demolished post-Katrina.

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