Merit Health Wesley celebrates nursing history

In March 1900, a small medical facility opened in Hattiesburg as the first hospital in South Mississippi. The Ross Sanitarium was established under the leadership of Dr. T. E. Ross with a dedication to providing the best of medical service and personal Christian care to the growing community.

After more than a century of caring for the residents of the Pine Belt, that small medical facility has evolved into the 211-bed acute care hospital known as Merit Health Wesley.

During last year's National Nurses Week, hospital nursing leaders paid homage to the century-long history of the hospital and to the history of the nursing profession. In addition to displaying hospital memorabilia, including photos and awards from years past, nursing staff was encouraged wear white uniforms, in recognition of the traditional nursing uniform worn when the hospital opened. That same week, Merit Health Wesley launched "Throwback Thursdays." Every Thursday since May nurses have been encouraged to wear these traditional white uniforms.

"We've had great success with the program," said Phebe McKay, chief nursing officer. "The all-white uniform helps patients and their families quickly identify their lead caretaker. Our nurses have also enjoyed it because it gives those who never had the chance to wear white uniforms experience a little piece of nursing history."

In the 1900s, a nurse uniform consisted of a white dress, pinafore apron and nurse's cap. The long dress was to protect them from infection, the apron for the same reason and some type of hat to identify them as a nurse.

"Wearing white uniforms sets our nursing staff apart from the myriad of other healthcare professionals in the hospital," said McKay. "We've had such a positive response from patients, we're expanding Throwback Thursdays to other days of the week."