Administrator recals development of nursing

Frank A. Jerome\
Special to The Piney Woods Journal

In 1962 there were significant events that occurred in Ruston, Louisiana. During that year four individuals came to town in responsible positions and together participated in the transformation of a small town into an important center for the rest of North Central Louisiana.

Louisiana Tech got a new President. F. Jay Taylor took over the reins and in the next twenty-five years the small town college grew into a major university.

The Ruston Daily Leader got a new Publisher. Tom Kelly, a veteran of other small town newspapers, took over the helm of the Leader. In the next eighteen years Tom helped to develop the Leader into the leader for North Central Louisiana.

The Lincoln Bank & Trust Co. opened with O. Eston Payne as the first President. This was the third bank in Ruston in modern times and it brought a new level of competition to banking in Ruston and played an important role in the development of the community for the next twenty-five years.

Lastly, yours truly came to Ruston to take over the hospital that had just inhabited a new building. My previous experience was four years in the U. S. Marines, four years at Louisiana State University and ten years at the Baton Rouge General Hospital in my home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I am more familiar with my situation in detail than the other three but each deserves a story about their achievements. Firstly, in the history of hospitals in Ruston none had ever achieved Accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation, the national accrediting agency. The hospital was having an inspection by the Joint Commission within the first six months I was on the job. I was new to the town, to the hospital employees and to the doctors in Ruston, mostly members of the Green Clinic headed up by Marvin Green, Sr. M. D. who had developed a well-known medical group known throughout the state. I worked so hard during that first few months to help get the hospital fully accredited that, in some ways, I felt like I was on vacation for the next twenty years.

The cooperation of the doctors and department heads made local history when the Lincoln General got its full three year Accreditation. In addition, the hospital had a severe shortage of funds to operate, and vendors were demanding payment when they delivered hospital supplies, So, in addition to the accreditation problem I had to bear down on improving the finances.

I could detail many things accomplished during the next twenty five years, but lately I have thought about what I considered the greatest accomplishments. I turned 74 in May, 2005 and in looking back the two biggest accomplishments were playing the key role in the establishment of the Practical Nurse Training Program and the Associate Degree Nursing Program at Louisiana Tech.

The Practical Nurse Program got started when I received word that a special committee of the State of Louisiana was meeting and if I could get down there and make a presentation to the Committee I stood a chance of getting the funds to open the Practical Nurse Training School. I apparently did a satisfactory job for, in my presentation, I pointed out that the State of Louisiana had a severe shortage of nurses and that the North Central Area had the biggest shortage.

The Committee voted to give me $8,000.00 to start the program. I will never forget that the Chairman of the Committee asked me if I wanted the money sent to the hospital. I said, no, that the proper way for the program to get started was to send the money to the Ouachita Valley Vocational Technical School in West Monroe and to ear mark the funds to provide that the Vo-Tech School would provide classroom training and the Lincoln General Hospital would provide the Clinical Training. This Classroom program was later moved to the new Ruston Vo-Tech school and in the last thirty five years has probably turned out many hundreds of Practical Nurses who have helped to overcome the nursing shortage in North Central Louisiana.

The Associate Nursing Degree program at Louisiana Tech had a false start before really getting started. I met with F. Jay Taylor and he agreed to have the money in the budget to get the Nursing Program Started. But, as often happened, the State of Louisiana had a budget crunch that year and deleted the program from Louisiana Tech's budget.

The next year I met with Dr. Taylor, along with Dr. Bill Lumpkin, who was then the Chief of Staff for the hospital. I asked Dr. Taylor how much money it would take to get the program started and whatever it was I would raise it from all the other hospitals in the area. I forget exactly how much it was, something like $45,000 or so, but within two months I had the money pledged to Louisiana Tech to start the Nursing Program. The first year the Director was the only employee on the payroll of Louisiana Tech's Nursing Program and, during that year, she planned the program that got started the next year.

The Louisiana Tech budget for the Nursing Program got another financial bump when I served on a Committee for the Louisiana Hospital Association that met with the State of Louisiana Budget Director who increased the budget at Louisiana Tech for the education of Registered Nurses.

How many have been trained in the last twenty five or so years I have no idea, but it numbers in the high hundreds.

There were many other accomplishments during the twenty five years I spent in Ruston: I operated seven years without raising any rates, I trained the son of the largest Hospitalization Insurance program in Louisiana who is now the Senior Vice President of Blue Cross of Louisiana, I received letters each year from all of the Hospitalization Insurance Companies asking me how I could have my charges and costs consistently twenty to twenty five percent below my peer hospital around the state. That is a secret that I might divulge in a future article that may be written.

This article is my attempt to inform the people who inhabit North Central Louisiana where the Nurses trained by the two programs I helped start came from. These programs are currently active and, hopefully, will be active forever.

A footnote: About two years after I left Ruston the Hospital Board transferred the hospital to the Lincoln Parish Police Jury. This was a Board who had been active in the health affairs of Ruston since 1928. Some time after that the Police Jury sold two-thirds of the hospital for something like $17 Million, a pretty good return on their money, for the only money the Police Jury had put up for the hospital was $500,000 for the initial construction of the new building. The rest of the equity came from the leadership of the Hospital Board, The Medical Staff, The Department Heads and the employees of the hospital. I also played a role in this accomplishment.