United States Cadet Nurse, Registered Nurse
After graduating from Adelphi’s School of Nursing, Betty Davis’ first job was at her alma mater. For several years, she worked as an assistant professor in nursing at Adelphi, teaching surgical nursing at Meadowbrook Hospital. In fact, “I was my sister’s surgical instructor,” says Mrs. Davis. Her sister Carol Hetfield Mulcahy received her nursing degree from Adelphi in 1951.
After she married in 1948, Mrs. Davis worked as a camp nurse and served as a communicable disease nurse during the summers. She worked at Meadowbrook Hospital until 1952, after which Mrs. Davis continued her work as a camp nurse. She eventually began doing private duty nursing at several hospitals, which she continued to do for 20 years.
In 1968, Mrs. Davis left her position as camp nurse when her husband became pastor at St. George’s Church. During this time period, “I had many responsibilities, I kept up in nursing, and did a lot of volunteer work,” Mrs. Davis recalls. In 1985, Mrs. Davis’ husband retired and five years later, they moved to Florida.
“My Adelphi degree so helped me in dealing with people and helping in many ways,” says Mrs. Davis. “It was my nursing and love of people that helped us to be successful.”
Mrs. Davis and her husband were happily married for 57 years. They have one child and two wonderful grandchildren. Mrs. Davis continues to do volunteer work today.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
At 18, I felt that I wanted to be a stewardess; you had to be a registered nurse at that time. I gave up on becoming a stewardess when I saw how much I was needed in actual nursing.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi?
In 1943, Adelphi College thought of something new: a four year nursing program. They were able to hire Dr. Mildred Montag. Without her, I don’t think we would have gone ahead. I was in the first class of cadet nurses. I don’t remember the exact number of students who started with me, but I do remember it was a very extensive program. Many of the original students didn’t make it; I was one of the “chosen ones.”
One of my fondest memories from Adelphi was meeting so many new people and so enjoying all of my classes.
Dr. Montag was a very efficient person and didn’t take any nonsense. I always remember her as being very helpful and caring, but above all, faithful to her students. It wasn’t easy being the first class to go to the various hospitals. Many of the three-year registered nurses resisted us and let us know this. I always told people I was a “guinea pig.” I also fondly remember Dr. Murphy, who taught anatomy.
Adelphi made me a more caring person. It matured me in so many ways. I didn’t know much about illnesses because our family was always very healthy.
Adelphi helped me not only as an active nurse, but in my marriage to an Episcopal priest. Clergy wives had to be all things to everyone; my Adelphi degree so helped me in dealing with people and helping in many ways. It was my nursing and love of people that helped us to be successful.
What are some changes you have seen in nursing throughout the years?
Nursing has changed over time. In the forties and fifties we did not have recovery rooms, and the operating room is so different with all the new machinery. The computer has changed everything, including nursing; I’m not sure it is for the best though.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
You must always accept your responsibility for your patients. I believe it is a nurse’s responsibility to always do the best you can, but above all, be caring. “There but for the will of God go I.”