Miriam Stevens chose to do her clinical experiences at Queens General Hospital because she knew that she would see a little bit of everything. She recalls having a patient with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, who was found unconscious in a cemetery. At the time, medical professionals came from across the country to see this rare disease.
After graduation from college she became an evening supervisor of a 100 bed general hospital in New York City while enrolling in classes towards her master’s degree. It was at this hospital that she met her future husband, Stanley Stevens, whose father was a patient. Mrs. Stevens was married in 1951, and left nursing to raise her three children.
When and why did you first want to become a nurse?
I attended Hunter College High School in New York City and was always on track to attend college. My parents were big believers in my attaining a four-year degree and becoming self-supporting. Originally, I was interested in studying mathematics, but my family was uncertain about the career applications of that field, so I decided on nursing.
At the time, Adelphi was one of only a couple of schools with a four year nursing program. I applied under the United States Cadet Nurses program and was accepted with a full scholarship. I remember that at 17, I was the youngest in the class. In fact, I finished my full three years and had to wait until I turned 20 to take the New York State Board exam.
Do you have favorite memories of your time at Adelphi and your residencies?
I remember Dean Ruth Harley well. She was very kind and so connected to the students. World War II had ended when I entered Adelphi, so I only qualified for a 3 year scholarship and had to pay tuition in my senior year. I would not ask my parents to pay for it and I explained my predicament to Dean Harley. I remember Dean Harley listening to my story and telling me “no problem, pay it when you have it.” I worked all summer as a staff nurse to save for my tuition and then commuted from the Bronx to Garden City for my senior year.
The faculty was tough, but very competent and they prepared us well. We had a nice life on campus; each sorority had a table in the cafeteria where we conducted our “business,” and of course we met many interesting people in the dormitories. My second roommate had a maid who would come in and do her laundry!
What are some of the changes you have seen in nursing through the years?
When I was a student nurse at Queens General Hospital and doing my rotation through the newborn nursery, there were times when three student nurses had to care for 80 or more newborns. We would prop the bottles for the babies and would circle around caring for them. We were doing everything from folding diapers to participating in deliveries to caring for premature babies. Today everything has become more specialized.
What advice would you give to today’s nursing students?
I would advise every nurse, both student and graduate, to have compassion and respect for every patient.