Amelia Young Cox Harshman, R. N., a Knoxville Nursing Pioneer

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When my school was over at Christmas, I went to see my sister Jessie at the Lincoln Memorial Hospital. While there I met Miss Emma Nelson, the Director of Nursing, and asked her how she would like to have me for a probationer. She immediately said, “Were you thinking of applying?” Getting an affirmative answer, she passed me an application blank which I filled out. After reading it she said, “You may report for duty tomorrow morning.” So I borrowed probationers’ uniforms until mine could be made, wrote my parents I had entered training (which came as a great surprise, as I really had not thought of it before leaving for Knoxville), and began my career as a nurse. I enjoyed my three years at Lincoln Memorial Hospital and hated to leave on graduation, January 1911.

Amy Young in 1911I did private duty until May 1911, when I was offered the position as superintendent of a small hospital being opened by a group of doctors in Johnson City, Tennessee. I went up before opening time and helped get the building ready for occupancy — only ten patients’ beds, a small operating room, kitchen and dining space. I had two assistants; one had had two years training in Bristol and one a probationer with no training. My operating room had sterilizers heated by oil burners. [Photo of Amy, dated 1911]

One of my worst days, when I was all ready for Dr. Miller and his assistant from Knoxville, who were to do an appendectomy, I took his bag of instruments to sterilize and found on opening the door that my sterilizer was pouring out black smoke and everything was covered with oily soot. I finally got things cleaned up and the operation went smoothly and the patient made a good recovery. I was paid $50.00 per month with board and laundry for twenty-four hour duty.

I found this a lot of responsibility for a girl not yet twenty-one years of age, so in October of that year decided to accept an offer by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Knoxville to start their visiting nurse program offered to their industrial policy holders. This program, a new venture, got off to a good start and was used and appreciated.

The conditions under which some of my patients lived in Knoxville slums were very bad. There was no provision made for the care of tubercular patients. I went before a Knoxville women’s club and told them of some of the conditions I found and took two of the prominent women with me to see some of the patients. We got some newspaper publicity and a movement was started which culminated in the erection of Beverly Hills Sanatarium [sic] on Black Oak Ridge for tubercular patients.

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