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Mary B. (Chase) Hall, RN, Nu’65

“Shortly after graduation in 1965, I married and worked as a visiting nurse in a low economic section of Providence, RI for a year—a job I treasured.”

“Then, my husband’s work moved us to the University of Rhode Island, and I was pregnant with our daughter. In the next four years, we adopted two boys (one infant and one thirteen-year-old) and were surprised by the birth of yet another son. I began to wonder what was going to happen to my nursing education. One day, the development director of the local hospital and my husband were talking. The South County Hospital wanted to open a prenatal clinic at the one-year-old Washington County Health Center for non-insured or under-insured women. Residents from the maternity hospital in Providence and a registered nurse would staff it for three hours every other week. He had no idea where he could find a nurse to hire for such a limited job. My husband knew someone!

The challenges were endless: we were housed in a not very attractive storefront; we had a different resident at each clinic time, and too often, the resident didn’t appear because “the forty-five minute drive was too long from Providence.” Before long, I was running the clinic myself for one or two weeks every month. Periodically, we would get a resident who really wanted to help and would come every week until they were reassigned to another phase in his/her program. The women had to go to Providence for their labs and for their delivery! When two new obstetricians opened a practice in town, I went to meet them. With the help of our Board and other local people, we coerced them into negotiating with South County Hospital to attend the deliveries in town. There are stories galore about the history of the Prenatal Clinic: the many doctors, social workers, medical assistants, a nurse midwife, nursing students from the University, but mostly, the wonderful, interesting, exasperating, surprising women who came through our program. 

At intakes, I would give the women my home phone number. Over the years, there were calls every week or two in the middle of the night, but they were always for legitimate reasons, and sometimes just for reassurance–the women did not take advantage. As our children grew, so did my hours and responsibilities. But the prenatal work, classes, etc. remained my favorite part of the job. In the twenty-four years I worked there, prenatal care changed a lot: ultrasound was developed; C-sections were in, C-sections were out; husbands/partners were in the delivery room, then they were out, then they were back in, etc. When we moved away, my salary was the same as a new grad starting in a hospital. But I wouldn’t have changed my job choice for anything!”

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