Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Hospital Crossroads: Sisters Forged Ahead

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Hospital Crossroads: Sisters Forged Ahead

Article excerpt

Stately framed photographs line the corridor walls. There are 57 pictures with a new one added each year.

The earliest pictures start in 1960 and memorialize the health administration groups who started at Xavier University in Cincinnati in 1958 and graduated two years later.

Over the years, there have been numerous changes in the health administration program at Xavier, including a shift from being two years' to three years' duration, beginning in the 1990s when the complexities of what needed to be taught in this graduate program overflowed the one year of didactic coursework followed by one year of administrative residency.

Perhaps the most visible change is that of class composition. In the early years, each class was mainly sisters, while occasional laypersons rounded out the group. In the 1970s and '80s, the number of laypersons increased significantly, and then the sisters became the occasional persons in the group. Over the recent past years, there are no sisters in these full classes of lay men and women. There's a marked increase in. diversity, and today women outnumber men.

The faces of the sisters in those early days appear pleasant with dutiful smiles. What were they thinking? Did they really want to run hospitals for their orders? Were they already nurses for whom the switch to health care administration would be fairly smooth?

Or were they pulled out of successful school principalships to answer the new call set before them by their superiors based on the logic, "You have leadership skills to run a school, so you can surely run a hospital. We need you to run our hospital."

I, too, am one of those faces on the wall. My order gave me a choice: "You can either be a school principal or a hospital administrator."

My response was sassy for a young sister in those days: "What kind of a choice is that? I don't know anything about running a hospital."

The mother general at the time was a kind yet contemporary thinker who just laughed. She could have gotten angry or been unhappy with me, but she didn't. She laughed and said immediately, "Yes, we know this. How about if we let you spend the summer at a hospital with one of our sister-administrators so you can find out what that ministry is all about?"

And find out I did. I enjoyed the summer exploring hospital administration. I was thankful to bring all my teaching skills and experience because everything fit. Yes, I was ready to make my choice of hospital administration over being a school principal.

I happened to be the only sister in my graduating class of 1980. The look on my face in that class photo is resolute, ready and smiley I knew why I was studying hospital administration and I was glad to be invited to do that. All of us in the class were planning for jobs running hospitals.

Ah yes, running a hospital. Before 1875, hospitals were places people went to die. They were places of last resort since cures didn't happen there, and options, for saving lives didn't exist.

But a number of advancements in health care around the turn of the century changed all that. X-rays were discovered. Anesthesia began and enjoyed broad use in hospitals. The EKG was invented. Lab tests became a diagnostic arsenal. Penicillin and the powerful sulfa drugs (antibiotics) were discovered. Diagnosis, surgery and controlling infections breathed life into hospitals themselves, making them places of life, not death. …

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