Nurses’ Week has come and gone, but it is always worthwhile to celebrate our healthcare warriors and shine a light on their accomplishments. This post would like to highlight Elise Galloway, a 1906 graduate of the Roosevelt Hospital School of Nursing who went on to be a Roosevelt nurse for her whole career.
Galloway was born in Garrison, New York in 1878. The farmhouse she and her family lived in until the 1920s still stands on the property of the Garrison Grist Mill Historic District site. As a student, she would have worked one of two shifts – 7a.m. to 7p.m. or the reverse – 7p.m. to 7a.m. Nursing students generally had one half day off a week, two hourly breaks a day and time on Sundays for church. The bulk of their training would be on their assigned ward. Their responsibilities included daily grooming and washing of patients’ faces, hands and feet, weekly sponge bathing, taking temperatures and noting that and any other particular changes in the patients’ condition, changing dressings, and serving patients their meals and preparing additional special dishes, if a patient needed supplemental nourishment. Nurses would join the Attending Physician on rounds, noting instructions and assisting as needed. Student nurses would also have weekly lectures in anatomy, physiology, Materia Medica, gynecology, the digestive system, the practice of medicine, the ethics of private nursing, and surgical diseases and emergencies.
Galloway graduated with the class of 1906, and began working at Roosevelt right out of school. Miss Mary Alexander Samuels, was the exacting Directress of Nursing in charge of both the nursing staff and the nursing school. Miss Samuels, considered a keen observer, recognized Galloway’s fine nursing skills, and heard about her reputation for reliability and an ability to catch on quickly – a necessary skill for a job that was learned by doing. She assigned Galloway as nurse supervisor over the Syms Operating Theatre.
The Syms Theatre, opened in 1892, was one of the most advanced operating theaters in the country and had very high standards. Medical students from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, located across the street from the Hospital, trained there, and visiting surgeons frequently came to observe surgical procedures in its sky-lighted amphitheater. As Nurse Supervisor, Galloway had to make sure all her student nurses knew how to properly sterilize instruments, suture materials, towels, and sheets for surgery, something that was a long and complex process at that time, as well as how to work with the surgeons during a procedure. Galloway, noted as being a patient and kind teacher, earned the nickname, “Mother Galloway,” used by students and doctors alike.
Her Hospital service was interrupted only twice in her career – the first time was in 1915, for six months, while Galloway volunteered to work in France with the American Ambulance Corps, prior to the formal U.S. entry into World War I. When the U.S. joined the conflict, Galloway served as a member of Base Hospital 15, which was composed of doctors, nurses, and support staff all drawn from Roosevelt Hospital’s personnel. She served as the Nursing Supervisor, organizing the operating room staff much as she did in the Syms Theatre.
The unit remained in Chaumont, France for most of the war. However, Galloway, along with another nurse and, two doctors spent about ten weeks at a French evacuation hospital at the French front near Vasney, where she experienced air raids at close range in exchange for valuable experience in wound treatment techniques.
Returning home to the Syms Theatre and New York, doctors knew her as an invaluable assistant and friend; nurses knew her as an excellent teacher. She was said to have an unfailing good temper, always calm, retaining poise in any emergency, and very unselfish, presenting the profession of nursing nobly and exemplifying the spirit of service and high standards that nursing is strives for.
The alumni newsletter notes that Elise Galloway left Roosevelt Hospital after an operation in the summer of 1933, and died in the Hospital on September 20, 1934 after an illness of several months.