Standing in front of one of UTC’s first-ever nursing classes, getting ready to lead the lecture, Dr. Barbara Norwood noticed something a bit daunting.
“I really wasn’t a whole lot older than a lot of the students. As a matter of fact, some of them were older than I was,” she recalls. “So it was this sense of: ‘How am I telling these people who are older than I am what they needed to be doing?’”
Not that Norwood didn’t have the chops to be an instructor. At the time, she’d spent three years as head nurse at Erlanger Hospital. But when her friend Mary Jackson called to tell her that UTC was creating a School of Nursing and asked if she would help set up and run the school’s clinical-practice lab, Norwood couldn’t turn down the offer.
“I don’t even know what my title was because I was so naïve at the time,” she says.
The first location offered for the lab was the top floor of one of the Victorian homes in the Fort Wood area, what looked like a former ballroom, she recalls. It was not exactly ideal.
“It was a big space, and so I went over there to look at it,” Norwood recalls. “The windows had been broken out for some time, so the pigeons flew in and out. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? This can’t possibly be the case.’”
It wasn’t, and the lab was moved into Holt Hall.
Now, 44 years later, Norwood is retiring from the School of Nursing. To honor her commitment and long-lasting impact, she has been chosen as the newest professor emeritus from the school, joining eight others, including Jackson, who founded the school in 1973 and passed away in 2015, and Martha Butterfield, the first faculty member in the then-called Department of Nursing.
Over the years, Norwood has taught more than 1,000 students, including Pam Taylor, one of the original 28 graduates from the School of Nursing. She calls Norwood “my primary influence.”
“She wants you to be the very best you can be and she will push you until you think you’re going to break. But you won’t,” Taylor says.
“One of her favorite things to say—and I thought it was just horrible at the time, but looking back I think it’s great—’If you can’t cut it, get out. You don’t need to be taking care of patients because you could kill someone.’ It was her way of motivating us to realize this is life or death.”
During her decades in nursing, Norwood has seen many changes in the profession, including one she’s not crazy about—technology. She’s not completely averse to using it because, in some cases, it can provide quick access to valuable information such a patient’s health records and previous treatment. But it’s taking over everything, including the caring and personal attention required to be a good nurse or doctor, she says.
“When you go to a doctor’s visit, it’s always interesting to me as I sit there because they’ve always got their computer now in the exam rooms,” she says. “But how often do they look and click on that instead of ever looking and/or touching me?”
Jumping on the newest technological bandwagon can be counterproductive, she says, because it doesn’t always help save time, its ultimate goal.
“Every time there’s a new one, everybody is like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s get the newest.’ And the question I think that needs to be asked in that situation, ‘Just because we can, should we?’ she says. “I didn’t go to school to learn to use that. That’s not what I’m about.”
Looking forward to her retirement, she is both excited and a little anxious. She’ll miss the students and her co-workers in the School of Nursing, she says, but she’ll now have time to pursue her passions in genealogy and antiques, especially medical antiques. But even with those on her list, she probably have a good bit of extra hours on her hands, she adds.
“As a matter of fact, I’m a little nervous about, ‘What am I going to do?’ Everybody tells me, ‘Oh, you’ll find so much to do you won’t know how you had time to work.’ Well, the only way I can relate to that is when I was working and going to school and had a family. I got it all done, and then when I completed the school, I looked back and thought, ‘How did I ever have time to go to school?’ ”