Jessie Parker Smith Oral History Interview, 2022

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Summary

Creator:
Smith, Jessie Parker
Abstract:
Jessie Parker Smith, LPN, was a member of the first graduating classes of the Durham School of Practical Nursing during the late 1940s, as well as one of the cohorts of what is now known as the "Trailblazers", the first African American nurses hired by Duke. Smith remained a nurse at Duke for over 40 years. Initially a surgical nurse, she came to work with a variety of patients and specialties over her career. Tireless in her advocacy for the profession, Smith was an active member and Treasurer of the North Carolina Licensed Practical Nurses Association. This collection contains 1 oral history interview conducted on June 13, 2022 by Patara Williams and transcribed by Josephine McRobbie. Smith's daughter, LaHoma Romocki, was also part of the conversation, and the interview was attended by Heather Lowe (Duke University) and Josephine McRobbie (audio engineer contractor). In the interview, Smith discusses the Duke and Durham hospital systems, the work and culture of Licensed Practical Nursing throughout Smith's career, and Smith's perspectives on patient care. The themes of this interview include nursing, racial integration in healthcare, and professional development.
Extent:
1 interview (1 transcript) and 1.49 GB
Collection ID:
OH.SMITHJ

Background

Scope and content:

Includes 1 oral history interview conducted on June 13, 2022 with Jessie Parker Smith by Patara Williams and transcribed by Josephine McRobbie. Smith's daughter, LaHoma Romocki, was also part of the conversation, and the interview was attended by Heather Lowe (Duke University) and Josephine McRobbie (audio engineer contractor).

In the interview, Smith discusses the Duke and Durham hospital systems, the work and culture of Licensed Practical Nursing throughout Smith's career, and Smith's perspectives on patient care. The themes of this interview includes nursing, racial integration in healthcare, and professional development.

Biographical / historical:

Jessie Parker Smith, LPN, is the daughter of sharecroppers. She graduated from G. C. Hawley High School in Creedmoor, North Carolina and learned of Durham's practical nursing training through a radio advertisement. Smith was a member of the first graduating classes of the Durham School of Practical Nursing during the late 1940s, as well as one of the cohorts of what is now known as the "Trailblazers", the first African American nurses hired by Duke. Smith first came to Duke Hospital during her Durham School of Practical Nursing clinical hours. The Hospital came to be one of the centers of her community. Early in her career, Smith met LPN Louise Prince, another "Trailblazer" who would become a close colleague and life-long friend. She also met her husband, the late Reverend Dr. Adolphus Smith, in the halls of Duke Hospital where he also worked in the early 1950s.

During Smith's early career, Duke Hospital was a segregated facility. In this interview, she remembers in detail the intricacies of how segregated medical care was delivered, and how this resulted in deeply unequal treatment and care. Additionally, she recalls the morning the units at Duke Hospital became integrated, with the current Director of Nursing proclaiming "I want [all floors arranged] like a checkerboard."

Smith remained a nurse at Duke for over 40 years. Initially a surgical nurse, she came to work with a variety of patients and specialties over her career. Tireless in her advocacy for the profession, Smith was an active member and Treasurer of the North Carolina Licensed Practical Nurses Association.

Smith was joined in this oral history interview by her daughter Dr. LaHoma Smith Romocki, who is a professor of public health and a 1979 graduate of Duke University.

Acquisition information:
Accession A2023.046 (transferred by Josephine McRobbie, August 2023)
Processing information:

Processed by Lucy Waldrop: September 2023.

Arrangement:
Organized into the following series: Interview, June 13, 2022.
Rules or conventions:
DACS

Contents

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Restrictions:

None.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Jessie Parker Smith Oral History Interview, Duke University Medical Center Archives.