Planning, organizing, and directing a school of nursing in the mission field presents many difficulties which leaders in the homeland do not face. But there is joy and satisfaction in the work, not from any great scholastic achievement of the student nurses, but from changes in the lives, ideals, and habits of these young people who come to the school of nursing.
Those who were responsible for the care of the sick in our clinic and hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, had felt for a long time that there should be a school of nursing. Previously the nursing was carried on by young men and women without professional training and often with little education, assisted by a staff of native graduate nurses. These workers were faithful, and gave their best in caring for the sick; but with the growing work the leaders felt that a planned program of training should be given to all young people who wished to work in the institution. The difficulties and problems to be overcome were many and varied, but one by one they were met, and with the help of divine guidance and the co-operation of all, we pressed forward to the goal of training medical workers.
On May 18, 1941, the Bangkok Mission Clinic School of Nursing opened its doors to eighteen young men and women who desired a nurse's education. These young people were both Thai and Chinese. All but two were non-Christians and came to us from various walks of life. Many possessed little background for the scientific subjects taught in nursing schools, and much of the work which young people usually receive in the grammar and high schools had to be learned along with the nursing program. The government educational requirement for nurses was the equivalent of second year in high school, but the standards of education are lower than those in the western countries. However, with necessary modifications, we gave a course of study and work similar to that given in our training schools in America.
One of the greatest difficulties to overcome was the language. It was necessary to secure a competent graduate nurse who could act as translator for the classes, as the teachers, with the exception of the native Bible teachers, had not had time or opportunity to study the language sufficiently to be able to use it in their teaching. Finally we were able to secure one who filled the place admirably. Without her our work would have been impossible.
There were only one or two nursing textbooks in the Thai language, and these were unobtainable, which made it necessary to translate the books as we went along. After the teachers had condensed the material as much as possible, it was translated and sent to the printers, so that each student could have a copy of the lessons. . This meant keeping several steps ahead of the classes, for the printers were very slow in turning out the work. This was a tremendous task in itself and could easily have taken the full time of several persons, but there were only two of us to do this, besides supervising the work of the clinic and the hospital, overseeing the dormitory, kitchens, laundry, repairs, office work, etc.
Our class and demonstration room was a double garage, but we were happy to have this place to carry on classes. We had none of the classroom equipment that is so necessary, but soon learned to improvise and make the things we had serve many purposes.
Not only did we plan for the medical education of the students, but we had a greater responsibility for bringing them the gospel of Jesus, and a very definite program was mapped out for this. The Chinese students had a teacher who used their own language and the Thais, one who used theirs. Both were ministers. Thus the story of salvation was opened to them, not only in the classroom, but also in the daily worship periods in the nurses' home. All attended Sabbath school, church, and young people's meetings, and some were learning to take part in these activities before we had to evacuate.
After nearly six months of probationary study and work, thirteen students, including two young men, were admitted to the school. The young women were then qualified to wear the symbol of the profession, the cap. The caps were received during a special service held in the church on November 17, 1941. We continued our work with them in spite of rumblings of war that threatened to engulf this little country. For several weeks the international situation was growing tense, and we knew not what would happen to our work. On Monday, December 8, 1941, the blow fell, and we were forced by the outbreak of war to lay down our work of training these young people for service to humanity. When the missionaries were interned, there was no one who could continue the training school, and it had to be abandoned. Several of the students remained to help carry on the work of the clinic, which was still operating when we left the country.
Although God has seen fit to have us cease our labors in Bangkok for the time being, He will use these young people and prepare them for further training when the war is over and the way is opened for the missionaries to return to the Orient. The need for training medical workers is truly great there, and the laborers have been very few. Let us remember the native workers in our prayers, for they are carrying the responsibility alone in the face of hardship and probable persecution.