Beacon of Hope: Growth Years
Meeting the Challenges
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Founding Years 1944-1953
Growth Years 1953-1969
Years of Change and Renewal 1969-1993
Footnotes
About the Author

As the hospital reached full occupancy in 1958, a process of seasoning began. By adjusting to a variety of stresses and strains, the operating departments gradually perfected the delivery of clinical services.

The Nursing Department faced rising acute care requirements, particularly an influx of more critically ill patients and 234 major operations performed that year in the Clinic of Surgery.71 In response, a postoperative care unit was planned and opened that year, and preparations were made to shift the nonprofessional work load from professional nurses to attendants and technicians.72 The program did not cover the staffing gap, however, because of the curtailment of diploma schools and diminishing numbers of practical nurses. Actual nursing positions filled declined from 617 in 1961 to 479 in 1970, and average hours of care per patient per day dropped from 6.13 to 4.82 as the patient census rose steadily.73 Quality care was maintained on the wards by “a greater understanding of mutual dependence” between physicians and nurses and by “increasing efforts of physicians to teach and interpret routines to nursing service personnel.”74 Under Chief Louise C. Anderson, active collaboration by nurses in research protocols became an important feature of nursing activities.

Clinical Pathology was beset by more complex operational difficulties in 1958. The test rate neared 30,000 per month, three times the planned rate at full activation. Technologists were performing 40 procedures daily, twice the normal work load, and the department chief, Dr. George Z. Williams, asked to limit intake.75 A Medical Board Steering Committee declined to limit investigators’ use of diagnostic services and put its faith in automatic instrumentation, while the institutes remained unwilling to reallocate nine modules of laboratory space.76 Cast back on its own resources, the department under Williams undertook research to develop new analytic tests and to investigate areas of hematology, clinical chemistry, and microbiology bearing on analytic problems. This led in 1965 to early adaptation of computerized data processing for pathology procedures, a national leadership role Williams saw as essential to the Clinical Center mission. With the support of Congress in 1966, a model laboratory was developed.77

A similar reliance on developmental research and innovative diagnostic technology characterized the radiology and radiography services, housed before 1965 in the Diagnostic X-ray Department. Collaborative efforts with intramural technologists in 1964 produced two state-of-the-art apparatuses: a tomography system utilizing a moving x-ray, and a tetra scanner that delivered a complete brain scan in 22 minutes.78 Radioisotope use quickly became generalized in clinical studies, and in 1966 the Department of Nuclear Medicine was set up alongside Diagnostic Radiology to develop and service new diagnostic modalities. By 1968, television applications of the gamma scintillation camera were allowing heart surgeons to monitor blood flow in occluded arteries.79

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