Foundation, Press Releases

102-year-old Emily “Crews” Shearin Celebrates 110th Anniversary of Park View Hospital School of Nursing

Emily "Crews" Shearin (left) with Natalie Woodcock (right), 2023-24 Park View Nurses Alumnae Scholarship Recipient

Emily “Crews” Shearin (left) with Natalie Woodcock, 2023-24 Park View Nurses Alumnae Scholarship Recipient

Emily “Crews” Shearin has seen many remarkable changes in the health care profession since graduating from Rocky Mount’s Park View Hospital (PVH) School of Nursing in 1943. The 102-year-old shared many memories during the Park View Nurses Alumnae Association’s recent gathering to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the school’s founding.

“I remember when we didn’t use disposable gloves, and we actually glued rubber patches on the gloves for reuse,” said Shearin. “We reused needles, too, and it was the nurses’ job to sharpen them. We used something like an emery board to sharpen the needles. We also had to pull water up into the syringes to dilute medications.”

Nurses were expected to mix plaster and construct casts, in addition to rolling cotton balls from one large piece of cotton.

Shearin grew up in Dabney, NC, a farming community between Oxford and Henderson in Vance County. She was inspired to become a nurse when two of her brothers were stricken with pneumonia. “A nurse came to our house to care for them,” she said. She vividly remembers that the nurse wore a red sweater. It was that memory and image of the caring and professional nurse that spurred her interest in following that career path.

When she enrolled in the PVH School of Nursing, a one-time fee of $100 covered three years of tuition, books, uniforms, room, and board. When enrolled, Shearin explained that a student sent in her measurements so that uniforms could be custom-made for each student.

The program was a boarding school, and students were not allowed to be married. “Well, it happened anyway,” Shearin said, adding, “Of course, they kept it a secret.”
One vivid memory was hearing the announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. “I was a student nurse then, and another student and I were cleaning the morgue in the hospital basement. We were listening to the radio, and the special news broke in, talking about the bombing.”

When she graduated from nursing school, Shearin had to go to Raleigh to take the nursing board exam. “The exam fee was $10, and I didn’t have the money,” she explained. “A hospital orderly loaned me the money to take the exam. When I got my first job, I paid him back $20.”

Shearin considered becoming an Army nurse upon graduation but decided to marry instead. Her husband, the late Earl Creech Shearin, was an Army staff sergeant, and she followed him to many places in the United States, working in hospitals and clinics in Georgia, New Jersey, and Alabama before moving to Rocky Mount in 1951. This is where they raised two sons and two daughters.

The Park View Hospital Nurses Alumnae Association established its nursing scholarship at Nash Community College in 1989 and has awarded over $36,000 in scholarships since then. Founded in 1914, the PVH School of Nursing was housed on the hospital campus and was a boarding school for young women. The first class of nursing students graduated in 1917. The final class of PVH Nursing students graduated in 1969.