National Nurses Week, held May 6-12 each year, is a time to recognize the immense contributions and positive impact of the over 4 million nurses in America. One nurse in particular has made history for health care, and is the namesake of McLaren Northern Michigan.
Magaret Eliza McLaren, RN, was a nursing leader. She was the first nurse, and one of only a few women in the nation, to have a hospital named after them. Margaret was born in 1888 in Kent, Ontario, Canada. She led a simple life, and at the age of 16, she left school to help her mother work the family farm and raise her seven younger siblings. It wasn’t until the youngest of them entered school that she had the opportunity to pursue nursing. At age 28, she left Canada for Detroit and entered the Nurse’s Training School of Grace Hospital. She graduated in 1920 with the highest honor. She spent the next two years as a private duty nurse, refusing several hospital positions in Detroit because she felt she needed the experience of working as what was considered at the time, a general duty nurse.
Margaret came to Flint in 1922 to be the surgical supervisor at Hurley Hospital. Although there were very few women in leadership roles in the 1920s, she excelled in her career beyond expectations, gaining respect from those she worked with for her standards of patient care.
In 1924, less than 4 years after graduating from nursing school, Margaret became the Superintendent of Women’s Hospital on Lapeer Street in Flint. Margaret remained in the leadership role for 28 years and orchestrated the growth of services and facilities to meet growing community needs. Margaret planned and helped fund raise two million dollars for a new building on Ballenger Highway, and expanded capacity from 29 patient beds to 243 beds. The new Women’s Hospital broke ground in 1949 and opened in 1951. The new facility was renamed McLaren General Hospital in her honor, shortly before she retired.
Over her amazing career, Margaret was a member and two-term president of the Zonta Club of Flint, as well as a member of the Flint District Nurses Association and the Michigan Hospital Association, the Michigan Nurses Association, and the American Hospital Association.
“I am honored and privileged to witness the way in which our nurses approach their calling each and every day,” expressed Jennifer Woods, Chief Nursing Officer at McLaren Northern Michigan. “Like Margaret McLaren, the namesake of our hospital, our nurses exemplify the best of what health care can and should be, which is only magnified during these challenging and emotionally-difficult times.”
Nurses influence the health and wellness of our community through a variety of specialized positions, serving all ages in not only the hospital but in clinics, medical centers, patient homes, schools, and even shaping public policy. The influence of nurses in health care has likely exceeded even what Margaret McLaren might have envisioned.
As we celebrate Nurses Week, McLaren Northern Michigan would like to end with the words of the nurse who is the hospital’s namesake:
“It is a high privilege to work in a hospital. It is warming to the heart, with always the challenge to do better. The sole aim is to give service, kindly and skillfully, realizing always that the patient needs above all else, understanding, sympathetic care. There is nothing on earth as rewarding as the gratitude of a patient.” – Margaret E. McLaren, RN