lt took inspiration, education, and drive for Jamaica-born Marjorie Harding, RN, BSN, NHA, WOCN, to become the director of nursing at Philadelphia’s venerable Inglis House.
Inglis House, a residential home for people with severe disabilities, was founded in 1877 through the vision of Annie C. Inglis. According to the Inglis Foundation Web site (www.Inglis.org), Inglis contracted scarlet fever and lived her life in a wheelchair. “It was her dream to found a home in Philadelphia to care for those of low income with disabilities during an era when the poor and infirm were dependent entirely on charity care,” the Web site states.
Inglis told her mother of this dream just days before she died of gastric hemorrhage on May 4, 1875. The 18-year-old envisioned that “a home for those who can’t be cured will someday stand in the city.” Inglis gave her mother a $1 gold coin for auction to start a fundraising campaign. That gold coin was sold several times and, ultimately, raised the money to found Inglis House.
Nurse-Inspired CareerMarjorie Harding, RN, BSN, NHA, WOCN
Although Inglis’s life ended when she was still a teen, Harding’s life was just beginning at that age. Growing up in Jamaica, Harding found a role model in a neighbor who was a head nurse at the University of the West Indies Hospital’s med/surg units.
“Her compassion for the sick and indigent who lived in the neighborhood and how she cared for them, never saying no, helped me confirm that nursing definitely was the profession for me,” Harding says.
After graduating from high school in Kingston, Jamaica, Harding and her family immigrated to the United States, joining her mother, who had gone ahead to find work.
Career on the Move
Harding worked as a certified nursing assistant while pursuing education as an LPN at Presbyterian Medical Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Later, she earned an associate’s degree in nursing from Delaware County Community College; a BSN from Hahnemann University Hospital; and wound, ostomy, and continence certification from La Salle University.
While climbing the educational ladder, Harding also was scaling the course of her career. After working for 14 years at St. Francis Country House, a long-term care facility in Darby, Pa., she found she needed to grow, so she applied to work at Inglis House. She remembers how fulfilling it was to know that administration encouraged autonomy and was open to new ideas and ways to improve patient outcomes.
“Administration also fostered and encouraged advancement in my professional career as the executive director,” Harding says. “Mr. Timothy Murphy mentored me as an assistant administrator, which [inspired] me to obtain a nursing home administrator’s license.”
In eight years she progressed from a nurse unit manager to community administrator. She attained licensure as a nursing home administrator and, in June 2008, became director of nursing. And she is not finished yet.
“Clinically, as a nurse, I know that aspect of managing a nursing home,” Harding says. “But the fiscal part I was not comfortable with.” She is now pursuing an MBA in healthcare from Eastern College in Philadelphia.
A Unique Facility
Although regulated as a long-term care facility, Inglis House is a unique facility. It’s the residents who provide the rewards and challenges for Harding.
“The population of clients we serve are certainly different from [those at] other long-term care facilities,” she says. “They’re younger with different needs. They want to enjoy life.” Some residents have multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, or other neurological disorders and disabilities.
According to the Web site, “Residents also choose Inglis House to pursue many of their interests, hobbies, and educational goals through the social enrichment programs we offer.” Many residents attain high school diplomas and go to college.
“The staff works together to maximize their ultimate functional capacity,” says Harding.
Harding learned a lesson she’ll never forget from a patient she met shortly after going to work at Inglis House. She says he told her “I didn’t come here to die; I came to live.”
The insight this patient offered her might be just what Inglis had in mind when she gave her mother the gold coin more than 125 years ago.