When Bettye Dacus, RN, first started working at the California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, she was 20 and had just graduated from nursing school. Today, Dacus is celebrating 50 years of employment with CHMC and was honored recently as one of the hospital’s Legacy award winners for her dedication to patients.
The Legacy award, given by CHMC’s Legacy Advisory Board, recognizes honorees for their outstanding contributions to the hospital. This year, as CHMC prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary, four honorees received recognition with Dacus being the only nurse to receive the award.
“Bettye truly practices the art of nursing,” said Cliff Hoffman, president of California Hospital Medical Center’s Foundation. “California Hospital is not just a place where she comes to do her job; rather, it’s where she chooses to carry out her life’s calling.”Bettye Dacus and her fellow nursing graduates during their capping ceremony at the California Hospital School of Nursing.
Dacus was attending elementary school in Beaumont, Texas, when she first decided to pursue a career in nursing. “I remember visiting my cousin in the hospital and being so impressed with the care that she received from the doctors and nursing staff,” Dacus said.
After graduating from high school, Dacus moved with her mom to Los Angeles. She and a friend applied at the LA County/USC Hospital Nursing School but were surprised to learn they hadn’t been accepted.Photo courtesy of California Hospital Medical Center Foundation
3) Legacy Group Photo Caption: ÿBettye with California Hospital President Jerry Clute and longtime Medical Staff leader Robert Rothbart, M.D.
“We didn’t realize some nursing schools had an enlistment quota for African-American students,” Dacus said. “Since they had met their quota, our applications were denied.”
Her friend, Barbara, refused to see their dreams derailed and filled out applications for both she and Dacus at the California Hospital School of Nursing. “I was flabbergasted to learn we were accepted into the CHMC nursing program,” said Dacus, who was one of only three black students to graduate from the CHMC three-year nursing program in 1964.
“I initially thought I would spend a couple years at CHMC, but I really enjoyed my job and my co-workers,” Dacus said.
Married for 45 years and mom to three grown children, Dacus said many of her patients have also become extended family. She has fond memories of one young patient who suffered a gunshot wound in his leg and after several surgeries had to have his leg amputated.Bettye Dacus, right, at her graduation ceremony.
“His family didn’t live in the area, and my friend, Gladys [another CHMC nurse] and I became his surrogate moms as we cared for him,” Dacus said. “When he lost his leg, he cried, and we cried, too.”
After he was released from the hospital, Dacus was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation to his wedding several years later.Bettye Dacus, second row, second from right, and her graduating class.
“To see him walk down the aisle at his wedding using his prosthesis brought both Gladys and I to tears once again,” Dacus said.
The next 50
At 70, Dacus doesn’t have any plans to retire any time soon, although she hopes the next 50 years will bring about even more advances in health information technology.
“I’d love to see a way for this to be reduced even further to allow nurses to spend more time at the patient’s bedside,” she said.
And at the bedside, her colleagues said, is the place where Dacus truly shines. “Bettye gives generously of her skills, wisdom, compassion and humor,” Hoffman said. “If you were to imagine the ideal nurse — the type of person you’d want caring for you — that person would be Bettye Dacus.”