Nursing pioneer reflects on premature infant care, changes to profession

By | 2019-07-17T17:04:28-04:00 July 10th, 2019|7 Comments

At 92, Barbara Jury, MS, RN, isn’t practicing her profession on the floors of the California Hospital Medical Center anymore.

But she’s still involved through volunteering and is happy to share her stories of nursing’s past as a nursing pioneer.

Barbara Jury, RN, MS

Barbara Jury, RN, MS

Jury practiced from the 1950s to the 1990s and experienced important evolutions in acute care nursing. She was among the first in her profession to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, graduating from nursing school in California in 1950.

She then spent her entire 40-plus-year nursing career at California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, where she experienced a spectrum of nursing roles.

“Bear in mind, when I graduated, we still had glass syringes, a plunger and a barrel,” she said. “And they each had a code number on them. We had units on the floor where you’d boil them and take them out with forceps. Then you’d match the number on the barrel with the plunger to make sure you were getting the right one, so it was a good fit. Technology-wise, everything has changed tremendously.”

Even some of the things nurses might take for granted today didn’t exist when Jury began her career.

“When I started nursing, we didn’t have any throwaway gloves,” she said.

A front row seat to nursing’s evolution

Among her many roles, Jury served as director of nursing and was the hospital’s first-ever risk manager, working with physicians, nurses, patients and lawyers to improve practices across all departments.

In 1959, Jury joined the faculty of the California Hospital School of Nursing and served as school director from 1961 to 1969, when she led the nursing school to receive its first National League for Nursing accreditation.

After earning her master’s degree at UCLA, Jury created California Hospital’s first premature baby nursery. The nursery started when the hospital’s obstetrics physicians wanted to improve survival rates for babies born prematurely.

Jury knew a hospital in Chicago had one of the most advanced premature infant nurseries in the country, so Jury, who was supervisor of the nursery at that time, sent one of California Hospital’s staff nurses to Chicago for a month to train with the nurses there. That nurse later trained other nurses at California Hospital Medical Center, leading to the creation of the hospital’s first premature baby nursery in the mid-1950s.

In those days, nursing in a premature infant nursery was pretty much learn as you go.

“We didn’t have incubators,” Jury said. “Most of the things they were doing with premature infants then was rotating and feeding. We were trying to figure out how often to feed them. You had to look and observe the behavior — how the patient was reacting to things you were doing. If it looked positive, then you’d continue with that. If not, you’d try something different. It was limited care and nothing compared to what we have now. But it was the best we knew to do then.”

Jury remembers the triumph she felt when the really vulnerable patients survived. One story she’ll never forget is about a baby who born with no skin on his abdomen. He was born on a Sunday, she said.

“They called the surgeon in who attempted to pull the skin over him and close the abdomen but couldn’t get very far,” Jury said. “I was director of nursing. I came in Monday morning and heard about this. I immediately go up to the pediatric unit where they had this baby. He was in a room all by himself and set up in isolation — reversed isolation, protecting him from us. Over a period of time of about 15 to 20 years, they reconstructed that baby’s abdomen. He’s now a man in his 40s, working and living in Phoenix, Ariz.”

Jury, the physician who performed the surgeries and the man continue to keep in touch. The success of such a complicated procedure and the experience of helping care for the young patient has stayed with Jury through the years.

Retired, but nursing pioneer remains close to her practice

Jury retired in 1993, but continues to volunteer at California Hospital Medical Center, University of Southern California and with other organizations. A longtime board member of the California Hospital of School of Nursing Alumni Association, Jury helps organize an alumni homecoming celebration every spring at the medical center.

One aspect Jury finds satisfying is the way nurses and physicians talk and show respect for one another at the homecomings. The older physicians reflect back and begin to understand and respect the pioneering work nurses did, she said.

Nurses nowadays are increasingly skilled in the use of technology, so they interact more with physicians. As a result, physicians respect nurses more, Jury said.

Today’s nurses have the benefit of technology, but the challenge of taking on the sickest of patients — patients who often didn’t survive in Jury’s day.

For nurses who are overwhelmed, burned out and thinking about giving up on their careers, Jury said they should think about what brought them into nursing.

“Is it something that you would want to give up?” she said. “You have to look at your accomplishments. You’re going to miss some of those things that gave you pleasure, such as when you saw some success with a patient.”

One never stops being a nurse. Jury, who lives in a Los Angeles retirement community, now walks with a walker. When she sees others in the facility who might benefit from a walking aide, she gives them a nurse’s encouragement.

“I try to point out that they might need ambulation assistance and life will be better,” she said.

Take these courses about pediatric nursing:

Newborn Screening: The Nurse’s Role
(1 contact hr)
Screening newborns is critical because some babies are born with potentially life-threatening metabolic, endocrine, or hematological diseases that may not be obvious at birth. Nurses who care for newborns should know which conditions their state regularly screens for at birth and the specialists available for medical management. With an awareness of how these conditions present in the neonate and knowledge of how various circumstances may affect test results, nurses can ensure that infants are screened accurately and that affected families receive prompt referrals for the services they require. This educational activity will provide an overview of screening and processes needed to avoid false-positive or false-negative results.

Parental Stress and Family-Centered Interventions in the NICU
(1 contact hr)
Low-birth weight babies require specialized care. Improved care for these infants has reduced the number of adverse developmental and behavioral problems, but a significant proportion will still be diagnosed with disabilities severe enough to prevent them from functioning independently. Parents of these infants often experience high stress levels, which can affect the family’s ability to perform role functions and may increase emotional or physical distress in family members. This module describes the common needs and stressors that the parents of an infant in the NICU experience. Interventions to improve parental coping skills and provide developmentally supportive care for their children will be provided.

Managing Patent Ductus Arteriosus in Preterm Infants
(1 contact hr)
Patent ductus arteriosus is among the most common problems affecting preterm infants in the first few days of life and has the most potential for adverse systemic effects. Functional closure of the ductus arteriosus generally occurs within the first 72 hours of life for the term neonate. Anatomic, or permanent, closure usually occurs between one and two weeks of life. In the preterm infant — especially one of less than 30 weeks’ gestation and with a weight of 500 g to 1,500 g at birth — functional closure is often delayed. Several factors attribute to the failure of or delay in closure. This module provides healthcare providers of various disciplines with information about indomethacin (Indocin) and ibuprofen lysine (NeoProfen) as options for treating symptomatic PDA in preterm infants.


Discover how can help you find your next dream job.
Just sign up and wait to be paired with your perfect match.

About the Author:

Lisette Hilton
Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has been a freelance health reporter for more than 25 years and loves her job.


  1. Avatar
    arlette ann siekmeier July 21, 2019 at 1:50 am - Reply

    I think this must have been Cook County Hospital in Chicago. I was in the preme nursery in 1960 and we had incubators. I was working nights as a student.

  2. Avatar
    Maureen Craven RN BHN July 21, 2019 at 2:07 am - Reply

    This was a very interesting article on how one nurse who graduated in 1950 view the nursing profession and how technology had chanced it so much .

  3. Avatar
    Anne Flanagan July 22, 2019 at 12:14 am - Reply

    Great history of early nursing I came into nursing in 1964 when nurses were sharpening needles to be sterilized and used again.

  4. Avatar
    Dolat Ebrahim July 22, 2019 at 1:07 am - Reply

    Impressive.Ms Jury.God give you best health.

  5. Avatar
    Dorothy Saller July 22, 2019 at 3:51 am - Reply

    I have been an LPN for almost 40 years now and seen many changes. I admire Barbara for sticking with it for as long as she did. Did she have any health issues? I have had to have both of my hips replaced.

  6. Avatar
    alal uddin September 19, 2019 at 2:37 am - Reply

    This was a very interesting article on how one nurse who graduated in 1950 view the nursing profession and how technology had chanced it so much..

  7. Avatar
    Uzzal September 19, 2019 at 2:37 am - Reply

    I have been an LPN for almost 40 years now and seen many changes. I admire Barbara for sticking with it for as long as she did. Did she have any health issues? I have had to have both of my hips replaced….

Leave A Comment