The Lasting Legacy of Metta Hudson, RN
While browsing through a publication about the roots of Adventist HealthCare, I came across a picture of a woman in a traditional white nurse’s uniform with the caption, “Metta Hudson, Head of Nursing—1939.”
A sentence accompanying the photo explained, “After Doctors Daniel and Lauretta Kress, founders of the School of Nursing, retired in 1939, Metta Hudson, RN, became The San's head of nursing and under her leadership the school grew, ultimately becoming part of Columbia Union College.” The name Kress got my attention.
Much esteemed in our history, Dr. Daniel Kress was our first medical director and Dr. Lauretta Kress was our first surgeon. She was the first woman physician and surgeon to practice in Montgomery County and an iconic figure in the establishment of women’s health services in our region. She founded the “Kress Maternity and Children’s Hospital” at the Washington Sanitarium (the original name of Washington Adventist Hospital) back in 1916. She also served as the director of the Nurses’ Training Program at a time when nursing education was still being developed as a professional discipline.
It would have taken a very special person to replace Dr. Lauretta Kress in that program‚ and apparently Metta Hudson was just what our nursing program needed.
Her story is frustratingly fragmented; however, after some sleuthing in the archives, a picture starts to emerge. We know that she was one of 23 vocational nurses of the Washington Sanitarium and Hospital who graduated in the class of 1932, and she must have gone on immediately for college, for in 1936 she is also listed as one of the seniors granted degrees in liberal arts in science by Washington Missionary College (now Washington Adventist University). It seems reasonable to assume that during these years she had been in the employ of the San as a nurse – and just three years after her college graduation, Metta Hudson, RN, was selected to replace the retiring Dr. Lauretta Kress as the director of nursing at the San.
Under the guidance of Miss Hudson, the practical and academic nursing programs at the San and the College were brought together into one program. As her work and experience deepened, she was asked to serve on a variety of local and national committees that promoted an increased role for nurses in their overall work.
During World War II, she helped recruit nurses for both military and civilian service. She wrote articles about the importance of the compassionate and caring nurse, and she was a consultant to the medical board of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. And every year a new class of nurses would graduate from the program that she directed – carrying her ideas, professionalism, and insights into the workplace.
She continued to be a part of our extended community until long past her retirement in the 1990s. There are probably many individuals in our community who know of Metta Hudson’s work personally – and perhaps you can fill me in on some details.
That Metta Hudson was an impactful and faithful leader is hinted at here and there. A Nursing lectureship was named for her. A practical nurse training lab, as well. In retirement she is pictured as a volunteer for community service. What was affirmed in the archives was that she pioneered the spirit of our Mission and Vision and was instrumental in training young nurses in their understanding of the significance of extending God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing.
In an article published in 1944, Metta Hudson summarized her primary conviction in just a few words: “There is no field that offers greater opportunity to do real good for humanity…than that of the professional nurse.”
“Greater opportunity to do real good for humanity.” When I read that phrase, I realized that among the most important benefits of Metta Hudson’s storied career was how she embodied the great potential for compassionate and professional nursing. To each patient, the nurse offers both clinical expertise and genuine compassion. Nurses recognize the unique character of each person, and they help create the environment for healing and transformation. Those are the kinds of nurses Metta Hudson sought to train.
From the scattered bits of information to be gleaned from the archives, Nurse Metta Hudson was that kind of person – a dedicated educator and a nurse who understood compassionate care. In her career she inspired so many and made a real difference in our organization. Her influence and inspiration continue to be felt today.