MURRAY — Though she will not officially retire until June, this weekend will mark the final two public events in which Dr. Marcia Hobbs will take part as dean of the Murray State University School of Nursing and Health Professions.
She said they would both probably be quite emotional as she ends a 23-year stay in Murray. Spring commencement exercises will be Saturday morning, but it will be Friday night’s recognition ceremony to send a new crop of students into the world who will enter the nursing profession, which in a Gallup poll the last several years as been voted the most trusted.
However, as tears may fall this weekend, the conclusion of National Nurses Week, Hobbs said she is very proud of what has been accomplished.
“So I’ve been here 23 years and let’s say, on average, we have about 60 undergrads a year, then when you add in the RNs, that goes to about 90. That doesn’t include grad students either, so let’s add them. I’m guessing I’ve had about 2300?” Hobbs said after using pen and paper to tabulate the number of nurses it is believed have graduated the Murray State program during her tenure.
“We were also given a statistic at a meeting a few weeks ago, and it was said that for the average faculty member who puts in a full career of teaching, it is estimated that by teaching each individual person in nursing that the person touches 135 million people. That’s why I say that Nurses Week is great, and it is. But somehow, to me, the week is not in and of itself about that week only. It’s a 24-7, 365-day-a-year thing.”
Hobbs made impacts in other places besides Murray. Her undergraduate studies were obtained at DePauw University in Indiana, where she graduated in 1974, and that led to an eight-year stint with the United States Army, where she served both stateside and overseas, particularly South Korea. By 1984, she and husband, Robert, had moved to Clarksville, Tennessee as Robert was stationed at Fort Campbell.
She had always wanted to teach and got that chance in 1984 at Austin Peay State University. While there, she commuted for five summers for doctorate studies at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, leading her to apply for and be named to the chair’s position for Murray State’s nursing program.
“Dean (Gary) Boggess hired me and it’s kind of funny. He said, ‘You won’t stay here long. You’ll go on to other things.’ I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know about that,’” said Hobbs, whose first stint in Murray lasted 15 years before she took a similar position at Southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau. Four years later, she was back in Murray.
“I really liked Murray. Our boys grew up here, and Murray has really been good to me. When Robert died (in 2014), the people here were so good to me. They just were.”
Hobbs said she has many fond memories of her time in Murray, but she said the times she was able to spend with someone who was a trailblazer for the nursing program at the university, Dr. Ruth Cole, rank as some of the most special. One of those was when Cole — who Hobbs said was known for a rather no-nonsense persona, if not intimidating — let her guard down for the recognition ceremony of ’07 just before Hobbs went to SEMO.
“Ruth was still coming to that ceremony then and she’d reach out to each one of us before we would walk out. I said, ‘Ruth, I’m so glad you’re here,’ and she grabs my arm and starts crying, saying, ‘What are we going to do without you?’” Hobbs remembered of Cole, who was the university’s first director of nursing education, starting in 1948 and retiring as chair in 1977. She would go on to establish Murray-Calloway County Hospital’s hospice program with the first patients admitted in 1980.
“Of course, they did fine and they’ll be fine this time as well.”
Hobbs also said that while technology has perhaps changed some of the ways nurses perform their duties, the core principle of the job will never change.
“It’s very hands on, and I tell students even today that, when you’re with somebody at 2 o’clock in the morning at their most vulnerable time, you are the one who is there. Nobody else is there. You’ll be more intimate with that person than many other people in your own life,” she said. “It’s pretty incredible when you really think about it.
“We need physicians, obviously. But you’re the boots on the ground, so to speak. It still comes down to human essence. We talk about that with the students and tell them that the first thing you look at when you go in a patient’s room is not the IV, not the tubes or the anything else. The first thing you need to do is look at the individual. That’s where you get the real sense. You have to look at that person.”