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Published in CenterView on August 19, 2013
Florence King, center, former director of nursing, meets with her assistant directors of nursing, including Machiel Perkins, right, in this undated photo.
Florence King, center, former director of nursing, meets with her assistant directors of nursing, including Machiel Perkins, right, in this undated photo.

Scholarship pays tribute to former UMMC nursing director, passionate administrator

By Matt Westerfield

Patricia King Pages and Bob King remember their mother, Florence King, as a lady with strong values who was committed to excellence in everything she did. They also remember her passion for excellence in nursing and hospital management, which was the role King served at the University of Mississippi Medical Center from 1977-1984.

It’s that passion that inspired Pages and her brother, Bob King, to create a $200,000 scholarship endowment in their mother’s name for graduate nursing students preparing for careers in health administration.

The fund is in the process of being established and should begin awarding scholarships soon.

“Florence was a very vital person with great energy throughout her life and was still deep-sea fishing and playing golf at 93,” said Pages of Stonington, Conn.

“Albeit committed to her professional career, as matriarch of our family, she instilled a strong set of values and a passion for excellence in all of us — children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

Florence King died last year in Stonington, having initially retired to Roanoke, Va., in 1993. She was born in Plainfield, N.J., in 1918, the year of the great flu pandemic, commonly known as the Spanish Influenza.

She graduated from the Brooklyn Hospital School of Nursing 1936. She worked nights and earned her bachelor’s degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, N.J., and met her husband, the late John King, in 1940.

She later studied psychiatric nursing and became director of nursing at Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island, and while there, King earned her master’s degree in public administration at the University of Rhode Island. She then took an administrative role at Buffalo General Hospital before relocating to UMMC in 1977 as director of nursing, overseeing seven assistant directors.

“During her career, nurses were often given little input in overall hospital management,” Pages said. “She believed nursing was a critically important part of the success of the hospital and nurses needed to be equal partners with doctors to provide the best possible patient care.”

Pages and her brother visited the Medical Center in March to meet a number of current employees who worked with their mother, including Dr. Janet Harris, chief nursing executive officer.

“She was a nursing leader that was way ahead of her time,” Harris said. “She taught nursing managers – called head nurses back then – about budgets and was able to clearly articulate the business side of nursing at the senior leadership level.

“But she was also willing to take risks, such as promoting young nurses to leadership positions in order to let them ‘try their wings’ and to make a difference.”

King developed a peer review process internally that held nurses accountable for their actions, Harris said.

“And one thing that many people do not know is, the current statewide externship program was a collaboration between Mrs. King and Dr. Sara Allison, the nurse executive at Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center at the time,” Harris said. “This program remains today as one of the most effective recruitment programs ever developed, in addition to providing real-world clinical learning experiences for nurses as students.”

Bob King, CEO of Humanscale, a global office and health-care products company in New York City, said their mother didn’t have a lot of resources as a child, but was very ambitious and was committed to making her mark on a world that offered fewer opportunities for women.

“Mom was a remarkable person, and we wanted to set up a scholarship to make it easier for people like her to get the education they need,” he said. “She loved her job in Mississippi more than any job she ever had. She loved Jackson and the Medical Center, but more than anything she loved the people she worked with.”

“Our purpose in creating The Florence E. King Scholarship is to honor Mother’s demand for excellence in herself, and her staff, creating a challenging and exciting healthcare environment,” Pages said. “Our hope is that the scholarship will provide the opportunity for high-achieving nursing candidates to develop leadership skills through a nursing administration program.”