Always dressed in her traditional white uniform, including her cap and her 1926 School of Nursing class pin, Ida Vines Moffett (1905-1996) was a lifelong champion of compassionate care. She advocated constant contact with patients through gentle words and a comforting physical touch. Moffett was also the driving force behind numerous successful efforts to bring professionalism and advanced academic training to the field of nursing. The Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing at Samford University stands as a lasting symbol of her dedication to the field.
Ida Vines Moffett was born April 9, 1905, in Toadvine, Jefferson County, Alabama, to Mary and Perry Vines. She graduated from Alliance High School in 1923 and enrolled in the Birmingham Baptist Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1926, passed the state examination, and became a registered nurse. Vines took a job in a physician's office and did private-duty nursing at Baptist Hospital in Birmingham. In 1927 local physicians arranged for her to take graduate courses in orthopedic nursing at the University of Iowa Hospital. She also studied surgical nursing at the University of Cincinnati. Vines returned to Birmingham in June 1928 and worked as an operating-room supervisor for Birmingham Baptist Hospital until her marriage to Howard D. Moffett, an electrician, on June 29, 1929. The couple then moved to Atlanta, where Moffett worked as a private nurse.
In 1934, Moffett returned with her husband to Birmingham and became a head nurse in what became known as the Highland Avenue Baptist Hospital, where she gradually assumed managerial duties. In September 1941 she became director of nursing for both Birmingham Baptist and Highland Avenue Baptist hospitals and their joint nursing school. In 1943 she organized Alabama's first unit of the Cadet Nurse Corps, a federal program of the Public Health Service that was established to overcome a shortage of nurses, and oversaw construction of a second building for the School of Nursing.
In 1946 she attended the first nationwide conference of nursing organizations, convened in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she became committed to the concept that nurses should be educated in a university setting. That same year, Gov. Chauncey Sparks appointed Moffett to the Alabama State Board of Nurses' Examiners and Registration, and she was elected chair at her first meeting. Moffett next helped gain state accreditation for Alabama's first four-year collegiate nursing program, which was located at Tuskegee University, and worked to foster equal treatment in the profession for African American nurses.
She led in implementation of 1945 legislation that led to licensure for practical nurses. She then guided development of the state's first training program for licensed practical nurses at Baptist Hospital in Gadsden, Alabama. The first class, which graduated in 1948, is likely one of the first two such groups trained in the southeastern United States. That same year Moffett served on a committee of the Alabama State Nurses Association that advised the University of Alabama in establishing a school of nursing and helped select its first dean. Moffett also worked to develop a program which allowed students at the Birmingham Baptist Hospital School of Nursing to take courses at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After some effort, Moffett succeeded in gaining national accreditation for the Birmingham Baptist School of Nursing—the first in Alabama. Moffett then received an appointment to the first state licensing board for hospitals and other health-care institutions and served for 10 years. She earned the honor of Birmingham's Woman of the Year for professionals in 1953 and helped found the Birmingham Regional Hospital Council. She also accepted a 10-year term with the national Board of Review for Accreditation of Associate and Diploma Degree schools of nursing, one of the first two southerners on that board. In 1961 Moffett received an appointment to the U.S. Surgeon General's Consulting Group on Nursing, the purpose of which was to determine the adequacy and quality of the current supply of nurses in the United States. The work of this group led to the passage of the federal Nurses Training Act of 1964, which allocated more than $287 million for nursing education. In 1967 she became chief of nursing for the Baptist Health Care system. In 1968 the Board of Trustees of Baptist Medical Centers of Birmingham renamed the school of nursing to honor Ida V. Moffett, and the name was retained when the school became part of Samford University in 1973.
Moffett retired in 1970 but did not stay at home for long. In 1978, she took a job with Baptist's biggest competitor, Brookwood Medical Center. She remained with the organization until 1981, when Baptist Medical Centers brought her back as chief of nursing emeritus. Though consulting on corporate issues, she also used her post to advocate for better patient care and made daily rounds until she was almost 90 years old.
Moffett received numerous local, state, and regional honors for her work with health care and charitable organizations, including membership in the Sigma Theta Tau nurse honor society and Samford University's Phi Kappa Phi honor society and was among the first group of people admitted to the Alabama Health Care Hall of Fame. Moffett died at Montclair Baptist Hospital November 17, 1996, from heart failure. Her papers as well as some items relating to her life and work are in the Samford University Special Collections Library and at Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing.
Allen, Lee N., and Catherine B. Allen. Courage to Care: The Story of Ida V. Moffett. Birmingham, Ala.: Samford University Press, 1988
Lee N. Allen
Catherine B. Allen
Published June 27, 2007
Last updated May 6, 2013