Mertie Jones was built to serve others

Story by Kyle DeVries 

Born and raised in a very small town in southwest Missouri, Mertie’s parents had high expectations but provided a strong support system for both Mertie and her twin sister. She credits her parents as well as the responsibility and accountability she gained from working several jobs during her youth as a major factor in establishing her strong work ethic. Those principles were put to the test when she decided to go to nursing school in 1963.

The education she received was excellent but very different. All nursing students lived in the dorms on campus and their housemother carefully supervised them. The students were held accountable for following the rules and keeping their rooms clean. Having curfews, they were required to sign in and out each time upon leaving the residence. Mertie was jealous of her sister, who was attending a different college, because she was able to go home for weekends and holidays. Despite the restrictions and hard work nursing school required, Mertie knew it was worth every minute. All of the memories and experiences she had in the dorm with friends would last a lifetime. Her classmates quickly became her family.

After graduating from Burge in 1966, Mertie began working in the recovery room at Cox Hospital. While it was a great learning experience, it was only the beginning of great opportunities she experienced.

Mary Ruth Cuddy, Director of Burge at the time, offered Mertie a position as a faculty member. Mertie spent 20 years in this position, and loved what she did. When asked about this experience, she replied, “Until you have worked with very bright groups of nursing students, it is impossible to understand what they expect of you!” This role never ceased to challenge her and allowed her to continue learning as she helped future nurses prepare for their own careers. An entirely new view of patients was realized when she eventually moved from the school to the hospital as the Director of Admission Services. Mertie had the opportunity to work with nurses and non-nursing staff. This was yet another challenging position, but an incredibly rewarding position that she loved very much.

Today, Mertie serves on the Cox College Board of Trustees. After all the experiences she has had in her life, she finds it easier to see the big picture now. “As a student in a rigorous and demanding program, sometimes it is easy to have a self-centered view of things. As a practicing nurse with additional responsibility, one is likely to recognize that every decision affects important outcomes,” she said. In her role as a Cox College board member, she has gained yet another dimension of perspective adding, “working with a group of professionals to further the institution in all endeavors has been a rewarding and enlightening experience.”

The biggest change from her time as a student to her time as a Board member is the increased need  in the process of educating Health Care Providers. The expansion of programs beyond nursing is vital to the community and nursing is no longer just for 18 year olds who can devote time to being a student only. Cox College has adapted to the needs of all students regardless of their stage of life. Mertie urges all prospective students to consider becoming a health care provider because it is a profession in high demand with many rewarding career opportunities.

Life was never easy for Mertie. She knew she had high expectations from her parents, teachers, and supervisors and chose a profession that challenged her from every angle. Those challenges were met with unrelenting hard work and dedication. She committed her life to mentoring students and employees, as well as furthering the institution that helped propel her in life. She always knew she wanted to be a nurse and for her, and it turned out perfectly.