Mildred Lawrence Bradshaw was first and foremost a leader. From her local, state, national, and international professional activities to her role as educator and administrator, Bradshaw exhibited her considerable leadership skills and left her mark on professional nursing in Virginia. Her concern about the quality and quantity of nursing care available in post World War II Virginia, led her to take steps to develop schools of practical nursing in the Commonwealth. Bradshaw was a role model for many and a mentor to a number of nurses who went on to become leaders themselves. Bradshaw inspired associates and students to give their best to any assignment in such a way that she was rarely disappointed with the outcomes.
"In the forty-five years of my nursing career, I found Mildred Bradshaw to be the most dynamic leader I encountered--she inspired and guided me. I witnessed her exemplary leadership and her ability to envision and implement pioneering programs. In particular, I was impressed by her proficiency in resolving problems with equanimity and skill and her compassion and wisdom in dealing with patients, students, and colleagues." - Jean L. Miller, RN, Bradshaw Hall of Fame Nomination, 2005
Mildred Lawrence Bradshaw continued the pioneer spirit of the Virginia nurses who preceded her. Her first experience as a nurse educator came when she accepted the position of instructor at the St. Vincent's Hospital School of Nursing. Bradshaw spent a brief period in Charlottesville before becoming the nursing director and the School of Nursing at King's Daughters Hospital (later Portsmouth General Hospital). When World War II began, Bradshaw arranged for the first class of Red Cross Volunteer Nurse Aides in the Tidewater area to be taught at King's Daughters Hospital. In addition, the School of Nursing was the first school in Virginia to participate in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps.
In 1945, Mrs. Bradshaw was named Director of Nursing at Leigh Memorial Hospital in Norfolk where she subsequently started a school of practical nursing, her most lasting contribution to nursing in Virginia. She had been the "wartime" president of the Virginia Nurses Association and knew of the beginning national movement to license subsidiary workers and the importance of educating such individuals to provide safe care. The national nursing groups were promoting the title "practical nurse" for this worker and schools were opening in other states. After securing support from the Virginia Nurses Association and the Virginia State Board of Nurse Examiners, Bradshaw met with Dr. Benjamin Van Oot and Nettie Yowell, both with the Virginia Department of Education, who gave strong support to her plan to establish a school of practical nursing cosponsored by the local public school system and a local hospital. The School Board of the City of Norfolk and the Board of Trustees of Leigh Memorial Hospital agreed to undertake this program, and Bradshaw was named Director. In January 1946, the Norfolk City Schools and Leigh Memorial Hospital School of Practical Nursing admitted its first class and practical nursing education in Virginia was a reality. The school became a model for others throughout the country. Bradshaw worked closely with the Virginia Nurses Association to secure amendments to the Virginia Nurse Practice Act to provide for approval of the schools and licensure for the graduates. The amendments to the law also provided for the addition of a licensed practical nurse as a member of the Virginia State Board of Nurse Examiners.
Bradshaw used her organizational experience to assist the developing associations for licensed practical nurses. She served as an advisor to the two original practical nursing organizations in Virginia that were constituents of the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses--one for white LPNs and one for African-American LPNs. She was also an advisor to the national organization. In 1954 she became President of the Practical Nurses Digest Publishing Company and with a small group began the publication of the first national magazine for LPNs, the Practical Nurses Digest. Because of her national contacts she obtained many articles from outstanding leaders in the profession. In 1965, the name of the publication was changed to the American Journal of Practical Nursing and it became the official journal of the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses. When Bradshaw retired from her position at Leigh Memorial, she became the Director of the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses Educational and Charitable Foundation where she was instrumental in arranging for programs and courses to benefit LPNs in their practice.
Bradshaw was a member of the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, and served as its president for two terms ending in 1954. This organization was developed in 1941 to serve as a resource for the developing schools of practical nursing and as a forum for the discussion of common interests and positions. The Norfolk City Schools and Leigh Memorial Hospital School of Practical Nursing was the first to receive national accreditation from this organization. The Association honored Bradshaw when its Board of Directors established an award to be presented annually for practical nursing recruitment.
Throughout her career, Bradshaw was an active member of a number of professional associations. She was a member of the National League for Nursing and the American Nurses Association. However, most of her activities were with the latter, primarily through the Virginia Nurses Association and District 4 of the Virginia Nurses Association. Her activities included in part: committee member, Board of Director member and two-term president of District 4; committee member, Board of Director member, and two-term president of VNA; chair of the Virginia Council for War Services; and Director of the Southern Division of the American Nurses Association. She was also an active member of the Norfolk Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Board of Directors of the Child and Family Service of Norfolk.
Bradshaw accepted an invitation to be a member of the Pilot Club of Norfolk in the 1940s and held leadership roles in her home club and the Virginia District of Pilot. In 1959 she was installed at president of Pilot International. Once again, Bradshaw brought distinction to Virginia. The Norfolk Club honored her when it established an annual award in her name of a scholarship for a practical nursing student. Bradshaw demonstrated her mentoring skills with her Pilot associates; with many of them becoming outstanding leaders and one of whom was elected as international president of Pilot.
Bradshaw received many honors. She was an honorary member of the Norfolk City Schools and Leigh Memorial Hospital School of Practical Nursing Alumni Association. She was recognized by the Virginia practical nursing organizations for her many contributions. She was a recipient of the Nancy Vance Pin Award in 1962, and posthumously recognized by the VNA in 2000 when she was selected as a Virginia Pioneer Nurse.
The enduring legacy of Mildred Lawrence Bradshaw is seen in the care provided to patients by today's licensed practical nurses. She was a leader, an educator and an administrator. She encouraged and promoted innovation and change and wrote extensively. Her commitment to prepare well-qualified licensed practical nurses at a time when her peers were not all convinced that it was the right thing to do, exemplifies her willingness to take a risk in order to improve the quality of care for those unable to care for themselves.