Maxine Davis Haynes

Maxine Haynes, MN, RN

Maxine Haynes, MN, RN’s pursuit of a career in nursing required tenacity and perse­ver­ance. As a trail­blazer, she has changed the course of nursing in Washington State and made the profes­sion a better and more diverse field.

As a child in the early 1920s, Maxine was drawn to the nursing profes­sion when an African American nurse come to the house to care for her grand­fa­ther at a time when African Ameri­cans were not welcome in hospi­tals. Maxine enrolled at the Univer­sity of Washington in 1936 and was one of just a few dozen African Ameri­cans attending the univer­sity. After three years in a pre-nursing program, she applied to the UW nursing school. Tersely rejected because of her race, Maxine recalls being treated very coldly by the school. Though she changed her major to sociology and gradu­ated from UW, she did not let go of her dream.

She continued to apply to nursing schools and was soon attending Lincoln School of Nursing in New York. Upon gradu­ating, she worked at Bellevue Psychi­atric Hospital, where she quickly earned the respect of her colleagues and supervisors.

In 1945, Maxine returned to Seattle and applied to Provi­dence Hospital, now Swedish Medical Center. She was hired, becoming the first African American nurse in the hospital, a position that came with many challenges including isola­tion and overt racism from her coworkers. Maxine did not let this discourage her and was eventu­ally promoted to Head Nurse on the Obstet­rical Ward. In 2003, Swedish honored her by announcing the creation of three annual Maxine Haynes Nursing Scholarships.

Maxine later continued her educa­tion in Los Angeles and earned a Bache­lors and Master in Nursing. She taught at Mount St. Mary’s College before returning to Seattle in the late 1960s. She joined the Odessa Brown Clinic as a health educator, but was soon back to teaching as an assis­tant professor at the Univer­sity of Washington School of Nursing. Despite the treat­ment she had received from the school in her youth, she is quoted as saying that I wasn’t soured by what happened to me.” During her five years with UW, she estab­lished a pre-profes­sional program for disad­van­taged students, taught public health nursing, directed the contin­uing educa­tion program, and counseled minority students.

Maxine eventu­ally moved on to Seattle Pacific Univer­sity as a full professor of commu­nity health nursing. She was very proud of her work devel­oping and imple­menting a work-study program that enabled under­grad­uate students to travel to Costa Rica and live with families during the summer. Though she retired in 1981, she continued her work with the program for several more years.

During her life, Maxine was a friend and mentor to many. In 1949, she was a founding member of the Mary Mahoney Regis­tered Nurse Club, now known as the Mary Mahoney Profes­sional Nurses Organi­za­tion. Led by Anne Foy Baker, who was inducted into the WSNA Hall of Fame in 2004, Maxine was one of 12 nurses who began the group with the idea of estab­lishing a profes­sional organi­za­tion for African American nurses. The work of the Mary Mahoney Profes­sional Nurses Organi­za­tion continues to this day with a focus on schol­ar­ships and mentoring for students of African heritage and many of their members have been and continue to be active members in WSNA.

With Maxine’s passing, we lost a true nursing legend. It is a testa­ment to her life and her work that 10 years later, we are still benefiting from her influ­ence. Many have now followed in her footsteps, becoming nurses and leaders by travel­ling the pathways she so coura­geously forged.