Leading the Way with Care

Helen Taggart standing outside in a suit

“Nursing is the best profession ever,” says Helen Taggart, Ph.D., RN, and a professor of nursing at Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus. After 50 years in the nursing field, her devotion is as strong as ever for what she calls “the most respected of all professions in the United States.”

Her nursing education began in a program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Savannah. She was a student in the first class at St. Joseph’s to attend nursing classes at Armstrong State College.

“We would walk through downtown Savannah from the dormitory on Habersham Street to the classes at Armstrong,” she remembers.

Taggart earned a bachelor’s in nursing from Armstrong and a Master of Science from Georgia Southern in Statesboro. She started her career working in areas such as labor and delivery, newborn nursery, pediatrics, orthopedics and in community-based health promotion. In those early years, she recalls nurses wore white uniforms, caps, white hosiery and technology barely existed.

“Everything was handwritten,” she says. “There were no electronic records, blood pressure cuffs were manual and we sterilized and reused needles and syringes.”

She began teaching part time at the suggestion of one of her professors. And for the last 29 years, Taggart’s home has been on the Armstrong Campus as a School of Nursing faculty member.

“I love the interactions with the students,” she says. “Being a part of their move from new student, through the lab coat ceremony, recognition ceremony, graduation, then work as a registered nurse is very rewarding. It is thrilling to see our graduates serving as preceptors for students, clinical instructors, nursing faculty and in the myriad of roles that nurses fill. Several nursing faculty at the Armstrong and Statesboro campuses are my former students.”

As an alumna and professor, Taggart sees the consolidation “as an opportunity for greater coordination and use of resources for faculty, students and residents of the region.” She notes it was difficult for many to accept the Armstrong Campus move from downtown to the current Southside campus, but the move was necessary for growth.

“Change is inevitable,” she says. “It is difficult to erase history. The administration at this point seems to value keeping the name of Armstrong Campus. This will help in the transition to the new Georgia Southern University. Many of the buildings on the Armstrong Campus retain the names of the people who played important roles in the history of the University.”

Forty-nine years ago, she married Thomas Taggart, an attorney, who is also an Armstrong alumnus. They are generous givers to the University and the professor says that support will continue “through my active participation in teaching, service and scholarship. My support will include donations to the University Foundation and doing the best that I can in teaching students and working with the rest of the greatly enlarged community.”

Taggart has seen a lot of technological advances in nursing and medicine since starting her professional journey decades ago. The things that haven’t changed are her compassion for others, and her commitment to nursing and her students.

“Recently, my guest lecturer, an Armstrong nursing graduate, described her current role and the fact is that this role did not exist when she graduated 10 years ago,” says Taggart. “This is an exciting time for the nursing profession. I am delighted to be a part of preparing students for participation in the ever-changing health care system.”

When asked about retirement, she laughs and says, “I’m working on it.”

Sandra Bennett