Nursing & Healthcare News
The Nurses of Ward 5B
Documentary about pioneering San Francisco AIDS unit
Thirty-six years ago, nurses in San Francisco established the country’s first specialized AIDS unit. A new documentary film, 5B, tells their story.
The First Step
When nurses at San Francisco General Hospital established Ward 5B in July 1983, an epidemic was devastating the Bay Area’s LGBT community: a mysterious autoimmune disease with bizarre symptoms and a 100 percent fatality rate.
AIDS patients faced severe stigma. Clinicians and support staff were often reluctant to provide care or even basic hospital housekeeping due to fear of contagion, homophobia or both.
Clinical nurse specialist Cliff Morrison, RN, BSN, MBA/MPH, M.S., then the director of the hospital’s forensic psychiatry program, recalls that he was “more pissed off and angry than scared” by the situation. He and 11 other SF General nurses volunteered to establish a new unit, Ward 5B, specifically for treating patients with AIDS.