History of Nursing Schools in the United States

In the beginnings of formal nursing, most nursing education was done within the hospital context. Nurses learned from trial and errors on the job, under the supervision of other superior nurses. However, this lack of formal training led to high mortality rates and nurses with scattered skill sets. Clearly, there was a need for some sort of nursing school. This became evident in the early 1900s.

The work of Clara Barton during the Civil War cannot be ignored. While stationed as a patent clerk, she began to organize ways of getting vital medical supplies to the troops and then headed into the battlefield herself in order to administer aid. With this fervor, it was clearly seen that nursing needed to be organized in order to provide the best possible care for all patients.

The movement began with Congress’ authorization of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901. In this group, nurses would be trained in various life-saving techniques and then be able to help soldiers heal from their battle wounds. With all of the threats of infection in this time, it was imperative to have some form of education to prevent the spread of disease. This acknowledgement by the government allowed the nursing society to become more valid in the eyes of the country and started a chain of events that would forever change the fate of nursing education in the United States.

In 1905, Annie Walburton Goodrich became the first women named president of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses. She began the revolution of establishing guidelines for learning and the proper nursing instruction. She held her position as president until 1906 and served as president of the International Council of Nurses as well as the American Nurses Association in the following years before becoming an assistant professor at Columbia University.

It is interesting to note that Columbia University was established in 1892 with Anna Maxwell as director. However, Columbia isn’t always given the distinction of the first formal school because Yale was the first autonomous nursing school in 1923. Columbia brought much to the nursing professional, graduating nearly 9,000 students from its well-planned program.

To this day, Columbia University offers the oldest program in nursing midwifery as well as being the first to offer a master’s degree in a clinical specialty for nurses (since 1956). Columbia was the first nursing school to have admitting privileges at a local teaching hospital and requires that its staff do funded research on cutting edge topics. Columbia was also the first nursing school to be recognized by the World Health Organization as a Collaborating Center for international development of nurses in advanced practices.

But that doesn’t mean that Yale hasn’t had its fair measure of success as well. Established in 1923, Yale Nursing School named Annie Walburton Goodrich its first dean of studies and paved the way for women in nursing. Unlike Yale College, Yale Nursing School did admit women and requires the same high academic prerequisites. Classes began in 1924.

In 1925, Yale Nursing Schools established its Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and required that applicants complete two years of general college education prior to applying to the nursing school. This was the highest academic requirement in that time. By 1934, the requirements were raised to an undergraduate bachelor’s degree.

Not to be outdone, the University of Michigan also opened its doors to nursing students in the late 1800s. Though not an autonomous nursing school, six students graduated in 1893. In 1919, the University of Michigan began offering a five-year program that resulted in a general Bachelor of Letters degree as well as a nursing diploma. By 1944, the university added a five-year Bachelor of Science degree that included two years in the college of literature, arts, and sciences and three years in the nursing program. This allowed the university to be one of the first institutes to offer concurrent academic and nursing education programs. In 1953, their Bachelor of Science degree program was founded.

There are hundreds of nursing schools that were established throughout the United States in order to regulate training in order to help aid patients more effectively. With the institution of these schools, fewer patients were dying due to poor practices. Furthermore, more advanced techniques could be taught to more nurses.

In modern times, nursing schools are offering advanced programs that give nurses even more skills to advance their careers as well as the care of their patients. There are nurse practitioners as well as certified midwifes that can help patients as well as doctors and obstetricians. Also, more entry-level nursing programs are available to help students determine if nursing is truly for them. Schools now offer certified nurse assistant, licensed practical nurse, licensed vocational nurse and advanced practice nurse programs. There are also programs for becoming a clinical nurse specialist.

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