Education - Pathway to Professional Status

The history of nursing is intertwined with the history of nursing education and nursing’s quest for a professional identity. (Allen, 2006) Education has been vital in providing the knowledge, skills, and ability to give quality care to our patients, elevating nursing to a profession and gaining the respect of other professions. The path to nursing's identification as an independent profession has not been an easy one as nursing, dominated by women, was initially bound to the Victorian ideal of women, and hospitals' need for an inexpensive source of workers, which conspired to slow nursing's progress toward status as a profession.

Physicians, while recognizing the need for nursing care feared that if nurses were given too much education the nurse would supplant them. These were challenges that nurses needed to overcome; given the enormous challenge, slowly (some say too slowly) nurses have risen to the challenge - thus was the profession of nursing built.

Early Days….

In the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century women without formal training, unpaid and relying on ’family’ and /or folk remedies, women were expected to care for family members and neighbors who were ill or unable to care for themselves. One notable exception were women members of religions orders who provided the only trained nursing care of the sick.

Dr. Valentine Seaman

Dr. Valentine Seaman

Dr. Valentine Seaman –1798— has the distinction of having made the first attempt to teach nurse nurse attendants belongs to the New York Hospital and to Dr. Valentine Seaman, one of its medical chiefs, a remarkably broad minded man ,is due the honor of having conceived and initiated the first system of instruction to nurses on the American continent.”

Dr. Joseph Warrington described as " a man of liberal opinions and high ideals" . On March 5, 1839 the Nurse Society was formed in Philadelphia which sought females with" good habits, a sense of responsibility, and patient dispositions" to go into the homes of patients. The nurses were taught by the physicians in the lying in department of the Philadelphia dispensary.

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Nurse’s Guide by

Dr. Joseph Warrington



Linda Richards

On March 5, 1839the Nurse Society was formed in Philadelphia which sought females with" good habits, a sense of responsibility, and patient dispositions" to go into the homes of patients. The nurses were taught by the physicians in the lying in department of the Philadelphia dispensary.Emergence of Nursing Schools: Just as in England at the end of the Crimean war, the Civil War became the impetus for the establishment of training schools in America. In 1872 Linda Richards graduated after one year of training from the New England Hospital for Women,: Linda Richards is considered America's first trained nurs

 Oral History Project

I first became interested in the history of nursing when I began to think what it means to me to be a nurse. As I read about the history of nursing, I realized the importance of education in providing nurses with the knowledge, skills and ability to give quality care to our patients, elevating nursing to a profession and gaining the respect of other professions.

I read about the pioneers of nursing and their experiences, many told in their own words. I believe that events are clearer and more 'real', when related by people who were there and were part of the event. When several people relate events it is likely that there will be different perspectives resulting in a three dimensional picture. On a personal level, as I looked at photographs of nursing students from the 1880's to the present time I thought about each and wondered who they were, and what their story was.. Where were the stories of the these nurses seen only in photographs - many without their names? I believe that the stories of nurses are too important to lose and that it is important to the history of nursing and nursing education to record these stories.

While it is not possible to obtain oral histories from some of the early pioneers in nursing, we are fortunate to have their written memoirs, biographies and in some cases journal articles or books that they have written. Many nurses did not leave a written record of their experiences. And in today's fast paced world with technology that allows for instant communication, e-mails and text messaging, read and then deleted, many stories are lost.

Oral History Project


To examine the history of nursing education through the personal perspectives
of students and, where possible, nursing faculty:

  • To preserve the real life experiences of nurses by recording their stories, in their own words. Many histories record the life of an ‘important’ figure or event. I believe that it’s important to look at the experiences of the all nurses

  • To review stories and identify themes, educational philosophy;and compare past, current and future

Included in the history of nursing education are oral histories of graduates and faculty .

 Diploma Programs
Hospital Based

After the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale received funding to start a school of nursing St. Thomas Hospital In 1873 three hospitals established the first ‘Nightingale’ nurse training schools in America. These were ·New York Training School at Bellevue Hospital,, the Connecticut Training School at New Haven State Hospital and theTraining School at Massachusetts General Hospital.

In Nightingale English Model, the administration of the school is separate from hospital administration.In the United States the administration of the nursing school under hospital administration -apprenticeship program -Pupil nurses staffed the hospitals.·The length of the program length initially was 2 years and later increased to 3 years. Nursing, seen as women's work emphasized service not education - Hospital philosophy: Service first, Education second.

Oral Histories

Diploma Graduates

Memories: an era of caring-1892 to 1999
A Tribute to Springfield hospital/Baystate Medical Center, School of Nursingi
When Baystate Medical Center School of Nursing closed in 1999, the memory book committee with the assistance of Baystate Health Systems created a book entitled "an era of caring". The book contains memories from the classes of the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. In the following, you'll find the memories of the classes from the classes of these eras. Click here to read these memories

Hartford Hospital Graduate 1935 - Became Director, Springfield Hospital - Baystate School of Nursing.

Author: One Hundred Years of Nursing at Baystate Medical Center - A Rich Heritage.

Photos Pictures of Springfield Hospital +Baystate Hospital School of Nursing + Hospital scenes from the 80’s.

Nursing Education - Associate Degree Programs

The associate degree nursing program: ". . . presents a new type of nursing program in a new setting; a program carefully designed to fit within the pattern of community/junior college education, to meet the needs of interested candidates who might otherwise be lost to nursing, and to prepare nurses for a specific range of nursing functions-those embodied in direct patient care. (Lewis, 1964)

Why a Two-Year Collegiate Nursing Program ?

The urgent needs that came to the forefront of the public consciousness and the immediate occasion for the development of the associate degree nursing program were primarily due to a shortage of nurses after World War II as well as the reform movement in nursing intent on moving nursing education into higher education. (Haase’ 1990)

Dr. Montag sought to alleviate a critical shortage of nurses by decreasing the length of the education process to two years and to provide a sound educational base for nursing instruction by placing the program in community/junior colleges. In 1958, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded the implementation of the project at seven pilot sites in four states (Haase, 1990).

Haase, P. T., (1990), The origins and Rise of Associate Degree Nursing Education, Duke University Press Published in Cooperation with the National League for Nursing.

Lewis, E, (1964), The Associate degree program, American Journal of Nursing, 64, 5. 78-81


Mildred Montag

Associate degree education for nursing began as part of an experimental project at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York in the 1950s. In her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Montag proposed educating a technical nurse for two years to assist the professional nurse, whom she envisioned as having a baccalaureate degree.


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Baccalaureate Nursing Degree
Oral Histories

1960 Boston College School of Nursing — Career includes perspective on the early history of ADN programs and as faculty University of Massachusetts, Amherst.