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Schools of Nursing at Pennsylvania Hospital

Surgical Amphitheatre

Works that Altered Modern Medicine


In the early years of the hospital, the nurses who cared for the sick and injured were untrained men and women. Quite often these attendants were former patients who had shown some aptitude or desire to nurse others after their own recovery. At that time, such employees were usually the working poor, commanding low wages and having limited access to education. However, some individuals demonstrated a real vocation for the care of the sick, and were a great resource to the hospital community.

School of Nursing for Women (1875-1974)
In 1875, the Hospital's Board of Managers took under consideration plans to establish a training school for nurses. A program was developed, and certificates were awarded for successful completion of a year's worth of training, which included medical and surgical components. Four years later, Pennsylvania Hospital agreed to co-train nurses from the Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia, an arrangement which lasted until 1882.

In 1883, the hospital re-established its independent training school, graduating four nurses in its first year. Lectures were systematically delivered to students by members of the medical, surgical, and outpatient staffs, which supplemented instruction given by the school's superintendent. Such quality training and staff support led to an important precedent in 1885, at which time three female nurses were allowed to work on men's medical wards. The first public commencement of the nursing school happened in 1893, when students received class pins that incorporated the seal of the Good Samaritan in the design.

Helen G. McClelland

Some luminaries in the hospital's training school included Miss Lucy Walker, an English nurse who became superintendent in 1896. Under her tutelage, the nursing school became known as one of the best in the United States. Miss Margaret A. Dunlop became head of the school in 1909 and was instrumental in the overseas organization of the American Ambulance Service and Base Hospital No. 10 during World War I. Her assistant, Miss Helen G. McClelland, recipient of the American Distinguished Service Cross for valorous service during World War I, succeeded her predecessor in 1933.

During her 23-year tenure, Miss McClelland played an important role in the changing dynamics of the nursing profession. she instituted a shorter work day for nurses, comparable to that of other fields; encouraged continuing education; designed nursing educational programs; and solicited friends of the hospital to endow scholarships. Miss McClelland also organized the nursing component of the 52nd Evacuation Hospital at the onset of World War II.

In 1964, restructuring within the hospital's administration and changes within nursing accreditation organizations necessitated the merger of the School of Nursing for Women at 8th Street and the School of Nursing for Men at 49th Street. The hospital's nursing programs has always been based on the "diploma school" format, in which student nurses divided their time between clinical experience and classroom instruction. Pressures within the rapidly growing nursing profession created an imperative to transition from the hospital-based diploma schools towards academic education. The faculty of the merged program developed an improved curriculum in light of the changing patterns in nursing education. However, in 1974 the hospital graduated its last class of nurses. More than 2,800 students has graduated since the first public commencement in 1893, all proudly bearing their caps and "Pennsy" Good Samaritan nursing pins.

School of Nursing for Men (1914-1965)
In 1914 the School of Nursing for Men was established at the Department for Mental and Nervous Diseases, located at the hospital's West Philadelphia Campus. It was the first training school for male nurses in the United States to be headed by a man, Leroy N. Craig. The original purpose of the school was to meet the needs of the community for competent professional male nurses. The educational program was designed to provide an integrated background in general nursing upon which specialization in psychiatric and urological nursing could be developed after completion of the course.

In 1932, an Affiliate Program in Psychiatric Nursing was developed. The School of Nursing for men was one of nine "diploma" or hospital-based nursing schools that participated in this cooperative program. Approximately 12,000 affiliate students participated in this mental health nursing training program. During the 1950s, through the efforts of Mr. Craig and Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton, male nurses were granted commissions in the armed forces. Several graduates of the Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing for men were the first to enter.

In 1965, the Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing for Men was dissolved, after having graduated 551 men over its 51-year history. The School for Women was dissolved the same year and a co-educational program was established. This program continued to attract male students each year until the school was closed in 1974.


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