From Apprentices to PhDs: The evolution of nursing education

Nursing education has come a long way in 150 years! The workforce is more diverse and some are highly trained in specialized care. Nursing duties are much more complex and scientific, which requires more training and regulation. This exhibit takes visitors through the history of nursing education from hospital-based nursing schools to the college and university training most nurses receive today.

Formalized nursing education began in the United States in the 1870s. It followed the Florence Nightingale model of training where nurses spent most of their time working in the hospital wards and received one lecture a week in the evening. The nurses worked long hours in full length skirts and long sleeves, taking care of patients and cleaning the hospital. There was no accreditation for schools or licensing of their nurses.

nursing uniforms c1890

At the turn of the 20th century, many hospitals were growing and building new facilities. Many of these new buildings included nursing schools to provide skilled care for the hospital. Nurses (all of them single women) lived in dorms and followed a strict schedule of meals, work, class, and studying. The course work increased from one lecture a week to 8-15 hours of instruction per week. Courses included more scientific subjects like microbiology, chemistry, and psychology. Student nurses still worked long hours in the hospital wards.

student nurse uniforms c1960 from Youngstown Hospital Assocation and St. Elizabeth Hospital

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, many hospitals discontinued their nursing programs or partnered with local universities to provide some of the academic training. These new programs with colleges and universities opened up the profession to a more diverse population including married women, minorities, and men.

Youngstown State University student nurse uniform, 1967

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