Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Centennial of nursing education

This year, the OHSU School of Nursing will celebrate its centennial, marking its opening in 1910 as the Multnomah Training School (also called the Multnomah School for Nurses--and so the name games begin...)

You can expect to hear much more about the anniversary as the year progresses, but we thought we'd kick things off with a look at the "Circular of information" promulgated to publicize the new school. Printed by the Portland press of the Chausse-Prudhomme Co., the 6 x 3.5 inch pamphlet is chock full of interesting information and requirements that seem positively outrageous to modern readers.

The text begins with the location of the school and the general announcement. Here we learn that "The schedule covers two and a half years of training." Keep this in mind.

Following is a list of members of the Board and the staff. The nursing superintendent was Alta B. Youmans-Spalding (or Spaulding, depending on which page you're reading), and the medical staff included such familiars as Noble Wiley Jones, Ralph Fenton, and Ralph Matson. There was an oral surgeon on staff (D.B. Stuart, DDS), and a house physician and intern had been assigned to duty. Lectures in eleven topics were to be given over the course of the program.

And then we get to the Rules for Admission. These run to three and a half pages, and include the following stipulations (among others):
*[Applicant] must be in good health and between twenty and thirty years of age
*The Superintendent reserves the privilege of dropping a pupil at any period of her training for misconduct, inefficiency, or neglect of duty
*Probationers must bring two dresses of gingham or calico, six large white aprons, one pair of comfortably fitting shoes with rubber heels, two bags for soiled clothes, one pair of scissors and a watch.
*No food is provided to nurses out of the appointed time, except when ordered by the Matron, at the request of the Superintendent. Nurses are not to go into the kitchen nor give orders to the cook.
*Twenty pieces [of laundry], well marked, are allowed each person per week.
*Nurses are not permitted to receive calls in the wards of the Hospital from their friends or other nurses.
*No one will take any letters from the mail-box excepting those addressed to her.
"Janie, can you grab my mail? Why, no, Sal, I can't--I might be kicked out!" And this was for how long? Two and a half years. That, my friends, is dedication to one's craft.

As Oregon medicine has its Olof Larsell, so Oregon nursing has Barbara Gaines, whose A history of the school, 1910-1996 is the definitive guide to the subject. We may be a little biased, so see for yourself: the entire history is available online as a PDF from the School of Nursing web site.


Canadian college said...

Thanks for sharing the useful information about Multnomah Training School. Can you share some more information about it ?


student of Nursing Programs

Sara Piasecki said...

Hello Toronto! You can learn a lot more about the Multnomah Training School (predecessor to our current OHSU School of Nursing)on the school's website. The history written by Professor Emerita Barbara Gaines is available as a PDF at