History Narrative

History of the University of Michigan School of Nursing

Professional nursing education began in the United States in 1873. By 1900, there were 432 schools of nursing operating nationwide. This national trend came to Ann Arbor in 1891 when the University of Michigan Training School for Nurses was organized in conjunction with the new hospital that had opened on Catherine Street.
New Hospital on Catherine Street
As an educational institution connected with the University of Michigan, the hospital believed it was incomplete without the needed auxiliary of a nurses training school. The number of pupils was limited to eight and the compensation for each was not to exceed fifty dollars per year. Admission requirements were that the student be between 20 and 30 years of age, of sound health, and with the physical and mental capabilities for the duties of a nurse. The program was two years in length with one month’s probation period.
 
Six students were admitted to the original program, which was organized and administered by the Medical School, under the direction of Jane Pettigrew who was a trained nurse pursuing medical studies at the U-M. During this time, education was not the primary goal of early nursing schools. Most schools were established by hospitals to provide student nurses as staff to care for patients, with education of the nurses taking a secondary role. The U-M was no exception. Read an excerpt from the writings of Anna Harrison, a graduate of the first class (1893) and later superintendent of the training school, regarding her experiences as a nurse during those first years.
 
Men's Ward, University Hospital
The School of Nursing, from its inception, has reflected the social, economic and technological changes of our society. In response to societal and professional needs and demands, the nursing program has continuously undergone revision and modification. In 1902, the Regents extended the University of Michigan Training School for Nurses from a two year program to a three year diploma program. Although other nursing programs were initiated, the diploma program was continued concurrently until 1952, a span of nearly sixty years.
 
The connection between the hospital and the nursing program was recognized in 1912, when the University of Michigan Training School was reorganized and placed under the administration of the University Hospital (although the program’s title wasn’t changed to the University Hospital School of Nursing of the University of Michigan until 1928). In 1915, the first full-time instructor was appointed and 130 students were enrolled. A four-year high school diploma was required for admission.
 
In 1919, the first degree program for nursing students was inaugurated as a five year combined course in letters and nursing (students spent three years in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, followed by two years in the School of Nursing and received their basic science instruction from the Medical School) that resulted in the conferring of a University degree.
Medical School Class
 
Student comfort and the nursing program’s prestige were both increased in 1923 with the announcement of a $600,000 gift from Senator James Couzens for the construction of a nurses’ residence, Couzens Halls. Completed in August of 1925, it provided 250 rooms, mostly singles, accommodating about 260 women. The basement had facilities for instruction, an amphitheater, faculty offices, laboratories, classrooms, an assembly hall, and a game room. 
University Hospital, Couzens Hall
On its Golden Anniversary in 1941, Michigan could point with pride to the education of over 1,600 nurses. At the same time, the Board of Regents created the Faculty of the School of Nursing with the director of the School being given the title of Professor of Nursing. The Faculty consisted of one Assistant Professor and 12 Instructors. The nursing program was officially recognized as an independent university teaching unit and the name of the school was changed to the University of Michigan School of Nursing. To be admissible, students had to be from the upper third of their high school graduating class. In 1944, the program in letters and nursing was discontinued and a new degree program was initiated requiring completion of two years in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, followed by three years in the School of Nursing and lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
 
In 1952, a more extensive revision of the curriculum was instituted. At this time, the three-year diploma program and the five-year degree program, which had operated concurrently, were both discontinued and a four-year program (three calendar years and one academic year) was established. Throughout the program, the curriculum was planned to combine nursing principles and skills with knowledge in general education.
 
Although the School of Nursing had been recognized as independent since 1941, it wasn’t until 1955 that Rhoda Reddig Russell, the school’s senior administrative officer, was appointed as the first Dean of the School. Until then, the School had been operating under the direction of an administrative committee, with Hospital, Medical School and Nursing School representatives. For a complete list of administrators and deans throughout the School’s history, click here .
 
Having outgrown its administrative offices in Couzens Hall, the School of Nursing was happy to occupy new and spacious quarters in the new School of Nursing Building adjacent to the newly completed Medical Science I Building in 1958.
Medical Science I Building
In the fall of 1961, the curriculum was expanded to include the school’s first Master’s degree. The Master’s program in Psychiatric Nursing was established in the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and in 1962, the program in Medical-Surgical Nursing leading to the degree Master of Science was initiated – the first graduate program in the United States to prepare clinical nursing specialists in medical-surgical nursing.
 
The four year basic baccalaureate program received full accreditation from the National League for Nursing in 1963. This was the first time the program was accredited for preparation for first level positions in public health. The Master’s programs in Medical-Surgical and Psychiatric Nursing were also fully accredited at this time.
 
By 1965, the School had grown from the original enrollment of six students in 1891, to a total of 765 students in the baccalaureate program and 26 full-time and 3 part-time students in the graduate program with a nursing faculty of 75.
 
1966 marked the Diamond Jubilee of nursing education at the University of Michigan. In the 75 years since the School was established, 2,622 nurses had received certificates or diplomas and 1,628 had earned the degree BS in Nursing. The Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies had granted 27 Master of Science degrees, 16 with a major in Psychiatric Nursing and 11 with a major in Medical-Surgical Nursing.
 
The four-year degree program continued to prepare nurses to function in beginning positions in all fields of nursing and to enter graduate programs of study until 1968. That year the Board of Regents approved an extensive curriculum revision for the class entering in the fall of 1968. The program of study leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree consisted of four academic years plus one eight week summer session. Enrollment was limited to 250 students because of the limitations for teaching basic sciences.
 
By 1970, the School had approximately 1,000 students, one of the largest enrollments in the nation. The summer session of 1971 brought an end to the requirement of enrollment in a summer session between the freshman and sophomore year. The School’s program now consisted of four academic years. Additionally, that year, the faculty approved a plan for admission of Registered Nurses to the baccalaureate program in nursing.
 
In 1975, the school expanded its degree programs by offering, for the first time, a research-based PhD in Nursing. The School of Nursing was one of the first in the country to offer a PhD degree specifically in nursing. In 1987, the PhD Program established four concentrations in high priority areas of nursing research and theory for students to choose from; the first nursing school in the country to develop such nursing focal areas and make them available to its students.
 
The Center for Nursing Research was established in 1984 to serve as the central coordinating body for faculty research and to foster collaborative relationships with other units and institutions involved in related research. Throughout the following years, new Master’s programs were developed in Gerontological Nursing, Nurse-Midwifery, Occupational Health Nursing, Home Health Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Acute Care Practitioner. Existing programs, including Nursing Administration, Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, and the undergraduate studies curriculum were also completely revamped. 
 
After years of lobbying and planning, the School of Nursing moved into renovated space at 400 North Ingalls, part of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital, in 1989,the first time in many years that the entire school had been housed together.
 
In 1990, the School’s once autonomous academic areas were realigned to form three academic divisions: the Division of Acute, Critical and Long-Term Care Programs which included Medical-Surgical Nursing and Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing; the Division of Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Programs, which included Community Health Nursing and Parent-Child Nursing; and the Division of Nursing Business and Health Systems Programs, which included Nursing Administration.
 
In 1991, the School of Nursing celebrated its one-hundredth anniversary of training and educating future nurses. The Honors Program for high-ability undergraduate students began in 1995. In 1996, the School introduced the Second Career Nursing Program in which persons with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than nursing were able to complete a BSN degree and prepare for the Registered Nurse NCLEX exam and licensing in 20 months. This program was revised in 2004 to be completed in 12 months.
 
And our story doesn’t end here. The School of Nursing remains committed to reflecting the social, economic and technological changes of the world we live in as we continue to change and evolve to meet the needs of society and the demands of our profession.