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NURSING EDUCATION

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St. Joseph's School of Nursing on Langworthy and Peabody streets was constructed in 1920 and trained hundreds of nurses until 1974. Sketch by Norman Zepeski
NURSING EDUCATION. In 1896 a school of nursing was established by FINLEY HOSPITAL (THE). On January 10, 1900, the first class of four Dubuque trained nurses graduated from the program. The graduates were presented with circular pins somewhat smaller than a half dollar. Around the outer edge in a ring of blue enamel were the words "Finley Hospital Training School" An enamel cross was placed in the center of the gold pin. The reverse of the pin carried the graduate's name and the date. At the time of the graduation, there were two classes in school with a total enrollment of fifteen.

In May 1925, Finley invited the public to an open house of the Lull-Burch Memorial Home, the future home of the nurses. The four-story building was located southeast of the hospital and was constructed in an L-shape.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
In 1940 due to a surplus of nurses and difficulty in finding enough students to enroll in the program, the school was closed. The situation was reversed with the start of WORLD WAR II. In June 1942, the school reopened and enrollment began immediately with another class started in September. Since the school was operated under the regulations of the Iowa Board of Nursing Examiners, the Finley School entered into an affiliation with the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE. Nurses attended classes at the university in those subjects required by the state board. They also received physical education, dietetics, chemistry and psychology instruction. The entire course load was announced as being somewhat more than was required by student nurses at the University of Iowa. To qualify for admission a student had to be a graduate of an accredited high school. No students in the lower one-third of their graduating class would be considered without additional study and proof of ability.

In September 1977, the Finley Hospital School of Nursing lost its accreditation from the National League of Nursing. The school regained its status with the League in June 1978. In its letter to the hospital, the League cited the need for upgrading and increasing classrooms, formalizing staff development plans, and changes in students' courses. The accreditation was valid until 1986, nearly twice as long as expected. The school was later granted accreditation until 1987 when the last seniors graduated, and the program was ended.

In 1900 a school of nursing was established by MERCY HOSPITAL and organized by Mother Mary Agnes, RSM. In 1903 the nursing education program was lengthened from two to three years. An alumnae association was organized in 1908.

Msofnursing.jpg
In 1922 a two-story nurses' home was dedicated. Beginning the following year, three classes were admitted annually. Students received board, laundry, lodging and stipends of $5.00 per month after three months probation. The stipend increased to $7.00 during the last two years. In 1935 classrooms and a gymnasium were added to the nurses' home.

The Mercy School of Nursing expanded in 1938 with the addition of the School of Nursing from Clinton. In 1943 the School of Nursing was established as the Division of Nursing of LORAS COLLEGE. The Bachelor of Science degree was conferred after completion of two years at Loras and three years at Mercy.

Following the disaffiliation with Loras in 1953, courses were purchased from Loras with Mercy graduates being offered credits toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Loras discontinued the supplementary degree program for nurses in 1959, but the purchase of courses continued. In 1964 all arrangements with Loras were discontinued. In the fall of 1965 courses were first accepted from CLARKE COLLEGE, and the nursing program was shortened to three years. Five years later, the program was further shortened to two years.

The last class admitted to the Mercy School of Nursing entered in 1973. The next year Area One Vocational Technical School assumed all responsibility for the last class. These students received an Associate in Applied Science Degree with a Mercy Medical Center School of Nursing recognition diploma in 1975.

Nurses’ caps at both Finley and Mercy have had a long history. The first Mercy cap, adopted in 1900, was patterned after one worn by Catherine McKinnon, then the director of the school. In 1908 the style of cap made of organdy was changed to a practical washable type then in use by the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. This style, known as "dusting caps," covered all the hair and was considered a sanitary measure. The familiar cone-shaped Mercy cap with the narrow black band was adopted in Dubuque and in other Mercy schools around the United States in 1936.

The history of the Finley cap is similar. In 1897 nursing graduates wore a small cap made of organdy. In 1912 and 1913 the style was changed to the dusting caps of white linen. A third change occurred in 1926 before the adoption of the present style which first appeared in 1947.

In 1979 Clarke College began its nursing education program. In March 1987 accreditation from the National League of Nursing was received by the school.

In 1988 college officials announced that no freshman nursing applications would be accepted for the 1989 school year. The thirty-six nursing majors currently in the program would be allowed to complete their education in up to three years. Money from the nursing program was to be targeted toward psychology, sociology, and social work programs.

Block used for printing the school seal. Photo courtesy: Joe Jacobsmeier
In November 1990, Clarke officials announced that the nursing program, scheduled to end in the spring, would continue, and that the college would recruit freshmen for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. In making the announcement, college administrators cited the increased demand for highly skilled health care workers. In 1990 Clarke had the only four-year BSN program in Dubuque. A program for registered nurses to obtain a four-year degree and increase their training was being offered by the University of Dubuque. Clarke also announced in 1990 that it planned to continue its Accelerated Adult Degree Program in nursing and would expand its course work in hospice and community health nursing.