Nursing's Pioneers in the Associate Degree Movement

Article excerpt

ASSOCIATE DEGREE PROGRAMS IN NURSING became part of the American system of nursing education in 1952, the year the National League for Nursing was established. From its beginnings, the NLN became a potent force in supporting as well as promoting nursing education in community and junior colleges. As a result of NLN's leadership in this area, a new worker emerged in the nursing profession identified as the associate degree nurse.

Early Steps Toward ADN Education Although the ADN program was not conceptualized prior to the 1950s, about 80 arrangements had been reported between hospital schools of nursing and junior colleges that provided general education courses. Also, three junior colleges conducted diploma programs in nursing (1).

Cognizant of the potential of community college education, the Board of Directors of the National League of Nursing Education (NLNE) held several discussions about the matter during the middle and late 1940s. When the members met in October 1945, Eugenia K. Spalding observed that for the previous two years, the American Association of Junior Colleges (AAJC) had shown an interest in nursing (2). She also noted that the "state Boards have been promoting preparation for nursing in junior colleges but have not taken the League into their confidence" (2, p. 19).

Mrs. Spalding identified recruitment and curriculum as the two main problems for nursing in junior colleges. The NLNE Board urged that the presidents of state leagues of nursing education be encouraged to work with the AAJC (2). The following January, it authorized the establishment of a committee with representation from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Nursing (ACSN) "to consider nursing education in institutions of higher junior colleges" (3, p. 19).

When the Board met in Cleveland in April 1949, R. Louise McManus reported that Dr. Ralph Fields, chairman of the Committee on Curriculum of the AAJC, had expressed an interest in studying the needs of nursing and forming a committee on the subject with nurse representation (4). Dr. Fields was former commissioner of technical programs in California and professor of higher education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he was a colleague of Mrs. McManus. He had been active in efforts to provide publicly financed two-year post-high school courses.

The decision was made to write to the AAJC suggesting a committee with joint participation by NLNE and ACSN to discuss nursing education in community colleges. In May 1950, League representatives presented their report, which concluded that junior colleges could set up two types of basic professional nursing programs: two-year programs that would be transfer-oriented to a collegiate school of nursing offering a bachelor's degree in nursing, and three-year programs leading to the degree of associate in arts or associate in science to prepare the graduate for RN licensure (5).

Acting on recommendations from the joint committee, the Board approved the formation of a national advisory committee on experimental programs in nursing in junior colleges. The NLNE, ACSN, and AAJC would be represented (5). This committee had a threefold purpose: to prepare guidelines for developing nursing programs, to obtain funding for a few pilot projects, and to study the problems involved in transferring nursing students from junior colleges to four-year institutions (5). The committee developed a plan to survey junior colleges regarding interest in nursing education and to select five junior colleges for pilot programs that included counseling (6).

In January 1951, a change occurred in the composition of the committee when Dr. Mildred L. Montag was appointed to replace one of the members (7). Dr. Montag had recently authored an innovative study proposing a new type of technical nursing program. She intended that her proposed program be self-contained, but stressed that individuals should not be deterred from seeking further education. …