Academic journal article Nursing History Review

"Nurses' Training May Be Shifted": The Story of Bellevue and Hunter College, 1942-1969

Academic journal article Nursing History Review

"Nurses' Training May Be Shifted": The Story of Bellevue and Hunter College, 1942-1969

Article excerpt

Abstract. During the mid-20th century, nursing leaders advocated moving nursing education out of hospital-based programs and into colleges and universities for the purpose of preparing nurses to meet the demands of increasingly complex health care situations. Nursing leaders in New York City's municipal hospitals recognized the value of this change and sought to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses to fill the many vacancies within city hospitals. This article examines the political support New York gave to the expansion of Hunter College's baccalaureate program in nursing (a college within the City University of New York system) while closing the almost 100-year-old Bellevue and Mills Schools of Nursing diploma program. The efforts to change nursing at Bellevue started in the 1940s, but the transfer to Hunter College was not realized until 1967. Although the decision to close the diploma school met resistance among various stakeholders, the expansion ultimately succeeded. It was supported by the New York City Department of Hospitals and received approval from the Board of Estimates and Board of Higher Education. Both Bellevue and Hunter's leadership was ready to make this change and participated in this transformation.

"Nurses' Training May Be Shifted," read a New York Times headline on September 27, 1966, calling for the New York City Department of Hospitals to transfer the operations of its four municipal nursing schools to the City University of New York (CUNY) system.1 The impetus for this transfer grew out of the city's interest in "keeping with a national trend toward moving nursing education from hospital control to the campus."2 Within a year, another New York Times headline reported, "Hunter Taking Over School at Bellevue."3 Bellevue was one of the first of this group of municipal hospital training schools to be closed. The negotiations that had been underway for several years finally concluded with a signed contract in June 1967. By September, the planned closing (or what alumni call "phase out") officially began. Bellevue and Mills Schools of Nursing (BMSN) did not accept students that September, and its last class would graduate in June 1969. Hunter College, one of the colleges in CUNY, moved its 4-year baccalaureate degree program into Bellevue's facility.

The goal of Hunter's expansion into Bellevue was to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses educated in the municipal hospital system and to relieve the persistent shortage of nurses in New York City hospitals. Hunter agreed to expand its program by a "minimum of 300 students per year" and eventually to increase the number enrolled in the program to 1,200.4 The closing of the BMSN and the expansion of a baccalaureate program promised to simultaneously address the interests of some of the city's academic nursing leaders who favored moving nursing education into colleges and universities and to meet the needs of the city.

This change from hospital-based diploma training to university-based baccalaureate education was not easy. The debate focused on several points. Locally, it highlighted the city's need for a sufficient supply of nurses who could provide the levels of care needed for increasingly complex patient situations. Politically, it involved New York City's wish to move control (and cost) for nurse training from the Department of Hospitals to the CUNY system under the Board of Higher Education. Professionally, it centered on where nurses should be educated: in traditional hospital diploma-based programs or in broader liberal education programs in universities and junior colleges. The city's plan to close the diploma program and expand the baccalaureate in nursing took place in 1967, 2 years after the American Nurses Association (ANA), one of the leading national nursing associations in the United States, passed a position paper calling for bachelor's and associate degrees for entry into professional and technical practice, respectively. …

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