Friday, March 15, 2019

The History of Illinois Training School for Nurses at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

The Illinois Training School for Nurses (ITSN) was established on September 21, 1880, by a group of prominent Chicago women dedicated to the prospect of training young women to care scientifically for the sick.
The old Cook County Hospital. The original building when school entered on May 1, 1881. The administration building (center) finished in 1882.
Twenty-five directors, all-female, headed the project. Prominent among these were Sarah L. Wright, Dr. Sarah Hackett Stevenson, Margaret Lawrence, Lucy L. Flower, and Elizabeth B. Carpenter.
Illinois Training School for Nurses - Nurses Home.
Considerable political opposition to the plan was based on the belief that modest young women of good moral character were not suited for a profession that required a rigorous education, long hours of work, and intimate contact with strangers. However, on November 13, 1880, the Chicago Medical Society passed a resolution affirming its support for ITSN. On December 1, the Cook County Commissioners and the Training School reached an agreement that the county would pay the school to provide trained instructors and student nurses to staff one medical and one surgical ward of the Cook County Hospital.
Illinois Training School for Nurses student's room.
Illinois Training School for Nurses student's room.
On May 1, 1881, the first pupil nurses began working in the wards, replacing untrained male nurses who had held their positions through political appointments. Later that year, the school began providing nurses for the lying-in ward[1]. Other wards followed shortly: in 1882 all remaining female and medical wards; in 1883 the surgical wards; in 1893 the contagious disease hospital; in 1897 the skin and venereal wards. Eventually, ITSN provided nursing service for every ward of Cook County Hospital. Working so closely with one of the world's largest public hospitals, the Illinois Training School for Nurses attracted many prominent pioneers in nursing education. Superintendents of ITSN included Mary Brown and Edith Draper from New York's Bellevue Training School, Mary C. Wheeler, an early ITSN graduate, and Laura Logan, who helped establish the University of Cincinnati School of Nursing. Under the leadership of women like these, ITSN gradually added to its curriculum many special programs and pioneering innovations, including private nursing, a visiting nurse service, post-graduate and dieticians' programs, and affiliation with other nursing schools.
First graduates from the Illinois Training School for Nurses; Spring & Fall of 1883.
1) Sophie Falk, 2) Melissa J. Bartles, 3) Angie Bean, 4) Phebe Brown,
5) Anna Steere 6) Helen Nutting 7) Janet Topping
Private nursing was begun in April 1883 as a service to the sick outside the hospital. Trained student nurses were dispatched to work full time in private homes, thus filling a genuine need within the community while simultaneously raising additional funds for the school.

Crerar nursing, begun in the fall of 1892 through a bequest of John Crerar, was a particularly important service in the years before the widespread activities of the Visiting Nurses Association. Crerar nurses, who were ITSN students, provided nursing care in the homes of low-income families who paid a minimal fee to the school. In this way, ITSN was able to provide a community service as it trained students. Private nursing and Crerar nursing were important public relations measures that helped create public support for a school which increasingly depended on contributions and bequests to purchase buildings and expand services and training.
Illinois Training School for Nurses - Nursery
In May of 1885, ITSN agreed to provide nurses for the Presbyterian Hospital. This service was interrupted in November for financial reasons but was resumed in 1888. It continued for fifteen years until 1903 when the increasing size of both Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals made it impossible for ITSN to staff both facilities.

In 1895, ITSN began admitting a few post-graduate nurses. In 1920 a post-graduate course for dieticians was established, for which a college degree was a pre-requisite.
Medical staff including Dr. F.A. Besley holding infants at the Illinois Training School for Nurses.
The affiliation began in 1905. This program allowed students from smaller schools to spend their final year of training at ITSN, working in the wards of Cook County Hospital and gaining a breadth of experience unavailable in smaller hospitals. Dixon Hospital, Brokaw Hospital of Bloomington, Passavant of Chicago, and the Moline Hospital were some of the early participants in the program.

With its many special programs and innovations in the field of nursing education, ITSN was long interested in improving education for nurses and elevating their professional status. The quality of education at ITSN was consistently upgraded over the years through the addition of more required medical and scientific coursework, a greater breadth of practical experience in the hospital wards, and an increase in the length of time required to receive the nursing certificate, from 24 months to 36 months.

Illinois Training School for Nurses
Graduation Pin
In 1926, after much exploration of the issue, ITSN reached an agreement to merge its corporate identity with the University of Chicago (U of C). In return, U of C would later establish a nursing school that would award its graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree. ITSN continued to operate independently until 1929 when the merger took effect and ITSN ceased to exist. All ITSN property and assets reverted to the University of Chicago and ITSN contracts with the Cook County Commissioners were terminated.

The County Commissioners, who had relied almost entirely upon ITSN nurses to staff the Cook County Hospital, established its own training school to perform the same function. The County rented the former ITSN facilities from their new owner, the University of Chicago, hired the former ITSN faculty to staff the school, and allowed ITSN students to transfer with full credit to the Cook County School of Nursing (CCSN). Although CCSN appeared to be a continuation of ITSN, the Illinois Training School had actually ceased to exist as a corporate identity upon its legal merger with the University of Chicago. The name of the Illinois Training School for Nurses was to be perpetuated in a scholarship fund for the University of Chicago's School of Nursing.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Lying-in (or confinement) is an old childbirth practice involving a woman having bed rest in the postpartum period after giving birth.

"History of the Illinois Training School for Nurses, 1880-1929." Published 1930.
In my Digital Research Library of Illinois History®

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