The Nursing School

Hospital's first building

The Hospital's first building on Marshall Street. Only this small portion of the building was completed when the Hospital opened in 1893.

Nursing students attend to patients

Nursing students attend to patients in the ward of the Hospital, circa 1895.

Early Years

The Chester County Hospital Training School for Nurses opened on April 1, 1894, one year after the Hospital opened for patients. The Hospital Board of Managers initiated the founding of the School, noting it would "secure a better class of nurses, and provide better care for patients. . . be more economical for the hospital to train its own nurses than to pay skilled assistants, in emergencies, from city institutions, [and it would] prove a convenience and benefit to the county."

Lily Horth

Lily Horth, member of the first class of nursing students in 1894 and one of the first graduates in 1895. Training School rules at the time stated, "pupils shall wear a distinctive uniform after the probationary month, which shall consist of a light blue gingham dress, simply made, white apron, cap, collar and cuffs."

The School opened under the direction of Miss Viola Carpenter, Head Nurse at the Hospital, with five students in the first class. Lily Horth and Nellie Schwaderer were given one year's credit their work in the Hospital ward and received their diplomas at the School's commencement on July 1, 1895.

Julie King

Julie King, Director of Nurses from 1896 to 1907.

Lectures by the medical staff and supervised care of patients in the wards comprised the education for students during the School's early years. Students were on duty in the ward every day from 7:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. with the exception of "a half day each week, {and} at least two hours every Sunday." Lectures were given each Friday evening by members of the medical staff on topics such as anatomy, hygiene, splints and bandages, preparations for surgical operations, obstetrics, fractures and dislocations, and medical emergencies. Examinations on the lectures were held every six months.

Nurses' Home

Nurses' Home, built in 1899, on property adjacent to the Hospital.

Julie King (a graduate of Johns Hopkins Hospital) was Director of Nurses for the Hospital from 1896 to 1907 a time when the fledgling school firmly established itself as an institution for training professional nurses. In 1899, the course of study was expanded to three years to give the students a better opportunity for "uninterrupted study, before being assigned to the work of out-nursing." In 1902, the School instituted an examination in ordinary common school branches as part of its entrance requirements. Nursing school students attended school year round except for a two-week vacation in the summer. Life as a student became more comfortable with the opening of a nurses' residence in 1899, a home built on Matlack Street on grounds adjacent to the Hospital.

CCH Nursing School
Living room of Nurses' Home

Living room of the Nurses' Home, 1923.

As the Hospital expanded, so too did the Training School. From a fixed number of 15 pupils in 1899, the School grew to 30 students in training in 1913-14. Under the direction of the various department superintendents, student nurses provided care throughout the Hospital, with senior nursing students often taking supervisory roles. A student nurse's duties in the ward included general patient care such as sponging patients with fevers from typhoid during the epidemic in 1904, administering medication, cleaning a patient's room (with a bucket and mop) after attending to his care; or boiling clothes from the Contagious Building before sending them to the laundry.

Cooking class

Student nurses engaged in cooking class in the kitchen of the Hospital on Marshall Street, 1906

A diet kitchen in the Hospital was also staffed by nurses under the supervision of a director, ensuring that "pupil nurses shall here be thoroughly instructed in all branches of cooking for the sick and convalescent." Marguerite Harrar, Class of 1902, recalled a time when "night nurses had to cook their own midnight meals and the breakfasts for the wards. They served the trays, gathered them up again, and returned them to the kitchen, where the dishes were piled in neat piles. . .The department with the least work was assigned to [wash them], all of this with our regular nursing work." By 1916, probationers (beginning students) had courses in theory and practice before entering the wards as student nurses.

Student nurses, circa 1922.

Student nurses, circa 1922.


Hospital 1925

The Nurses' Residence (far right) is constructed adjacent to the new Hospital building which opened in 1925.

Nurses' residence

The Nurses' residence, formally opened in April 1926. The Women's Auxiliary provided many furnishings for the home.

In 1925, The Chester County Hospital moved to a new facility with space for 120 beds. The new Hospital contained two large operating rooms, a men's medical and surgical ward, a women's medical and surgical ward, a maternity ward, a children's ward and a ward for patients with contagious diseases. Student nurses received clinical training in all areas of the Hospital. A Nurses' Residence, connected to the Hospital, was opened one year later. It contained "single bed rooms with hot and cold running water in each for the use of the students [as well as] Reception Rooms, Reading Rooms, Lecture and Demonstration Rooms, Chemical Dietetic Laboratories" as noted in a school bulletin.

The Training School always strove to meet or exceed the requirements set by the State Board of Examiners. In 1929, The Chester County Hospital Training School for Nurses was one of 45 schools with no student failures on the State Board examination for registered nurses out of 174 training schools with graduates taking the examination. The future held many more years of a high pass rate for graduates of the School.

Training School curriculum

The Training School curriculum was expanded in the early 1930s to reflect the changing medical care and patients services offered in the growing Hospital.

The 1930s brought several new departments to the Hospital that increased the educational opportunities for the nursing students. They gained experience in Central Supply, where they learned the process of sterilization; worked in physiotherapy with the latest equipment for various baths, electric treatments and other forms of physical medicine; and assisted in the new Out Patient Department with eye, ear, throat, allergy and orthopedic services. By 1938, there were 42 nursing students in training.

Student nurses also went outside the Hospital for a portion of their education. For a time, students went to received clinical education at the Pennsylvania Hospital Department for Mental and Nervous Diseases, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a local veterans' hospital. Students in classes on public sanitation visited water works, sewage disposal plants and local dairies.

The Chester County Hospital School of Nursing (as it was officially renamed in 1935) participated in the U.S. Student Nurse Cadet Corps during World War II. Forty-six of the sixty eight nursing students joined the program in which the government provided their uniforms, books and a monthly stipend while they attended nursing school in return for their promise to work for the government for the duration of the war and six months afterward.

Nursing Arts course

Students adjusting oxygen tent during Nursing Arts course, 1947.

Anatomy class

Student in anatomy class, 1956.

Post-war attention was turned to the School keeping pace with the changes in medical care and more stringent standards required of nursing schools. Science courses previously taught at the Nursing School were now taken at West Chester State Teachers' College (later West Chester University) while students continued to have nursing arts courses at the School of Nursing. The School now employed a fulltime Educational Director and Clinical Instructors.

Nurses' residence

A new Nurses' residence formally opened in 1960.

Welcoming students

Welcoming students to new student residence.

Jean M. Reidnour became Director of Nursing in November 1958. The School of Nursing achieved full accreditation from the National League of Nursing in 1960, a validation of the high scholastic standards set by the School. Miss Reidnour, along with Irma Reese who was appointed Director of Nursing in 1965, faced the challenge of maintaining the School's changing practices in the health care field and in the student body. Norman W. Skillman, Director (later President) of the Hospital from 1952 until 1977, provided great support for the mission of the Nursing School during this time.

Education building

Education building opened in 1960.

Norman W. Skillman and Emily C. S. Rhoads

Norman W. Skillman and
Emily C. S. Rhoads

Ada M. Boswell

A student nurse cares for Hospital patient Ada M. Boswell, a 1925 graduate of The Chester County Hospital School of Nursing.

In 1960, The Chester County Hospital School of Nursing moved from its facilities adjacent to the Hospital to a new education building and nurses' residence on grounds south of the Hospital. The new buildings provided expanded classroom space including a nursing arts demonstration room, a nursing library, as well as additional social, recreational and residential space. The senior nursing students were the first occupants of the new residence (while underclassmen remained in the residence adjacent to the Hospital.) After the addition of a wing in 1969, all students were housed in the dormitory. In 1973, the educational building was named in honor of Emily C.S. Rhoads for her dedication to the School of Nursing through her service on the Hospital Board of Managers and the Nursing Committee.

Student nurses in the 1980s

Like their predecessors 100 years ago, student nurses in the 1980s studied anatomy in the classroom, while honing their clinical skills caring for Hospital patients.

Student nurses honing their clinical skills

In the late 1970s the student body numbered over 100. Students were no longer required to live in the dormitory. The School faculty included 18 full and part-time nursing instructors. Licensed practical nurses were granted advanced placement into the School by receiving credit toward their diploma from their previous education and experience.

The School of Nursing began an affiliation with Immaculata College in 1981, allowing Nursing School students to take behavioral and biological sciences (such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and psychology) and liberal arts courses which could be applied to the college's RN to BSN completion program. Courses at the School of Nursing on various areas of health promotion, maintenance and restoration reflected the School's philosophy that "nursing is both an art and a science. The art of nursing is an expression of commitment to man's worth and dignity. The science of nursing is derived from a synthesis of knowledge from the physical, natural, and behavioral sciences. Nursing individualizes holistic care to man, the family, groups, and community by integrating the art and science components."

The Hospital continued to be the primary clinical setting for the nursing students, with experience in medical-surgical, obstetrical, operating room, intensive care, coronary care, and emergency departments. Clinical experience at health care agencies other than the Hospital gave the students experience in rehabilitation, pediatric health issues, in-patient and out-patient psychiatric care, adult day care, crisis intervention counseling, occupational health, and outpatient dialysis.

Clinical experience for student nurses

Clinical experience for student nurses in the 1980s meant understanding the increasing use of technology in the care of patients.

In 1994, The Chester County Hospital School of Nursing celebrated 100 years of professional nursing education. Three years later, the Hospital formed a partnership with Delaware County Community College to create a new concept in hospital-based healthcare education, called The Center for Nursing and Allied Health Education. Featuring an associate degree program, The Center would continue the Hospital's century-long commitment to nursing education.

During the transition period (fall 1997-spring 1999), The School of Nursing and the Center for Allied Health Education operated simultaneously. The Center welcomed its first students in the fall of 1997. The Chester County Hospital School of Nursing graduated its final class of nurses in May of 1999.

Graduation ceremonies, 1985.

Graduation ceremonies, 1985.

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The Chester County Hospital