Celebrating Our 130th Anniversary

NursingMarch 03, 2022

Since St. Paul’s School of Nursing opened 130 years ago, healthcare, nursing and nursing education has changed considerably. The Nursing profession grew from a time when primarily women, would care for the sick and/or injured family, friends and neighbors. As society advanced and trained medical care became more available, these caregivers would begin being compensated for their work. Indeed, nursing was one of the first skilled careers that women would pursue outside the home. 

Continuing the progress towards nursing becoming a profession, Florence Nightingale, who cared for soldiers in Constantinople during the Crimean War (1853-1856), was a pioneer in the field and is considered the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale felt that there was a specific role for nurses and it was not to mimic the physician's focus on medicine, but to focus on providing good care and comfort for the patient. In recognition of her contributions National Nurses Week begins on May 6th every year and ends on her birthday, May 12.  

Although there was no formalized education and training for nurses, the tremendous tragedy of the U.S. Civil War created a great need for trained caregivers and consequently, educational programs were created significantly based on Nightingale’s teachings, blending hands-on training and classroom study. 

One of the first formal education and training programs for nurses was at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Pa.), which offered a six-month-long nurse training course. (Not coincidentally, Philadelphia was also the site of the country’s first medical school, founded by John Morgan in 1765 as the Philadelphia College of Medicine.) Women’s Hospital graduated its first class of nurses in 1869. Eventually, training was extended to two to three years, the clinical training component was enhanced, and students gained important clinical experience working in the various affiliated hospitals.  

When nursing schools expanded to New York City, St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing, today known as St. Paul’s School of Nursing, was one of the first to train new nurses. At the time, the Diocese of Brooklyn was a leader in the healthcare field. In October of 1892, the diocese started St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing in connection with St. Vincent’s Hospital located in Greenwich Village on the west side of Lower Manhattan. Named for St. Vincent de Paul, a seventeenth-century French priest, the hospital was the third oldest in New York City. 

The school’s first superintendent was Katherine A. Sanborn, a nurse and graduate of the New York Hospital Training School. Her leadership, dedication and vision of the profession were instrumental in the school becoming known as an excellent training program for nurses.

Many of the graduating nurses stayed and worked at St. Vincent’s Hospital. In 1912, when the facility served as the receiving hospital for people rescued during the sinking of the Titanic. St. Vincent’s nurses cared for the survivors. Other graduates worked all around New York City including the New York Foundling Hospital, which was founded by the Catholic Sisters of charity in 1869. The Foundling Hospital quickly grew from an institution devoted to the care of infants and young children to an organization focused on broader social services. 

Several graduates went on to become faculty members at St. Vincent’s. Others made strides within the profession at other organizations, such as 1916 graduate Katherine Sheehan La Rotonda. La Rotonda worked with social reformer Lillian Wald at the Henry Street Settlement, a social services agency. In 1918, St. Vincent’s added a Visiting Nurse course, which became an early forerunner of community medicine. 

As you can easily see, St. Vincent’s Hospital and School of Nursing had an important role in the evolution of New York healthcare. St. Paul’s School of Nursing’s is proud to be continuing its illustrious history. If you are feeling the calling to become a nurse, click here for more information or call us today at (855) 822-3018 and speak to one of our career counselors.