The School of Nursing

The late 1950s also represented a period of change for the nursing program at UOMS. While there had been a nursing program at the Marquam Hill Campus since 1919, it traditionally resided under the School of Medicine. After World War II, the Department of Nursing Education began working to establish itself as a school within the university. Having received support from national grants, the department improved its teaching standards, and as a result, its graduates were consistently ranked among the best in the country. In 1960, the department separated from the School of Medicine, becoming the University of Oregon School of Nursing.

Early Nursing Education in Oregon

First graduating class of the Multnomah Training School, 1911
First graduating class of the Multnomah Training School, 1911

The Multnomah School for Nurses opened in 1910 at the Multnomah County Hospital in Portland, then located at SW Second Avenue and Hooker Street. Alma B. Youmans Spaulding served as superintendent. It was originally a two and a half year program, open only to high school graduates. New students were required to bring with them two dresses, six white aprons, one pair of comfortable shoes with rubber heels, a pair of scissors, and a watch. The school curriculum followed national standards. Student nurses at Multnomah School worked nine-hour days, while most other programs averaged twelve. Grace Phelps, R.N., became superintendent of the school in 1915 and sought to improve nursing standards and educational opportunities in Oregon. Phelps saw the Multnomah School’s potential to become a department of nursing education within the University of Oregon, and she began to realize her vision before World War I.

University Based Nursing Programs

Learning to prepare hypodermic needles, circa 1940s
Learning to prepare hypodermic needles, circa 1940s

In 1919 the University of Oregon began offering nursing courses at its Portland Continuation Center. The following year the university’s Portland School of Social Work introduced a public health nursing program, with Elnora E. Thomson, R.N., serving as director. The first class consisted of twelve students, who received a certificate at the end of the nine-month program. The academic nature of the program was emphasized, and pupils were treated as students, rather than staff, making it distinct from hospital diploma programs like that at the Multnomah School. By 1926, the University of Oregon had established a five-year baccalaureate program in nursing.

In 1932 the University of Oregon Medical School established a Department of Nursing Education on the Marquam Hill campus. Curricula were transferred from the Portland School of Social Work and the University of Oregon’s nursing program to the new department. Included among the faculty were Grace Phelps, Elnora Thomson, and Richard Dillehunt, M.D., dean of the medical school. The department was founded in the midst of the Great Depression, which saw a shift from private duty to staff nursing, with an emphasis on public health. By the 1940s, many hospital-administered nursing programs disappeared, and the Multnomah School for Nurses followed the trend, merging with the Department of Nursing Education.

Home Exhibits Collections The School of Nursing Breaking Ground: Reflections on the Building of OHSU The School

OHSU School of Nursing students studying an anatomical model, circa 1980s
OHSU School of Nursing students studying an anatomical model, circa 1980s

After establishing themselves as a separate school within the university, the School of Nursing continued to expand its presence on campus and throughout the state. Carol Lindeman, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., served as dean of the School of Nursing from 1976 to 1995 and brought about significant changes. Realizing the need for health care practitioners in rural areas, the school established its first regional campus in 1979 at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. In 1985, a Ph.D. program began at the school, the sixth of its kind in the West. Another significant change was the 1992 mandate from the Oregon State System of Higher Education to consolidate all state-supported nursing programs. The School of Nursing is now the focal point for all nursing education programs and research taking place statewide.

Student nurse bathing a baby, circa 1940s
Student nurse bathing a baby, circa 1940s
Nursing students observe a procedure at Multnomah County Hospital, circa 1945
Nursing students observe a procedure at Multnomah County Hospital, circa 1945
University of Oregon, Department of Nursing Education, capping ceremony, circa 1920
University of Oregon, Department of Nursing Education, capping ceremony, circa 1920
Nursing student, Gladys Vielma, 1983
Nursing student, Gladys Vielma, 1983