School of Nursing

Tradition: The History of the School

Historical nurse photo in black and white

In 1910, the Multnomah Hospital Training School opened its doors. A year later, the school graduated its first seven nurses. In the summer of 1919, the University of Oregon introduced the state's first professional courses in nursing. The courses were offered in Portland in cooperation with the Northwest Division of the American Red Cross Home Service Department, the Portland Visiting Nurse Association, the Welfare Bureau and the Oregon Tuberculosis Association. In 1920, the Portland School of Social Work offered a standard course of study in public health nursing.

In 1926, the University of Oregon, recognizing the need for baccalaureate-prepared nurses, introduced a five-year curriculum culminating in the Bachelor of Science degree with a major in nursing. Additionally, between 1928 and 1939, a certificate program was offered for qualified students in accredited hospital schools. This allowed students to receive university education, which facilitated their career mobility.

In 1932, the Portland School of Social Work curricula was integrated into the University of Oregon's nursing degree program and transferred to the University of Oregon Medical School, Department of Nursing Education in Portland, Ore. This consolidation allowed the Department of Nursing Education to offer courses using its own facilities and clinical resources at accredited community hospitals and agencies. Additionally, a two-year pre-nursing curriculum was established at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

During World War II, the baccalaureate degree program was accelerated into a four-year program, and public health nursing was incorporated into the program in 1956 under the guidance of Elnora Thomson, a leader in the field. In 1947, a $60,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation made possible a teaching and supervision program for baccalaureate-prepared registered nurses which in 1955 became the Master of Science degree in nursing education. 

In 1960, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education recognized the changing nature of nursing and expand-13ed the Department of Nursing Education to the University of Oregon School of Nursing. During the 1960s, the school further developed its undergraduate and graduate program offerings. In 1961, funds from the U.S. Public Health Service supported a comprehensive study of mental health concepts in the baccalaureate program. The Nurse Training Act made possible additional areas of graduate study and increased undergraduate enrollment of registered nurses. The baccalaureate degree was further strengthened in 1972 by funding that developed a learning resources center. Other study and development grants assisted growth in various school programs, especially continuing education. The school began offering a Master of Nursing degree in 1971

In November 1974, the University of Oregon School of Nursing, Dental School and Medical School united as a single institution, the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center. It was Oregon's only academic health center and one of 125 in the nation. In 1981, the state legislature changed the name to the Oregon Health Sciences University to reflect its independence from the University of Oregon. Another name change occurred in 2001 when Oregon Health Sciences University merged with the Oregon Graduate Institute School of Science and Engineering and officially became Oregon Health &Science University.

In 1979, the undergraduate degree programs were expanded to La Grande, Ore., to provide the eastern region of the state with baccalaureate-prepared nurses. Eastern Oregon University continues to be one of the campuses for the OHSU School of Nursing.

The OHSU School of Nursing continued to evolve in the 1980s to reflect nursing's focus on health and interaction with specific populations. The departments included Adult Health and Illness, Community Health Care Systems, Family Nursing and Mental Health Nursing. In June 1983, the school gained approval from the Oregon State Board of Higher Education to begin a new graduate curriculum. This new program was designed so that the master's curriculum was the first component of a curriculum leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in nursing. Admissions to the PhD program began in fall 1985.

The 1990s offered many opportunities for innovation and change. To assist with the education of independent practitioners in several specialties including mental health, community health, adult care, pediatrics, gerontological nursing, women's health care, nurse-midwifery and family nursing, post-master's certificate options were developed which allow students with a master's degree in nursing to gain the theory, knowledge and clinical experience necessary to apply for nurse practitioner licensure.

In 1992, the Oregon State System of Higher Education chancellor mandated a consolidation of state-supported nursing education programs. This consolidation led to the addition of nursing programs from Oregon Institute of Technology and Southern Oregon University to the Eastern Oregon University and OHSU-Portland programs. That same year, the School of Nursing on the Portland campus proudly took up residence in a new building, which is a center for teaching, learning, research and conferences. The school's statewide outreach, community service, partnership and excellence are coordinated from this environment. At present the OHSU School of Nursing has programs located on five campuses across the state: Ashland, Klamath Falls, La Grande, Monmouth and Portland.

During this time, a unique collaborative statewide degree was being developed. The Oregon Master of Public Health Program was developed and offered through Oregon Health &Science University, Oregon State University and Portland State University.

This unique program allows students to interact with nationally and internationally recognized faculty from three dynamic universities and combines broad training in public health with specific training in one of the specialty tracks offered at the participating universities. In 2005, the OHSU School of Nursing began offering the online Oregon Master of Public Health: Primary Health Care and Health Disparities in partnership with OMPH. The Master of Public Health and the Graduate Certificate of Public Health Programs from the OHSU School of Nursing moved over to the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health in winter of 2016.

In 1999, nursing leaders in Oregon began to see evidence of a growing shortage of professional nurses and the Oregon Nursing Leadership Collaborative began a strategic plan to address this major workforce issue. The strategic plan had two goals specifically related to nursing education: to double enrollment in Oregon nursing programs and redesign nursing education to meet the emerging health care needs of Oregonians more directly. The ONLC agreed the best way to meet these two goals was through the development of a competency-based nursing education system;hence, the Oregon Consortium for Nursing.

Education was established as a partnership among community colleges and public and private university schools of nursing, including OHSU. The key features of OCNE include a shared, competency-based integrated curriculum culminating in a bachelor's degree;improved access to bachelor's degree education;redesigned clinical experiences and inter-institutional collaboration;shared faculty expertise across OCNE campuses;and development and use of state-of-the-art clinical simulation to augment onsite clinical training, making use of shared instructional materials. OCNE admitted its first cohort of students in fall 2006.

In 2003, high-fidelity simulation was incorporated into the nursing curriculum with the opening of the OHSU Simulation and Clinical Learning Center on the Portland campus. The Ashland and Klamath Falls campuses opened simulation facilities in 2005 and the La Grande campus in 2006.

Nursing students on all of the OHSU campuses participate in clinical learning activities in numerous areas such as hospitals, clinics and community settings. In addition to these traditional sites, students are able to participate in simulation, a learning activity which is incorporated into many nursing courses. In simulation, students participate in patient care working with standardized patients and utilizing a manikin called a human patient simulator. The simulator mimics a human patient in many ways, and allows the students an opportunity to practice in a safe environment. The development of teamwork, clinical judgment skills and communication are some of the focus areas addressed in simulation.

In 2006 the school began offering Oregon's only master's degree program in nurse anesthesia. The first cohort to graduate in December 2008 all passed their certification exams on the first attempt.

In 2007, the OHSU School of Nursing Portland campus opened march wellness at OHSU's Center for Health &Healing at the bottom of the Portland Aerial Tram, part of Portland's new South Waterfront district. March wellness is a medical wellness center that was conceived by health care researchers and practitioners in the OHSU School of Nursing who understand and value the development of health management programs. Currently managed by the OHSU provost's office, march wellness offers a state-of-the-art wellness environment and an integrative approach to health and fitness.

The school began offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice program with a post-master's option in 2007 and a postbaccalaureate option in 2009. The DNP prepares clinical nurses for advanced practice and provides students with the opportunity to gain doctoral level education while maintaining a practice focus.

In 2008, the school opened its fifth campus in Monmouth, Ore., at Western Oregon University and admitted 27 students to its first undergraduate class.The 2011 edition of the US News &World Report ranking of America's Best Graduate Schools listed the OHSU School of Nursing seventh in the country. Several of our specialty areas were also ranked, with nurse-midwifery No. 1 in the nation. Additionally, the family nurse practitioner program ranked sixth in the country.

In 2011, the OHSU School of Nursing celebrated its 100-year anniversary. We honored our history by acknowledging how the school has flourished (our theme for the event) with innovative research, strength in practice, excellence in teaching and service to Oregonians across all 98,000 square miles of the state. From education and practice to research and leadership, our nurses and school have flourished for over 100 years.

In 2012, the first cohort of post-baccalaureate Doctor of Nursing Practice Students graduated;in 2013, we graduated our first cohort of Health Systems and Organizational Leadership students;and in Spring of 2014 celebrated our first cohort of seven students in the Undergraduate Gerontology Nursing Honors Program.

In 2014-15 the school added graduate programs in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP). 

In 2016 OHSU reaffirmed their dedication to rural health by opening the Rural campus located in Klamath falls.