A Sparkling Vintage Life

The Rose Keeper, Day 5: The Illinois Training School for Nurses

In THE ROSE KEEPER, Clara took her nurses’ training at the Illinois Training School for Nurses, graduating in 1915. The story shows her starting her first job at the fictional Memorial Hospital. Thirty years later, she’s still there,overseeing the younger nurses in the Women’s Medical ward.

Nursing students in a demonstration class in amphitheatre at the Cook County Hospital. “The hospital amphitheatre offers the best place [for instruction], the raised seats giving a good view to all and plenty of room.” (A History of the Illinois Training School for Nurses, 1880-1929) Photo source: Cook County School of Nursing records; University of Illinois at Chicago. Library. Special Collections and University Archives Department (Library of the Health Sciences)

The Illinois Training School for Nurses (ITS) was founded in 1880. According to an interesting history of the school written in 1929, “the purpose of the founders was twofold: first, to train young women to care scientifically for the sick, so establishing a new and dignified profession for women and at the same time making available to the public a valuable service; and second, to give patients in the Cook County Hospital care far better than that of the untrained and politically chosen attendents then employed.”

According to the archives of the University of Ilinois, ITS was “the first Nightingale-type nurse training school in the Midwest U.S. The school’s founders included such prominent Chicago women as Dr. Sarah Hackett Stevenson, Lucy Flower, and Margaret Lawrence. These progressive-era women aimed to improve the nursing care of the city’s sick poor while allowing Midwestern young women to prepare for the new occupation of trained nursing. The prestigious new school attracted early nursing leaders to serve as superintendents, including Isabel Hampton Robb and Lavinia Lloyd Dock. The student nurses primarily trained at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital.”

In Clara’s day the curriculum would have included anatomy and physiology, hygiene, bacteriology, surgical, medical and gynecological nursing, obstetrics, pediatrics, and care of the “nervous and insane,” and something called “materia medica” (the study of substances used for healing). as well as practical nursing and cooking. Students worked nine hours per day shift or twelve hours per night shift, with a half-day off on Sunday and one half-holiday during the week. Training in contagious diseases and tuberculosis was optional, but the superintendent at the time stated, “as evidence of the earnestness and bravery with which the average nurse pursues her course of instruction, a large per cent of the pupils … elect to pass through this trying ordeal.” Clinics offered in-depth learning of special techniques. Thus “Patients, beds, and appliances are provided and used, leaving as little room to the imagination as possible.”

Clearly Clara had been well prepared for her duties as a nurse at Memorial Hospital. But being a good nurse requires more qualities than just technical skill. How did she fare on the “softer” skills? Read THE ROSE KEEPER to find out!

 

 

 

 

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