School of Nursing

School of Nursing

In 1958 a building for the School of Nursing was opened as part of the Medical Science I complex.

Nursing at the University of Michigan

There is no reference to nurses in the official records of the first University Hospital of 1869. When the Hospital was enlarged in 1876, a recommendation was made that two nurses be employed, one male and one female.

“In my student days there were comparatively few nurses, in the modern sense, and a good deal of the work was done by practical nurses, the students, and helpers generally. There was attached to each ward a wardmaster and wardmistress who were responsible for the care of the patients and gave the students their orders.” Dr. W. J. Mayo in a letter to Dr. Peterson in 1937 (University of Michigan Encyclopedic Survey, p. 997) (Peterson, MS, II: 115)

First University Hospital

Pavilion Hospital


Professional nursing education began in the United States in 1873.

By 1900 there were 432 schools of nursing operating nationwide.


In 1891 the University of Michigan Training School for Nurses was organized. The Medical School established this program so that qualified nurses could be found to staff the new University Hospital. At its founding the Training School was limited to a student body of eight. The original curriculum consisted of a two-year, non-degree program. In 1902 the Regents extended the basic curriculum to three years. Entrance requirements established by the turn of the century specified that students must be women, between the ages of 22 and 32, of superior education and refinement.

Catherine Street Hospitals
The Nurses’ Residence is behind the Palmer Ward for Pediatrics

The connection between the hospital and the nursing program was strengthened in 1912 when the Training School for Nurses was reorganized and placed under the direct control of the University Hospital. In 1912 there were about 100 students. In 1915 a first full-time instructor was hired, and the admissions requirement was a high school diploma. In 1919 a second five-year program leading to the conferring of a university degree was established.

The Pemberton-Welsh Nurses’ Residence opened in 1921 and provided rooms for seventy-five nurses.

Pemberton-Welsh Nurses’ Residence

By 1924, 190 nurses were in training. The administrative nursing staff included, in addition to a matron and a dietician, a principal of the training school, a superintendent and an assistant superintendent, a director of the Hospital education department, and two instructors. When the new hospital opened in 1925 the program in the Training School for Nurses was reorganized. The instruction in basic sciences was given by regularly appointed members of the faculties, the instruction in practical medical work by the professors in the Medical School, and the instruction in therapy and practical nursing by the nursing staff. Reorganization five years later provided for one semester’s work on the University campus.

In 1923, U. S. Senator James Couzens gave $600,000 for a building to house student and graduate nurses. The residence was felt to be an indispensable part of the new Hospital. Completed in August of 1925, it provided 250 rooms, mostly singles, accommodating about 260 women. The basement had facilities for instruction, an amphitheater, faculty offices, laboratories, classrooms, an assembly hall, and a game room.

University Hospital, Couzens Hall (lower left)

In 1926 nursing students met the same admission criteria as students entering the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, although they received their basic science instruction through the Medical School. In 1928 the program’s official title was belatedly changed to the University Hospital School of Nursing of the University of Michigan.

In 1940 there were 177 students in the School of Nursing and 198 graduate nurses on the Hospital staff. There were also 146 students enrolled in the courses in public health nursing. In 1941 the Regents established the nursing program as an independent university teaching unit, the School of Nursing. Although recognized as independent, the school’s senior administrative officer was not given the title of dean until 1955. In 1944 it was agreed that the combined course in the liberal arts and nursing should be phased out in favor of a new program leading to a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

In 1952 the curriculum was radically revised. The three-year program was discontinued and replaced by a four-year program leading to a BSN degree. In 1961 the curriculum was expanded to include the school’s first master’s degree in psychiatric nursing. The next year, 1962, a master’s degree program in medical-surgical nursing was begun. In 1967 the school once again extensively revised its curriculum, and the reforms were placed into effect in 1968. In 1967 the school also launched a major continuing education program for practicing nurses, funded through the Michigan Association for Regional Medical Programs. In the early 1970s the school expanded its degree programs by offering for the first time a research-based Ph.D. in Nursing.

The school’s capabilities dramatically increased in 1958 with the opening of a separate building for the School of Nursing, constructed as a part of the Medical Science I complex. By 1970 the school had approximately 1,000 students, one of the largest enrollments in the nation.

The School of Nursing was located for many years in Medical School buildings, but with the increasing focus on graduate education and research, new facilities were needed. In the 1990s a major renovation of space in the North Ingalls complex (the former St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital) provided adequate facilities.