Nursing in Northwest Ohio: Summary

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         In their book Nursing in Ohio:  A History, authors James and Mary Jane Rodabaugh describe the evolution of nursing as nothing less than an epic struggle to advance humanity against prejudice.  They describe courageous women who fought for their own rights and for a better quality of care for their patients.  Nurses battled against gender bias, hospitals that sought to exploit them, and those who considered nurses little more than personal servants. 
            In the early 19th century in rural locations like northwest Ohio, nursing was the work of mothers, wives, and female neighbors who relied on instincts when caring for the sick.  Within cities, nurses were members of religious orders.  The first hospital in Toledo was founded by nuns from the Sisters of Charity of Montreal.
            Florence Nightingale professionalized nursing.  The daughter of a wealthy British family, she was inspired to serve as a nurse in the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856.  Faced with overwhelming misery, she transformed a poorly ventilated, vermin infested hospital into a clean, well-managed one.  She documented her work in Notes on Nursing:  What It Is, What It Is Not, published in America in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War.  She also established a school of nursing in London that became the model for nursing schools worldwide.
            In the United States, nursing schools were established and managed by hospitals.  The schools provided clinical and academic training, dormitories for their students, and cheap labor for the hospitals.  Because the students lived and worked together, nursing schools were close-knit communities.  Students were admitted directly from high school, and among other tough regulations, were not allowed to be married.  If students married during their training, they were generally expelled from the programs.

            Nursing schools began to be slowly replaced by university-based programs in the 1950s and 1960s.  World War II, and the development of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, helped speed up this transition by developing cooperative programs between universities and nursing schools to facilitate rapid training.  The University of Toledo helped to administer this program in Toledo, with students receiving academic training at UT and clinical training in the hospitals.  After the war, a joint academic program between UT, Bowling Green State University, and the Medical College of Ohio replaced hospital schools, which closed their doors.  But many nurses in the community continued to have fond memories of the programs that shaped their careers and the lives of their patients.