IU School of Nursing Celebrates 100 Years of Leadership

By Jessica R. Key

Over the past 100 years, the Indiana University School of Nursing has been a premier institution for learning; equipping students to take on the ills of the time; and a pioneer in cutting-edge research.

To commemorate this longevity, excellence and honor the IU nursing spirit of innovation, the school is celebrating a legacy of leadership with a centennial celebration. Their special gala was held June 21.

“It’s been an amazing year thus far in terms of celebrating the legacy of this school. If you look back over the 100 years, you can see so many areas that they were so strong in, so early,” said Dr. Marion Broome, dean and distinguished professor at the IU School of Nursing. “The East and West coasts get a lot of attention, but I think this school has hid its light under a bushel for a long time. It’s a great time to celebrate all these wonderful firsts.”

Since 1914, the IU School of Nursing has had many milestones. The first commencement was held June 13, 1917, with five female students receiving a diploma.

In 1922, five IU nursing students founded Sigma Theta Tau International, which has evolved into a quarter-million member nursing honor society that includes practicing nurses, instructors, researchers, policy makers, executives, entrepreneurs, and others.

In 1945, the first master’s level nursing courses were offered.

“In 1950, one of the first African-Americans hired as a nurse was an Indiana University graduate,” said Dean Broome.

In 1965, nursing courses were brought to the IU Northwest regional campus and in 1970 groundbreaking for the new School of Nursing was held.

Anita Harden and Rose Mays, said during this time, nursing was one of a few professions for African-Americans and many schools didn’t accept Blacks. Despite barriers, they happily decided to go into nursing and recall their early days.

“One of the first things we learned was how to give a bed bath,” said Harden. “I don’t know if they do that today.”

“Have you seen our simulation lab? It’s incredible. Today you learn on dummies, but before, we used to practice on each other,” laughs Mays.

They said what has remained is the need for nurses to be knowledgeable, fearless and empathetic.

Harden eventually focused her expertise on mental health and went on to become the president of Community Hospital East. Today she is the founder and president of Interim Executives, LLC. She was also selected as one of the 100 Legacy Leaders who will be honored during the IU School of Nursing centennial celebration.

Mays received her master’s degree from the school where she honed her skills in pediatric and adolescent nursing. She later became a longtime and revered faculty member of the IU School of Nursing, retiring from the school a few years ago. She’s also lending her expertise in planning centennial events.

Other school milestones include the transition from a DNS program to the current PhD program approved in 1995 and in 2009 the beginning of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Since its beginnings, the IU School of Nursing has extended undergraduate nursing throughout the state; built a presence on each of IU’s statewide campuses; and today is developing and forging multi-site partnerships dedicated to the shared commitment of teaching excellence and interactive learning.

“We’re also getting smarter about funding and the whole political nature of things. Undergraduate and graduate programs are being fused with health policy. We’re understanding more about how legislation happens and how to advocate on our behalf,” said Mays.

Health care is a current hot topic, yet IU School of Nursing students have always been ready and capable to handle the diseases of the time – from polio in the ‘20s through ‘50s, to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and today’s crises which include heart disease, cancer, accidents and brain trauma.

Broome, Harden and Mays all agree that increases in technology have certainly aided in nurses’ ability to care for hurting Hoosiers and even patients having a better understanding of their illness. Harden adds that despite this, nurses hold steadfast to the power of the human touch.

“Today there’s a demand for psych mental health nurse practitioner programs. Another area that’s critical is pediatric nurse practitioner,” said Broome. “Even though those are expensive programs, we have to make sure we maintain the best health we can in Indiana. We have a long way to go with that, actually.”

The celebration weekend and throughout the rest of the year, the IU School of Nursing will be celebrating its history and championing today’s nursing stars. There was a conference, special guests and an alumni gathering to reminisce about their days in nursing school. The school will certainly issue a call to Hoosier youth, particularly minorities and males, to join over 30,000 alumni across the globe in a special kinship called IU nursing.

“Even though there are a lot of choices out there, nursing is still a good solid choice. And when you look at the baby boomers, they’re not going to tolerate a lot of nursing home stuff. There’s going to be more technology to help people remain at home. And who’s going to help deal with that? Nurses! So I think our future is bright,” said Harden.

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