This week (December 4-10, 2022) is National Handwashing Awareness Week. As we all know, hand hygiene is a critical component of clinical care and patient safety. In this post we’ll be looking at handwashing campaigns at Mount Sinai Beth Israel over the years. (Click on the images for a larger view, or see the links below to view the item in our catalog.)
For more information about former Beth Israel locations, see the Building Beth Israel series. An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is available here.
The start date of an institution seems like a clear-cut fact, but often the records that would ideally shine a light on this milestone are actually a bit murky. The founding of the Phillips School of Nursing at Mount Sinai Beth Israel (PSON) is a great example of this historical ambiguity.
During a recent reference request, I had the opportunity to research the establishment of PSON more fully. I spent hours poring over the Beth Israel Board of Directors minutes tracking down this information. Reading through this material was extremely time consuming – the minutes are handwritten in large, loopy cursive, and most entries didn’t even have a passing mention of the school. (When one meeting had discussion about the Hospital purchasing a typewriter, I felt like it wasn’t a moment too soon!)
The earliest mention of nursing at Beth Israel Hospital is in the Board of Directors minutes of April 25, 1891, when a nurse applied for a position at the Hospital as it prepared to move to its new space at 196 East Broadway, and was hired to begin working on May 15 of that year at a salary of $23 per month (about $730 today). These early years at Beth Israel (established 1890) were marked by financial precarity, and it was noted in July 1891 that the Hospital must “limit itself to accepting ten patients for the foreseeable future, these to be serviced by 2 nurses only, one doctor, one cook, and if the Hospital would also reduce other expenditures…the institution would survive.”
In the years following, an added concern was hiring nurses who were trained. As was a common model for the time, Beth Israel Hospital opened its Training School for Nurses to supply the hospital with a fixed number of student nurses, who provided most of the nursing service to inpatients and were supervised by a smaller number of trained, professional nurses. We know that the school first opened at the Jefferson and Cherry Streets location with a two-year curriculum – but when exactly?
The minutes reveal only a rough outline of the founding of the school. The first mention of it was on October 11, 1898, when the idea was referred to the Medical Board in conjunction with the Board of Directors, Training School Committee. The committee consisted of two members, “Hurwitz and Fleck[?].” Two months later, the committee wrote a proposal for the school, and on March 7, 1899, it was officially established.
The school wasn’t mentioned again in the minutes for three full years, and renewed interest coincided with the hospital’s preparation to move to the Jefferson and Cherry Streets location. On March 4, 1902, the committee “was instructed to proceed at once with the necessary arrangements for nursing in the new hospital” in addition to “other work” as assigned. On May 6, 1902, the committee reported that “requests for the recommendation of a Supt. Of Nurses have been sent out and that the German Hospital recommended a Mrs. Chapman[?].” (German Hospital was renamed to Lenox Hill Hospital in 1918.) This superintendent of nurses would have supervised the student nurses during their training.
Example of minutes, including the mention of the typewriter purchase (right)
Finally, the minutes from late 1902 imply that the student nurses had begun their work. On October 7, November 11, and December 9, 1902, the minutes state that the nurses’ quarters were “insufficient”, and it was moved to find a better place to rent for them. The November minutes also reflect some logistical challenges around finding the right number of nurses per ward. There’s no definitive school start date mentioned.
The unprocessed Phillips School of Nursing records also have materials related to the hundredth anniversary of the school taking place in 2004. Did these celebrants have access to historical documentation that is not present in the Archives? It is difficult to say. The celebration, called “A Century of Caring,” honored the ten graduates of the first class in 1904: Rose Bergen, Elizabeth Berman, Fannie Finn, Rose Goldman, Rose Hyman, Julia Meyers, Lena Rabinowitz, Sophie Reichin, Elizabeth Stein, and Minnie Vogel.
By carefully reading the Board of Directors minutes, searching through PSON’s own records, and seeing the institution’s own conception of its anniversary year – all this taken together – we’ve concluded that the Beth Israel Hospital Training School for Nurses was established in 1899, with the first class beginning in 1902 and graduating in 1904. We feel that we can more reliably count on these dates than in the past, and hope that this account supplies helpful context to the archival labor that goes into these historical understandings.
A history of the ambulance service at Roosevelt Hospital, today’s Mount Sinai West, is available here. See the Building Beth Israel series for more information about the history of Mount Sinai Beth Israel. An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is available here.
National EMS Week is May 15-21. In this blog post, we’re celebrating by looking back at a brief history of emergency medical services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
The first ambulance service began at Beth Israel Hospital in 1906. It first used a horse-drawn carriage, later switching to automobiles in 1915. During this early period, ambulances were manned by members of the house staff, including Nettie Shapiro, MD, the first female house staff at MSBI in 1909.
By 1984, Beth Israel was “the first voluntary hospital in New York City to have attending physicians fully trained in emergency service on duty around the clock, every day of the week.” New York City did not mandate such 24-hour care in EMS participant hospitals until June 1, 1987.
In 1990, the Division of Emergency Medical Services was named for David B. Kriser, a Beth Israel trustee, in honor of a $3 million bequest from him. This led to a major renovation, and the division doubled in size.
An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is available here. See the Building Beth Israel series for more information about the history of MSBI.
Mount Sinai Brooklyn is one of the more recent New York hospitals to join the Mount Sinai Health System. Prior to its most recent incarnation, the hospital dates to the 1950s and was a long-time division of Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
Prior to the 1950s, the location was a series of interlocking lots. In 1953, the parcel was created at 3201 Kings Highway for Samuel Berson, MD, a specialist in allergy and immunology, to create a nursing home there. Though the exact timing is unknown, the nursing home was converted into Kings Highway Hospital shortly after with 212 beds.In 1980, King’s Highway Hospital opened its North wing, without an increase in the number of beds. As a small, private, community hospital, not much documentation has survived from those years.
On July 11, 1994, a special meeting of the Beth Israel Medical Center Board of Trustees passed a resolution “that the Medical Center proceed to negotiate the acquisition of Kings Highway Hospital.” By adding Kings Highway to the existing Petrie and North divisions, “on the basis of total admissions per year, the acquisition makes Beth Israel the largest voluntary hospital in New York City and one of the largest in the United States.”
The period following Beth Israel’s acquisition marked a time of rapid renovation and development at the Kings Highway Division. This included renovations at the Surgi-Center (1996); the introduction of three-bed inpatient Acute Dialysis Unit (November 1996); an expansion of the Russian Health Service and other Russian language amenities (1998); and an expansion of the emergency room from six to seventeen treatment slots (Summer 1998). Perhaps most significant was the groundbreaking for the new building starting in May 1998, which included underground parking, a new emergency department, ICU, and five new operating rooms. The new facility, called the Acute Care Pavilion, was built on what was previously the hospital parking lot, and opened in May 2000.
These renovations and expansions continued with significant investment from donors. In February 1997, Beth Israel Kings Highway Division in Brooklyn received a $150,000 gift from the Leryna Foundation, the family foundation of Ely Levy, an electronics distributor and leader of the Sephardic community in Brooklyn. The gift doubled the number of beds in the ICU from six to twelve. In 1997, the Greater Montreal Convention and Tourism Bureau named Kings Highway Hospital as the beneficiary of proceeds for its production of Robert Lepage’s The Seven Streams of the River Ota at the Next Wave Festival of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. And finally, in December 2002, the Louis Mintz Family Waiting Room in Critical Care Unit was endowed.
With Beth Israel’s merger into the Mount Sinai Health System, the Kings Highway Division was renamed Mount Sinai Beth Israel Brooklyn in January 2014, and then was shortened to Mount Sinai Brooklyn in May 2015. It remains part of the Mount Sinai Health System today.
Mount Sinai Beth Israel has affiliated with several hospitals over its 130-year history. Though their names may have disappeared over time, their impact on the hospital’s history remains. This blog post looks at two Beth Israel affiliates, Jewish Maternity Hospital and Doctors Hospital, and their lasting influence on Beth Israel.
Jewish Maternity Hospital
The Jewish Maternity Hospital (JMH) first opened in February 1909 at 270 East Broadway with two consulting physicians, twelve house staff, and fifteen obstetrical nurses. By 1927, JMH accumulated a large building fund and wanted to expand its premises. The Jewish Federation of Philanthropies, which helped to fund many of the local Jewish hospitals during this period, preferred that it become part of a larger hospital rather than be maintained as a separate institution.
As another hospital funded by the Federation, not to mention a close neighbor on the Lower East Side, Beth Israel was a natural candidate – however, the proposed merger was not without controversy. At a 1928 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Beth Israel Superintendent Louis J. Frank firmly rejected it as an unwarranted drain on the space and resources and recommended that a separate building on the Beth Israel campus be constructed so that JMH did not take over beds in the newly built Dazian Pavillion. He also suggested that JMH consider affiliating with The Mount Sinai Hospital instead. (Prior to the Federation’s merger proposal, JMH had planned to construct a new building on 108th Street.) Board President Cohen, however, noted that control of the Maternity Hospital’s $700,000 building fund would enable Beth Israel to solve the financial difficulties caused by cost overruns for the construction of Dazian.
Later that year, a compromise was reached. The Federation proposed that Beth Israel absorb the JMH, that the boards of the two institutions merge (with a subcommittee for the newly formed maternity department consisting of the former JMH trustees), and that Beth Israel allocate beds in the new building specifically for obstetrical purposes. A motion was approved to accept the proposal, albeit reluctantly, with the Board noting that it “did not invite the merger, nor does it feel that there is any need or emergency, as far as Beth Israel Hospital is concerned… since provision has already been made in the new building for an adequate, efficient and up to date Maternity Service.”
The merger was announced in 1929 and finally occurred in 1930. Plans to construct a new building for the hospital adjacent to the Beth Israel campus in Stuyvesant Square were announced in 1931, though this building was never completed. Over the next decade, obstetrical services slowly transitioned to the Beth Israel campus, and in 1946, the JMH name disappeared. In 1948, the Obstetrics service notes, “the long-awaited physical consolidation of all labor and delivery rooms is effected.”
Construction for Doctors Hospital began in 1929, amid a debate in the larger medical world about the necessity of private rooms versus the larger, shared wards common to the nineteenth century. When it opened in 1930, Doctors Hospital was described as “homelike,” “a model hospital with the atmosphere of a modern hotel” with “soft tinted walls, guest rooms and a private icebox…for every patient.” With its unusually well-equipped private rooms, and its location at 70 East End Avenue overlooking Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion, Doctors Hospital secured its reputation as being a luxe medical facility for the famous and well-to-do for the rest of the century.
On August 3, 1987, it was announced that Doctors Hospital had been acquired by Beth Israel Medical Center and was renamed Beth Israel North. The name changed again in 1998 to the Beth Israel Medical Center Singer Division. In these years, the Hospital had a few notable developments. In 1988, it acquired a device for treating gallstones and bile duct stones, called a biliary lithotripter. It was the first in New York City, and Charles McSherry, MD, spearheaded the project. In 1990, the New York State Department of Health approved a certificate of need for the construction of twenty-four chronic dialysis stations at the hospital due to a lack of such facilities in Manhattan.
However, the Singer Division did not last. By 2004, it was formally closed, and the property was sold to developers. The facility was torn down the following year and was replaced with apartments.