The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing diploma program officially closed 50 years ago in 1971. At that point, it had existed for 90 years and had graduated 4,700 students, including the one and only male student in the last class. (A complete history of the School is available here.) Many hospital diploma schools closed during the 1970s, including the St. Luke’s Hospital and the Roosevelt Hospital Schools of Nursing, both in 1974. This wave of closings was due to the schools being fiscal drains on the parent hospitals, as well as the changing educational standards professional nursing organizations championed, including the baccalaureate degree as the best entry-level credential for nurses.
By the mid-1960s, the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing was at a crossroads, trying to find a way to move forward in the face of these trends. In 1967, the newly formed Mount Sinai School of Medicine affiliated with The City University of New York (CUNY). This triggered a review of other possible interactions between the two institutions. That year, the School of Nursing joined with Hunter College, a part of CUNY, to start offering elective humanities credit to the students, easing their path to an eventual baccalaureate degree.
The next twist appeared in the Hospital’s Annual Report for 1968: “This has been a milestone year for the Department of Nursing. Negotiations with the City University led to the joint announcement of a baccalaureate program in nursing to be launched in September 1969 with the [Mount Sinai] Director of Nursing holding the position of Dean of the School of Nursing. Alumnae, staff and students have all expressed enthusiasm at the forward step. They are particularly pleased at the acceptance of the name, The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing at The City College.”
And so it was, but only briefly. The first class was admitted to the program in fall 1969, along with a sophomore group that had started at Sinai, and a graduation ceremony was held in 1972 for thirteen students. However, the two institutions could not work out long-term arrangements and so the relationship was terminated by 1974.
The closing of the School left behind a saddened but vibrant Alumnae Association that continues to serve its members and The Mount Sinai Hospital today.
The Upper East Side home of The Mount Sinai Hospital and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai spans continuously from 101st St down to 98th Street, with other buildings arrayed nearby. To achieve this continuous campus, what had once been 99th and 100th Streets between Madison and Fifth Avenues have disappeared. How and when did that happen?
View along 100th St., around 1937
The Mount Sinai Hospital moved to 100th Street in 1904, taking up the whole block between the avenues and up to 101st Street. In 1911, the Hospital started buying lots on the south side of 100th Street in anticipation of a large expansion program. By 1921, those new buildings stretched from Fifth Avenue across but not quite to the end of 100th Street. The street was used for physician parking, and in December 1949, New York City deeded the bed of 100th Street to Mount Sinai. It continued as parking for a few more decades, but with the construction of the Guggenheim Pavilion starting in 1986, the street disappeared into a plaza between the original buildings and the new.
The story on 99th Street is very similar: Mount Sinai had expanded to having buildings spread along the northern side of the block. At the end of the 1950s, when construction of the Klingenstein Clinical Center (KCC), fronting onto the corner of Madison and 99th Street, was being planned, Mount Sinai sought the help of the City, and in August 1958, the road bed of 99th Street was deeded to Mount Sinai.
And what about the former streets? Once the construction on KCC was finished, this area became known as the Hospital Gardens, and graduation ceremonies for our School of Nursing, as well as special events were held out there. The plaza across 100th Street was covered in bricks, and a large sculpture called La Sfera Grande by Arnaldo Pomodoro was placed there in 1974. In the late 1960s, all of the buildings along the former southern side of 100th Street and the northern side of 99th Street were torn down to make way for the Annenberg Building. The Gardens became Ross Park, and today the Sfera Grande sits adjacent to the Nathan Cummings Atrium in the Guggenheim Pavilion. This is only appropriate since Mr. Cummings had originally given Mount Sinai the sculpture.
Nursing School graduation in the ‘Gardens’ in 1961. Note that KCC is being built in the back left of the image.
This year the world marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910.) Her name is known around the world and nurses everywhere enjoy the fruits of her labors today. She lived a long time ago in a very different world, but she enunciated the basic philosophy of modern nursing, and introduced statistics into the study of disease.
The Aufses Archives has copies of two of Miss Nightingale’s books: Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hospitals. The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing, which existed from 1881-1971, had a small collection of Nightingale letters that they had gathered over the years. Some of these were given to the Columbia University School of Nursing in 1953, as shown in the image below.
From the Aufses Archives
Hospitals, schools of nursing, archives, and history of medicine collections will be marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale this year with celebrations, blog posts, exhibits and lectures. Here are links to just a few of those celebrations going on this year:
Nightingale: Lady and Legend at the National Library of Medicine: https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2020/05/12/nightingale-lady-and-legend/ This includes this note on sources: The National Library of Medicine’s holdings of Nightingale materials are (unsurprisingly) extensive, with over seventy printed titles and editions. In addition, the Library holds a group of Nightingale letters written between 1845 and 1878, all of which may be read as part of the Florence Nightingale Digitization Project, and a copy of an oral history interview conducted by M. Adelaide Nutting (herself a giant in the history of nursing) in 1890. A transcript is available at http://oculus.nlm.nih.gov/2935116r.
A blog post on the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Nursing ties to Nightingale: https://www2.hshsl.umaryland.edu/hslupdates/?p=4177
A blog post at the UCLA Library about the Elmer Belt FN Collection and other Nightingaleiana we have and use: https://www.library.ucla.edu/blog/special/2020/05/11/happy-birthday-florence-nightingale
Finally, there is a special exhibit at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London called Nightingale in 200 Objects, People & Places https://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/200objects/ Sadly, the Museum is closed due to the pandemic and is struggling financially. As they note:
Nursing, washing your hands and evidence based-healthcare, pioneered by Florence Nightingale, have become more important than ever before and we’re calling upon our friends and supporters to help us preserve her story and legacy.
In honor of National Nurses Week, the Mount Sinai Archives would like to recognize that for over 100 years, Mount Sinai nurses have been doing it all, and then some. When she was a student at The Mount Sinai Training School for Nurses, Class of 1917, Sybil E. Elzas created a little notebook containing important things she needed to know on her clinical rotations, and then once out on her own as a graduate nurse. (Most professional nurses at this time still did private duty nursing, not hospital work.) The notebook was sized just right to slip into the pocket of her uniform’s apron. After pages and pages of definitions of terms and lists of operating room tray set-ups and dressings, towards the back of the book is a lone page noting the recipe for “Mount Sinai Hand Lotion.” Why purchase something nurses could so easily make, and at reduced cost?!
Nurses, still making a difference at Mount Sinai, 100 years later.
Inside cover of the clinic notebook belonging to Sybil E. Elzas. She is shown here as a student while on rotation to Sloane Hospital. The recipe for the lotion is at the end of the volume.
The Class of 1905, where the first Nancy was a student.
This week I spent some time looking for an early graduate of The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. An email about the alumna, Nancy Morris, said she graduated from the School in the late 1890s. As I scanned the class lists trying to find the exact year of her graduation, I found many names that seem distinctly old-fashioned, but no simple Nancys. There was a Josepha, many Adas and Idas, an Alphasine, a few Mauds and Daisys, a Mehitable, an Igogereth, quite a few Minnies and Mabels, a Mynolia, and some Florences. It was 1905 – 24 years into the School’s history – before I found the first Nancy, and they were few and far between for quite some time after this.
Just as an FYI, the most common name in our School of Nursing up until 1910 was Mary. This did not even make the top 50 girls’ names in 2013, according to Parents magazine.