Formal nursing education came to Arizona when St.
Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix established a three-year diploma program.
By 1944, five Arizona hospitals had such programs. In 1950, the U.S. Public
Health Service survey revealed a nursing shortage in Arizona and a need
for nursing education in the state. During the 1950s, two organizations
helped arrange and consolidate regional education in nursing: WCHEN, the
Western Conference for Higher Education in Nursing; and WICHE, the Western
Interstate Commission for Higher Education. The latter was a clearinghouse
for regional programs in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and
Arizona's governor and university presidents began discussing the need
for a baccalaureate nursing program in the early 1950s. At about the
time, Pearl Parvin Coulter began traveling regularly from the University
of Colorado, where she was on the faculty, to Good Samaritan Hospital
in Phoenix to teach public-health nursing.
1955, Arizona was the only U.S. state without a baccalaureate nursing
program. Available clinical settings were "primitive," according
to Pearl Coulter. Tucson Medical Center had termites in the beams of
pediatric unit and had reported at least one instance of a bull snake
slithering into a patient room.
Founding the School of Nursing
Pearl Coulter was named professor and director
of the University of Arizona's new School of Nursing in the College of
Liberal Arts in 1957. She came to the UA from 20 years of teaching public
health in an academic setting and had been head of the Public Health Nursing
Section of the University Of Colorado School Of Nursing.
School's first home was a conference room in the Liberal Arts Building.
Expansion was meager but rapid, beginning with a lab in the new Biological
Sciences Building. Professor Coulter (like Dean Gladys Sorensen who
her) managed development single-handed, beginning with $1,000 gift from
Phoebe Pack for a director's discretionary fund. An informally organized
group of men, dubbed HABBJACH (for the initials of their first names),
started a UA scholarship program in the early 1960s, with about a third
of these "Dollars for Scholars" going to the College of Nursing.
There were 42 students in the first class, and the school's budget
for the year was about $23,000. Tucson Medical Center provided the
setting.The original nursing students' uniform was a pink-and-white
pinafore with a cap and pin. The cap-suggestive of a mantilla, mountains,
saguaro cactus-was designed by George Harvill, the wife of then UA
president Richard Harvill.
Coulter's priorities guided the College of Nursing toward the principles
it follows to this day. Professor Coulter
emphasized the science and art of nursing, the continuity of patient
care within the family, clinical nursing research, cross-cultural perspectives,
and community outreach. Nurses, she believed, should have a patient-focused
learning experience, caring for patients "wherever they happened
to be." Students must be trained as practitioners, but also for
academic, administrative, and research careers.
Professor Coulter worked to recruit international and minority students.
The first two students from Mexico enrolled in the program in 1961.
The School sponsored WCHEN continuing-education courses on nursing
leadership and hosted a conference on child development and family
life during its
very first summer session. Through the 1960s, continuing-education
conferences were offered on tuberculosis nursing, cultural and ethnic
factors in nursing,
work satisfaction in nursing, school nursing, nursing-home administration,
and many other topics.
Collaborating with the School of Home Economics,
the School of Nursing offered a cross-cultural health seminar series
healers from Native American and Mexican traditions.
Growth and Development
The school quickly outgrew its original quarters
and relocated to the basement of the new Home Economics Building in 1959.
In the ensuing years the school spread to quarters in the UA stadium building
and in a former real-estate office near campus.
By 1963 there were 200 students in the program. The School had developed
agreements with 10 Tucson health-care facilities, including hospitals,
the county health department, and the Tucson Visiting Nurses' Association,
to form a core of labs for the program's rapidly expanding student
College published research entitled "Cultural Components in Public
Health Nursing," which studied health beliefs and practices of residents
of the San Xavier Reservation. Out of this research came the guidebook,
Cultural Components: A Manual for Nurses.
The seeds were being sown for a Ph.D. in nursing by this and other research
emphasizing clinical nursing research and theory development. Meanwhile,
a Master of Science degree with a nursing major won approval in 1967-the
same year the UA College of Medicine opened.
Having seen her vision of patient-centered education, scholarship, and
research well on its way to realization, Pearl Parvin Coulter retired
in 1967 and Dr. Gladys Sorensen succeeded her as dean. That same year,
construction began on the new College of Nursing building.
In the early 1970s, UA nursing faculty traveled
to distant communities to teach nurses throughout the state. As a forerunner
to other graduate programs, the College began offering a nurse-specialist
degree in subspecialties such as pulmonary, oncology, and primary-care
nursing. Nurse-practitioner preparation began with the Family Nurse Practitioner
Program at Tucson's El Rio Neighborhood Health Center. The program would
expand to include obstetrics-gynecology, geriatric, and neonatal nurse
practitioners. In 1972, the College established the Katie Ugo Health Center
at Tucson's Armory Park Senior Center.
Research in nursing phenomena was coming into its own during the 1970s.
The College of Nursing organized a 1973 nursing-research conference,
has grown from a local gathering to an international symposium. It
was one of the first such conferences in the U.S.
Clinical-practice settings were growing more diverse, reflecting Pearl
Coulter's belief that nursing students should have behavioral and biological
science courses at the same level as majors in those fields.
The College organized its Ph.D. program in the mid-1970s, graduating
17 doctoral students during the first decade.
During the 1980s, the College established the Nurse-Midwifery Education
Program and an interdisciplinary rural-health nursing program. The
placed graduate students in Cochise County towns-Willcox, Benson,
and Douglas-for ten-week fellowships including patient teaching,
blood-pressure screening, and teen prenatal counseling. Participants
were graduate students in community-health nursing, social work,
pharmacy, medicine, and health-care administration.
Expansion and Distinction
The Alumni Council was founded in 1982. The Council's
purposes included honoring remarkable faculty and students, holding a
continuing-education conference, raising money for scholarships, and sponsoring
licensure exam review.
After 20 years dedicated to guiding the College of Nursing through
exponential growth, impressive development, and international prestige,
retired and L. Claire Parsons became dean in 1987. Coming to the UA
with a strong research background in physiology, Dean Parsons brought
progress to the research and scholarship missions during her tenure.
The College of Nursing Advisory board first met in 1987. Its mission-to
represent the College's goals to the community, advise the College
key issues, seek long-term support, and encourage relationships within
Arizona. The same year, the College of Nursing ranked seventh in
ranking published annually by U.S. News and World Report. In a 1993
survey of nurse researchers and nursing-college deans, the UA College
ranked sixth among 491 nursing programs.
Professor Van Ort became the College's dean in 1992, having graduated
in the second UA College of Nursing class with a BSN in 1962. She
had been dean at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and had served
the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.
As technology became more available and
affordable, the UA College of Nursing, along with nursing programs at
Northern Arizona and
universities, began offering teleconference courses to students
in remote locations. Additional technological advances allowed for
online doctoral program, and the accelerated
A. Isenberg has been dean since 2001. She was associate dean of the
Wayne State University College of Nursing for seven
been a visiting professor at universities in the Netherlands
and Mexico. Since Dr. Isenberg came to the UA College of Nursing, exciting
have been launched-including an accelerated baccalaureate-nursing-degree
program for college graduates and an online doctoral program
students can do most of their Ph.D. studies without coming to
the UA campus.
Best Is Yet to Come
As the College of Nursing continues to grow and
change, the vision of its first dean, Pearl Parvin Coulter, continues
to be enacted in patient-centered education, research, and scholarship.
Source: A History of the College of Nursing, Agnes M. Aamodt, 1997.