Celebrating Over 80 Years of Nursing Education

The history of Seattle University College of Nursing is linked to the early history of Providence Hospital in Seattle. In 1877, the Sisters of Providence responded to a request to care for those in the Seattle area who were sick and poor. The "Poor House" at 5th and Spring streets was eventually moved to 17th and Jefferson and became Providence Hospital. By 1907, seventeen Sisters of Charity of Providence were registered as nurses in the state of Washington. Needs for nursing care increased, and the Providence Hospital School of Nursing was opened July 16, 1907, with four lay students enrolled. The first class of the Providence Hospital School of Nursing graduated in 1910.

The School grew and in 1923 it affiliated with the University of Washington for instruction in specific science courses. During this period, students spent forty-eight hours a week “on duty” and were assigned to older students on an apprenticeship basis. Classes were held at night on the students' own time. Enormous uniform pockets, covered by voluminous white aprons, were convenient for carrying candy or hot water bottles on a cold night to and from classes.

In 1934, Providence Hospital School of Nursing strengthened its nursing education program with the University of Washington and met the requirements that led to a degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The first class to finish under this program received their degrees in 1937. Students still had the option of completing only the diploma requirements and graduating from Providence Hospital School of Nursing.

In 1935, the Department of Nursing was introduced at now established Seattle College. The first graduates completed the program in 1939. The same type of affiliation that the University of Washington had for Providence students was arranged with Seattle College and, for a few years, students were permitted to select their collegiate affiliation with either Seattle College or the University of Washington, or to terminate after the diploma requirements were met. The completion of the collegiate program required five years since the student was unable to carry more than a couple of courses each quarter due to the time spent in the hospital “on duty.” The Department of Nursing was given the status of School when the entire collegiate program was transferred to Seattle College in 1941. Affiliation with the University of Washington was still continued for some courses, though students graduated from Seattle College.

In 1948, Seattle College became Seattle University so the nursing school became Seattle University School of Nursing. In February, 1953, the Seattle University School of Nursing basic collegiate program was approved by the National League for Nursing (NLN), making it the second University in the State of Washington to receive this honor. Convinced that experience on nights and weekends did not optimize student learning, Seattle University became the first School of nursing in the nation to eliminate night and weekend clinical experiences in the 1950's. The American Journal of Nursing requested and published an article explaining this innovative program.

Today the College of Nursing resides in the completely renovated historic Garrand Building at the center of campus. This building, the oldest on campus, was the original site of Seattle College. It is located between the Administration and Casey buildings with entrances on the south and east sides. The building houses the Dean's office, faculty offices, and several conference rooms. A rededication of the building was held on December 8, 1994, with Archbishop Thomas Murphy officiating at a morning mass. In Fall 2003, the School of Nursing officially changed it's name to the College of Nursing reflecting the growth and complexity of its programs of study. Through the years, students and faculty have been important contributing members of this community.

On July 16, 2005 the community got its first look at the $65 million dollar renovation of the former Providence Hospital, which houses the Seattle University College of Nursing’s Clinical Performance Lab. The newly renovated and retrofitted building, a project of the Sabey Corporation, reopened as the James Tower Life Sciences Building. Within the new building, 19,000 square feet of space was set aside for the College of Nursing’s Clinical Performance Lab. The state-of-the-art facility houses research labs, classrooms, faculty offices and an exam clinic. The lab is made possible by the Jim and Janet Sinegal Initiative for Nursing Education, which gave the Seattle University College of Nursing $5 million to improve access to quality health care. The new lab seeks to replicate hospital and clinical settings, complete with patient simulators, giving students experience in a setting as close to the real thing as possible.