College of Nursing opens history museum

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC public affairs | June 06, 2005

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Officials participating in the "Bandage-cutting" ceremony were, from left: Leslie Gleaves, Minnie Thornton, Nancy Schneckloth, UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D.; Ada Lindsey, Ph.D., UNMC College of Nursing dean emeritus; Virginia Tilden, D.N.Sc., dean of the UNMC College of Nursing; and Audrey Nelson, Ph.D., faculty, alumnus, and chairwoman of the UNMC College of Nursing and Alumni History Museum committee. Photo by Dan Brick.
It was Oct. 16, 1917. University Hospital was open just a few months when the University of Nebraska School for Nurses admitted its first students. With two faculty members and 13 students, the school's mission was to "develop nurses of the best type."

Things have changed since the days when only unmarried women between the ages of 19 and 35 were considered for admission to nursing school.

More than 9,000 have graduated from what is now the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing. They've saved and improved the lives of countless people in Nebraska, as well as all over the country and world.

In a "bandage-cutting" ceremony Friday (June 3), officials unveiled the UNMC College of Nursing and Alumni History Museum, which documents its history of nursing education and care. The museum, located on the third floor of the college in Room 3000, will be open to the campus and public today from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

The history project was the vision of UNMC College of Nursing Dean Emeritus Ada Lindsey, Ph.D., who said it's important to honor the college's history and alumni with a museum. She thanked all those who helped bring the museum to fruition.

"When I arrived as dean of the college, I was struck by the fact that Nancy Schneckloth and others had put together a book about the history of the College of Nursing," Dr. Lindsey said. "A small office room in the college had been designated for the alumni to store items of historical interest, but it was not a place that others could see anything.

"As I began to meet alums and hear their stories at reunions, I realized the college's long and rich history," she said. "I think it is important to preserve those memories of history and development of the nursing profession. It also is important to have a place to showcase the various periods of the college's history of contributions to nursing education, practice, and research and to community and professional service."

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., congratulated those involved with the museum on a wonderful gift to the medical center and College of Nursing. "Our goal at UNMC is to be a world-class health science center, and the College of Nursing museum really contributes to that goal," Dr. Maurer said.

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The museum was the vision of UNMC College of Nursing Dean Emeritus Ada Lindsey, Ph.D., far right. The museum opens under the leadership of Virginia Tilden, D.N.Sc., far left, current and fourth dean of the UNMC College of Nursing. In between, from left, are alumni association members and museum organizers, Minnie Thornton, Nancy Schneckloth, Audrey Nelson, Ph.D., and Leslie Gleaves.
The museum opens under the leadership of Virginia Tilden, D.N.Sc., current and fourth dean of the UNMC College of Nursing, who began her deanship in 2003. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Dr. Tilden thanked those who helped bring the museum to reality, including its donors.

"This small room has a very big place in our hearts," Dr. Tilden said. "It enhances the college's ability to capture the rich tapestry of its history."

The museum traces its roots from an Omaha school that initially offered a three-year nursing diploma and a bachelor's of arts or science degree to one that established a bachelor of science degree in nursing, and Nebraska's first master's and doctoral degrees in nursing, as well as the nurse practitioner specialty.

From its humble beginnings, one thing has remained the same at the university through 88 years: admission standards.

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Nancy Schneckloth, left, and Audrey Nelson, Ph.D., demonstrate how skirt length requirements of 10 inches from the ground was enforced by Charlotte Burgess, first director of nursing at University Hospital.
Charlotte Burgess, the first director of nursing at the hospital, was adamant about high admission standards. In the book, "The University of Nebraska College of Nursing, 1917-1987," Schneckloth quotes Burgess as saying she wanted candidates with more than a strong back to be able to move patients, "Ice-men can be found at 42nd and Leavenworth - what I want is nurses with brains."

The school's 100 percent pass rate for nursing board examinations was a source of great pride. Today, the college continues to receive an abundance of applications from highly qualified students.

The college has consistently incorporated nursing education needs across the state. Distance education programs were first born from the need to serve rural Nebraskans. They now also serve as an instrument to resolve the nursing shortage in rural and urban areas. Nursing instruction has gone from lectures, films and procedure manuals to incorporating the Internet. And research plays an important role in student education and as a way to improve the lives of patients.

The college, based in Omaha, also has divisions in Lincoln, Kearney and Scottsbluff. The museum is organized into four areas: education, scholarship and research, student life and service.

The museum's display windows contain three nursing uniforms, including the blue- and white-checkered "probationer" uniform student nurses wore four- to six-months until faculty decided whether they met the school's requirements.

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Minnie Thornton, right, and Nancy Scheckloth ready the museum for its opening.
Inside are touch screen computer stations, featuring historical facts and taped memories of alumni. Displays include a collection of artifacts, photographs and college records. Spearheading the project was Audrey Nelson, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing and chairwoman of the UNMC College of Nursing and Alumni History Museum committee.

The committee included alumni Minnie Thornton and Nancy Schneckloth; Elizabeth Kentopp, 1948 alum and former clinical instructor in obstetrics; Carol Wilson, former director of University Hospital nursing service; Rosalee Yeaworth, Ph.D., dean of the UNMC College of Nursing from 1979 to 1994; and Leslie Gleaves, alumnus and UNMC nursing faculty member. Other alumni who helped were Bevely Hays, Lorraine Hedman, Muriel Munchrath, Dorothy Patach and Ann Van Hoff.

Thanks also went to Dan Brick, Patricia Carstens, Brian Lugers, Pat Rejda, Stephen Smith and Alan Wass.

Watch UNMC Today for announcements of an open house in August.