This past week was National Nursing Week . To mark the occasion, we thought it only fitting to take a look at one of Rochester’s many (many) contributions to the role of nursing: the Registered Nurse…
On September 19, 1889, the Rochester Homeopathic Hospital (later Genesee Hospital) opened in a three-story brick structure at 233 Monroe Avenue. On December 1, 1889, the Homeopathic Hospital Training School for Nurses admitted its first students. The first graduating class consisted of three nurses.
At the time, New York State had as many as 15,000 untrained nurses and about 2,500 formally trained nurses. Training could range anywhere from three months to three years, and there was no consistency in the quality or content of that education.
In October of 1902, the New York State Nurses Association met in Rochester, NY, with the goal of discussing a bill, known as the Nurse Practice Act (or the Armstrong Act, after New York Senator William Armstrong, who had guaranteed to sponsor the bill). The bill would establish uniform regulation and credentialing for the practice of nursing.
Over a hundred trained nurses from across the state attended the meeting, which featured keynote speaker Susan B. Anthony. At that meeting, it was proposed by Sophia Palmer, Superintendent of Rochester City Hospital, that these nurses who met the state requirements should bear the title of Registered Nurse, in order to recognize their years of uniform training, preparation and examinations, and to differentiate them from nurses with little or no training.
In 1903, the bill was passed, and in 1904, the first nurse in New York State was awarded the title of Registered Nurse under the new standardized guidelines. Her name was Ida Jane Anderson.
Ida Jane Anderson had left her native Canada in 1887 to come to New York, where she settled in Rochester and became a dressmaker. In June 1899, at the age of 30, she enrolled in the Rochester Homeopathic Hospital Nurses’ Training School. After her graduation, she spent the rest of her life in service to others. She nursed victims of the 1902 Smallpox Epidemic at Hope Hospital (also known as “the Pest House” because it was used to quarantine victims of infectious disease) and was the first graduate nurse to serve as night supervisor at the Rochester Homeopathic Hospital. She later became that hospital’s second social worker. In the 1940s, she worked at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Ida Jane never married, but stepped into the role of mother for her niece, whose own mother had died in 1903. She remained active in the alumni association, and when she died in 1958, donated her uniforms, hospital pins and other memorabilia to the alumni archives. Ida Jane Anderson is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Tags: Armstrong Act, Genesee Hospital, Homeopathic Hospital Training School for Nurses, Ida Jane Anderson, Joanne Brokaw, Mount Hope Cemetery, New York State Nurses Association, Nurse Practice Act, nurses, Pest House, Registered Nurse, Rochester, Rochester Homeopathic Hospital, Rochester NY, Senator William Armstrong, smallpox, Strong Memorial Hospital, Susan B. Anthony
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