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School Nurses


Until the 1800s, nursing was considered a lowly task, relegated to women who were usually in the lower echelons of society. The Civil War highlighted the need for qualified nurses. To raise nursing to an organized, professional status, three nursing schools based on Florence Nightingale's principles of nursing were established in 1873: the Bellevue School of Nursing in New York, the Connecticut Training School at New Haven, and the Boston Training School in Mass.

In an effort to reduce health-related absenteeism in schools, the New York City school system hired Lina Rogers Struthers on October 1, 1902, to serve as a nurse for a one-month trial. She continued her appointment after the month ended because of promising results, and two months later she was named superintendent of school nurses, and had a staff of 12 nurses. By February 1903, another 15 nurses were added to the staff. During the first year of this new school-nurse system, health-related absenteeism dropped by nearly 90 percent. The positive results triggered other large cities to hire school nurses, with Philadelphia starting in 1903, Los Angeles in 1904, Boston in 1905, Philadelphia in 1908, and Chicago in 1910.

The school nurse continues to play a vital role in the education and health care systems. In recognition of this role, National School Nurse Day is celebrated each year in May.

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