A brief History of Nursing in Utah

By A.J. Walkowski posted 08-02-2018 17:41


A brief History of Nursing in Utah  

In 1827, St. Mark’s Hospital opened in a small adobe structure in Salt Lake City. It had six beds and one doctor and not surprisingly for the time, all-male nurses. By 1873, the hospital had treated 116 patients, primarily miners and smelter workers. By 1879, it had served 2,000 people. It was also in that year that a larger hospital was built with double the bed capacity. In 1893, the hospital moved to a newly built $20,000 complex, gaining an operating room, a "drug closet" and 35 beds.

   It was impossible to encourage nurses from Eastern schools to come to Utah, so in 1894, the St. Mark’s School of Nursing was opened. It was the first nursing school in the Intermountain region. Then in 1924, Salt Lake County organized its School of Nursing, a fully accredited program affiliated with the University of Utah. A 3-year BSN program was created and among the numerous unique requirements was a swimming test and remarkably, a woman could not marry during those 3 years.

A few fun early nursing facts:

   (1) There was only one school nurse for the largest district in Utah, Jordan School District, for the time period 1917-1939. She had 18 schools. Her responsibilities included general sanitation inspection, proper lighting, ventilation and care of all school lavatories, as well as, health instruction to about 4260 students.

   (2) The first Sevier District Public/School nurse served from 1952-1967. She started as a public health nurse and then was hired for the district from 1967-1974. An interesting part of her job was “going into the homes; getting a student up, fed, dressed and taking them to school if they weren't sick and just didn't have the means to get to school.”

   (3) In 1947 a nurse in Utah made between $200 and $300 a month for a 40-hour work week (Between $2300 - $3400/month today).


Utah school nursing today

   Utah School nursing followed a pattern first established in the east. It began as an offshoot of public health nursing. Today there are 41 school districts in Utah, which serve 613,279 students. In addition, Utah has approximately 100 charter schools that operate independently of school districts, but still receive public funds. There are also approximately 120 private and parochial schools that operate within Utah. Alpine School District is the largest with a total of 76,938 students and the smallest school district is Daggett with a total of 211 students. San Juan School District is the size of Rhode Island. It is so expansive that the school nurse travels 184 miles one way to visit one of her schools. North and South Sanpete School Districts are comprised of 20 schools, yet they are covered by only one full time and one part time school nurse. The one rare exception in the state is Park City School district, which has one nurse per school, as a consequence of a diabetic law suit.