Massachusetts School Nurse Organization Reflects on the Past and Prepares To Celebrate 50th Anniversary in 2020!

By Doreen Crowe, MEd, RN, BSN posted 01-24-2019 20:44


I’ve been a member of the MA School Nurse Organization (MSNO) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) since 2005.  When charged with the task of writing a blog about our state affiliate’s history, I wondered where to begin.  After speaking with a few members of the MSNO Executive Board, I was referred to two people that are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to remembering MSNO’s past.  Special thanks to Dorothy Keeney and Kathy O’Neill, retired School Nurses and long-standing MSNO members, for not only remembering key moments in MSNO’s history but recalling many important details. 

It was interesting to discover that the National Education Association (NEA) established the Department of School Nurses (DSN) in July of 1968.  One year later in 1969, NEA arranged a fact finding meeting and two hundred Massachusetts school nurses attended.  The result of the meeting was the formation of the MA School Nurse Organization in 1970, almost fifty years ago!

Martha Rich, the first President of MSNO, established the founding goals of the organization.  Since a large percentage of school nurses in 1970 were graduates of a hospital affiliated three year nursing programs or were employed by the public health department of local cities and towns, the main focus was to improve the status of school nurses employed within the educational system.  This was accomplished by developing standards for certification under the Department of Education.  Additionally, salaries were improved and the educational background for entry level school nurses was established as a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.  Subsequently a booklet of guidelines for practicing school nurses was distributed.  The long term goals were better delivery of school health services, better preparation of school nurses, and enlightenment of school boards, teachers and staff to the role of the school nurse.    

There were many other firsts for MSNO!  The first Massachusetts certification bill that was filed in 1971; and the first New England Regional Conference was held in 1972.  During Nancy Wolfe’s reign as MSNO president from 1974 to 1976, the “Role of the School Nurse” was published, pay equity with teachers was addressed for the first time and the benefits of combined membership with NASN was the primary focus.  MA Governor Michael Dukakis proclaimed the first School Nurse Day in 1975; and MSNO became officially incorporated in 1976.  In 1980, MSNO membership reached a milestone of 500 members. 

Due to stellar leadership over the years, MSNO advocated in favor of many legislative bills to move the professional organization forward.  In 1993, data collection on school nursing services was completed for the very first time.  The premier edition of the “Massachusetts School Nurse Outlook” newsletter was created in 2008.  In keeping up with the World Wide Web, the first MSNO website was launched.  

Today, there are currently over 800 active members enrolled in the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization.  MSNO is proud to continue its mission to “promote and advance quality school health services throughout the Commonwealth and promote the rights, interests, and professional growth of our members.”  We’re looking forward to planning a celebration next year in honor of MSNO’s 50th anniversary!  Stay tuned for more information.  To learn more about our recent advocacy efforts, please visit our website at

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