Nursing Education

Click the image to learn more. Five recent graduates of the St. Joseph's Hospital nursing program pose with their degrees in 1915.

Formal nursing education in the United States had its beginnings in the late 1800s, after Florence Nightingale suggested a model for schools in England. Schools proliferated as hospitals needed nurses to care for the patients. Milwaukee was no different. The first Milwaukee schools were established in 1888 as the Wisconsin Training School for Nurses and the Milwaukee County Hospital Training School, with Trinity Hospital Training School opening the next year.[1] As can be seen in Table 1, there was rapid growth; by 1919 there were eleven active schools and two that had already closed. Also illustrated in Table 1 are the changes that occurred as schools closed, merged, changed names, or transitioned to a new institution.

Education to prepare registered nurses is unique in the way that it has progressed and changed over time. The original on-the-job training changed to programs that were one to three years in length, administered by hospitals, and referred to as diploma programs. Students were the source of labor for the hospital. In 1919 there were eleven of these hospital programs in Milwaukee (Table 1). In 1952 there were seven diploma programs remaining in Milwaukee.[2] Between 1969 and 1986, six of the programs closed. The last hospital diploma program to close was the Milwaukee County Hospital School of Nursing. In 1994 its operation was transferred to the Milwaukee School of Engineering. At the time, the Milwaukee County School of Nursing was the only diploma school in the state. There were six baccalaureate programs and two associate degree programs in the Milwaukee area.[3]

College or university programs resulting in a baccalaureate degree began to appear fairly early in the twentieth century, although these programs were not prevalent until the 1950s. In 1936 Marquette University had the first college program in the Milwaukee area. By 1952, there were two programs because Alverno College also opened a baccalaureate program. Two-year associate degree programs for nurses appeared in the 1950s as an answer to the shortage of registered nurses. The first associate degree program in the Milwaukee area opened in 1965 at the Milwaukee Institute of Technology (now Milwaukee Area Technical College). Programs giving a Master of Science or Master of Nursing degree opened beginning in the 1950s. Over time, the focus of these programs has changed from education and administration, to clinical specialists in a defined field, to nurse practitioner/advanced practice roles. Marquette University offered the first master’s degrees (1939).[4] The 1960s brought the beginning of nursing PhD programs in the United States. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee opened the first PhD program in the state in 1984. The newest degree program is the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), a professional clinical degree. In 2008-2009 DNP programs were started by Marquette University, Concordia University of Wisconsin, and UW-Milwaukee.

To summarize, from 1888 to 2017, there have been nursing education programs that resulted in diplomas, associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, MS and MN degrees, DNP degrees, and PhD degrees. Table 2 documents the programs that were operating in the Milwaukee area in 2017.

Between 1947 and 1967, three practical nurse programs also opened in the Milwaukee area. These are one-year programs that prepare a nurse with a more restricted role than that of a Registered Nurse. The original programs were at Milwaukee Area Technical College, Waukesha Technical Institute, and Sacred Heart School of Practical Nursing, which in the 1980s became the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Practical Nursing. In 1983 there were three programs; in 2017 there also were three programs, since St. Luke’s Medical Center had closed their program but Herzing University has opened a practical nurse program. (See Table 2).

Table 1: Early Milwaukee Nursing Training Schools

Year openedInitial nameLater name changes, mergers, and closures
1888Wisconsin Training School for Nurses1902: Acquired by Lake Side Hospital
1888Milwaukee County Hospital Training School1995: Acquired by Milwaukee School of Engineering
1889Trinity Hospital Training School for Nurses1912: Marquette University leased the school.
1914: Became Marquette University Central Training School of Nursing.
1924 Became Marquette University School for Nurses.
1930: Closed.
1890The Elms Hospital for Women Training School for Nurses1895: Closed
1894Lake Side Hospital Training School for Nurses1902: Acquired Wisconsin Training School for Nurses.
1914: Closed.
1894St. Mary's Training School for Nurses1932: Became St. Mary's School of Nursing.
1969: Closed.
1899St. Joseph's Hospital Training School1936: Acquired by Marquette University College of Nursing
1899Waldheim Park Sanitarium Training School, Oconomowoc1923: Closed.
1901Knowlton Hospital Training School1909: Name changed to Columbia Hospital School of Nursing.
1983: Partnered with Carroll College of Nursing.
2005: Partnered with Mount Mary College of Nursing.
1903Milwaukee Hospital Training School1966: Name changed to Lutheran Hospital School of Nursing.
1973: Closed.
1904Southside Training School for NursesLater named the Hanover Hospital Training School for Nurses.
1926: Closed.
1906Milwaukee Maternity and General Hospital Training School for Nurses1936: Closed.
1914Mt. Sinai Nurses' Training School1974: Closed
1917Evangelical Deaconess Hospital Training School1986: Closed

Table 2: Milwaukee Area Nursing Education Programs, 2017

Licensed Practical Nurse Programs
Herzing University
Milwaukee Area Technical College
Waukesha County Technical College (Pewaukee)
Associate Degree Programs
Bryant & Stratton College
Milwaukee Area Technical College
Waukesha County Technical College
Bachelor of Science Degree Programs
Alverno College
Cardinal Stritch University*
Carroll University (Waukesha)
Columbia College of Nursing
Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon)*
Herzing University*
Marquette University
Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)*
Moraine Park Technical College
Mount Mary University
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee*
Wisconsin Lutheran College
*Also have a Bachelor of Science Degree Completion or Accelerated Program
Master of Science and Masters of Nursing Degree Programs
Alverno College
Cardinal Stritch University
Concordia University Wisconsin
Herzing University
Marquette University
Milwaukee School of Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Doctoral Programs
Alverno College (DNP)
Concordia University Wisconsin (DNP)
Marquette University (DNP & PhD)
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (DNP & PhD)
Source: “Nursing Schools and Programs,” Wisconsin Center for Nursing,, accessed March 14, 2019.

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Raphael N. Hamilton, The Story of Marquette University: An Object Lesson in the Development of Catholic Higher Education (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1953), 70, 315.
  2. ^ Wisconsin State League of Nursing Education and Wisconsin State Board of Nursing, Wisconsin Conferences on Nursing Education (Madison, WI: State of Wisconsin, 1952), 8-9.
  3. ^ “Nursing School No Longer Justifiable,” Milwaukee Journal, June 15, 1994.
  4. ^Marquette University Nursing Celebrates 80 Years,” Distance Nursing Blog, Marquette University College of Nursing, accessed March 17, 2019.

For Further Reading

Bulletin of the Wisconsin State Nurses Association 7, 3 (May 1939): 1-30.

Blank, Katie. “Jeanette Hays, the Interracial Federation of Milwaukee County, and the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses: A Case Study of the Challenges to Gender and Race Roles in Milwaukee Nursing Schools during World War II.” MA thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2011.

Hogan, Mary Claire. Saint Mary’s School of Nursing, Formerly Saint Mary’s Training School for Nurses, 1894-1969. Milwaukee: Alumnae Association, St. Mary’s School of Nursing, 1969.

Langill, Ellen D. A Tradition of Caring: The History of Milwaukee’s Three Primary Service Hospitals-Lutheran, Mount Sinai, and Evangelical Deaconess. Milwaukee, WI: Sinai-Samaritan Hospitals History Committee, 1999.

Milwaukee County General Hospital, Milwaukee, School of Nursing. A Short History of the Milwaukee County General Hospital School of Nursing. Milwaukee: The Association. 1963.

Quinn, Brenda W., and Ellen D. Langill. Caring for Milwaukee: The Daughters of Charity at St. Mary’s Hospital. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Publishing Group, 1998.

Wake, Madeline, ed. Marquette University: History and Reflections. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2011.

Weihing, Barbara J. The Centennial History of Milwaukee County Medical Complex School of Nursing: 1888-1988, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee: Milwaukee County Medical Complex School of Nursing, 1988.

Wisconsin State League of Nursing Education and Wisconsin State Board of Nursing, Wisconsin Conferences on Nursing Education. Madison, WI: Wisconsin State Board of Nursing, 1952.

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