Lankenau’s nursing tradition began in 1884, with seven Lutheran deaconesses who traversed the Atlantic Ocean in response to the call from John D. Lankenau. His hospital was in need of women to manage its nursing service. Fifteen years later, in 1899, these deaconesses, in particular Sister Magdalene Von Bracht, were fundamental in organizing the Training School of Nurses, later named the Lankenau Hospital School of Nursing.
From the earliest years, the school’s curriculum emphasized instruction in “practical” or “bedside” nursing with 72 hours of floor duty required of students each week. Instruction focused on bed-making, urinary catheterization, bathing patients and hypodermics, with lectures by physician instructors. In 1901 the first nursing class, consisting of three students, graduated.
The course of instruction was eventually extended to three years and the curriculum grew to include clinical experiences in obstetrics, pediatrics and psychiatry. With the outbreak of World War II, the U.S. Public Health Department approved Lankenau’s training school for an accelerated curriculum to train US Cadet Nurses. By 1992—when the school closed due to the increasing popularity of university-based nursing programs—more than 3,300 nurses had graduated.
The Lankenau Hospital School of Nursing Alumni Association was organized in 1906. Even though the school has since closed, the Association remains active and continues to serve its members—which include all of the nursing school graduates—and Lankenau, as an auxiliary of the Lankenau Hospital Women’s Board. Members gather together for the annual reunion luncheon each spring and present a distinguished alumni award to an alumnus who has made a significant contribution to the nursing profession.
Each year, the Alumni Association gives money to benefit nursing education. In 2010, the Association contributed $5,000 to Lankenau, designated for the Nursing Research Leaders Fellowship and the Nurse Residency Program.
Research is a vital component of Magnet® Designation—a recognition of nursing excellence—which Lankenau was re-awarded in 2015. A graduate of the Lankenau Hospital School of Nursing, Margaret McClure, was instrumental in beginning the Magnet program. She performed research in the 1980s that identified the attributes that made nurses stay at a hospital and showed that the mortality rates at hospitals with that environment were lower. The Magnet Recognition program was developed from that research.
The Alumni Association is not only generous in its services to nurses at Lankenau, but also provides scholarships to its contributing members and their children and grandchildren who are pursuing a degree in nursing.
With all of its accomplishments, and the support of the Alumni Association, Lankenau will continue to shine brightly on the Main Line. And with it, the legacy of the Lankenau Hospital School of Nursing and its graduates lives on!