By Alicia Cook
As part of Bloomfield College's Sesquicentennial Anniversary, the Nursing Recognition Program, Nursing Leaders Panel Discussion and Reception will be held on Thursday, April 19 at 3:00 p.m. in Franklin Street Residence Hall Multi-Purpose Room (third floor).
President Richard A. Levao will present the Presidential Medal of Excellence to Fran McLaughlin '45 for her distinguished service, dedication to the nursing profession, and commitment to the future nurses and graduates of Bloomfield College.
The Presbyterian Division of Nursing at Bloomfield College had a long, respected history prior to joining the College in 1968. Founded in 1912 as the Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing in Newark, the school was a training site for young women wanting to become registered nurses. The school held to strict standards, such as requiring a high school diploma for admission and demanding complete loyalty to the program above and beyond personal and family life. The students were required to devote 24 hours per day, seven days a week, to the program by taking classes, studying, and working in the hospital during their clinical studies.
Frances McLaughlin ’N45, hon. ’90 , graduated from the Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing in 1945 and became a teacher there in 1949. Her description of life in the dormitories as a student nurse and later as a teacher, illustrates the high standards expected of both students and faculty. The students were expected to work the hospital floors and, as they learned more from their classes and clinical work, they increased the scope of their duties. Every morning, the students and faculty dressed in their crisp starched student-nurse uniforms, attended chapel, then went to class or work. Students lived dormitory style and, if they earned it, were allowed one overnight off per month to visit family.
In 1962, Fran was called off the floor at the hospital by the hospital director while she was supervising students and told that “as of 15 minutes ago, you are now the school’s director. Go find out what you need to know before Miss Winkle (the previous director) leaves.” The Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing enjoyed an excellent reputation (it was rated in the top 25 percent of nursing schools in the nation according to the National Grading Report of 1932) and Fran wanted to make sure her students had access to the highest academic standards available. She was concerned that the students had to travel to Fairleigh Dickinson in Rutherford for their science courses. She also felt that the students were working very hard to be awarded a diploma and wanted to explore the concept of awarding a baccalaureate degree in nursing. To Fran, nursing is not a vocation, it is a lifelong career based on educational principles and executed by compassionate, knowledgeable practitioners.
During this same time in Bloomfield College history, the Board of Trustees was taking a critical look at the College’s offerings and was considering eliminating the seminary and becoming a full liberal arts college. Fran had written a position paper investigating the possibility of moving the school of nursing to a college in order to confer baccalaureate degrees to the nursing students. Her first attempt to sell her idea with the dean, Dr. Ralph Caulkins, was turned down primarily due to the cost to the College for faculty and facilities. Not to be deterred, Fran met with the president, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Rath, and proposed a division of nursing at Bloomfield College. President Rath was willing to consider the idea and they met with the Board of Trustees. The board challenged Fran to find funding. The dean, the director of development, and Fran approached area businesses and the state government for seed money and, in 1967, with enough to get started, began the process of developing a curriculum. The Presbyterian Hospital agreed to give up the school of nursing and willingly donated equipment and the entire nursing text and resource library as well as some funding to the fledgling Presbyterian Division of Nursing at Bloomfield College. In 1968, the first nursing classes were held on the Bloomfield College campus. In 1972, the first class of students from the Presbyterian Division of Nursing at Bloomfield College graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.
The nursing alumni were fully supportive of the move. They did have one request however; that the name, the Presbyterian Division of Nursing, remain intact. The alumni were very proud to be graduates of this school of excellent repute and wanted the tradition of nursing excellence to be reflected in future generations of graduates. The Board of Trustees gladly complied. The Division also has the distinction of being the only school in New Jersey that has evolved from a diploma program to a baccalaureate program.
Today, the Division of Nursing continues to “pin” nurses who are excellently qualified to enter the workforce or continue their studies for specialization. According to the lady who started it all, “The smartest move I ever made was knocking on the dean’s door at Bloomfield College.”
On September 17, 2009, the Presbyterian Division of Nursing was renamed the Frances M. McLaughlin Division of Nursing.
Fran will participate in a panel discussion and will be joined by:
- Thelesha Gray '13, Nurse Epidemiologist, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
- Deanna Sperling '99, President/CEO, Barnabas Health Behavioral Health Center
- Judy Padula, Chief Nursing Officer, St. Joseph's Health
We encourage you to join the fun and pay tribute to Fran's many years of dedication to Bloomfield College's nursing program on Thursday, April 19, at 3:00 p.m.
To RSVP to this special event, please contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 973.748.9000 ext. 1293 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.