North Adams Nurse Training School

Developed from necessity, but greatly appreciated by the North Adams Hospital and community-at-large, the North Adams Nurse Training School educated future nurses from 1891-1937.

The North Adams Nurse Training School was “not only desirable, but a necessary” creation of the North Adams Hospital Board of Control. The process of developing the school began in 1889, just seven years after the opening of the hospital, and began accepting students in 1891. Students of the school were educated through lectures “given two or three times a week by the physicians of the town” and hands-on work in the hospital, including “the art of cooking for the sick.” Originally, a student’s education was concluded “after a year’s experience and teaching.”

There were many factors for determining who would be accepted into the program: “None should apply who are not well educated in the common branches. Applicants must be able to read, write, spell and speak the English language correctly, and have a considerable knowledge of arithmetic, and should be between 22 and 35 years of age.” Students were also expected to be “qualified morally and physically.”

Initially, the program could support “a limited number of pupils” although the program grew in size alongside the hospital. While receiving training, students were “housed in the hospital proper, an arrangement that made deep inroads into the institution’s already cramped quarters.” In 1901, however, the home for nurses was completed and furnished through donations from wealthy community members. Upon graduation, students “would be ready to supply the constantly increasing demand [of nurses] in private families.”

Alumnae had the option of joining the Graduate Nurses’ Alumnae Association, which acted as a directory for the public to hire private nurses. As part of this association, nurses were required to wear a uniform of “all white or pink and white gingham, with [a] white apron, high bib, stiff white collar and white cuffs six inches deep, and cap of the training school” while helping patients. Nurses were allowed to pick what type of cases they would attend to and the going rate of private work was eighteen dollars a week. If a family could not afford this service, but was still in need of medical guidance, a reduced version of the nurse’s services were offered with the option for hourly or case-based payment.

The nursing school was disbanded in 1937, due to hospital budgetary constraints and costly new equipment requirements enforced by “the state department of public welfare.” During its time in existence, a total of 300 students graduated from the North Adams Nurse Training School.

A second training program, “The North Adams Hospital School of Private Duty Nursing,” merged out of this closure, due to the continuing staff shortages at the hospital. This program “provid[ed] an intensive course of eighteen months training…to provide Grade A nursing service in the most commonly required care of the sick.” Graduates of this new program were not be registered nurses, but they were able to assist community members with basic health issues, in addition to staffing the hospital. Essentially, these graduates were nursing assistants. As the United States became involved in World War II and other needs arose, this program was discontinued in 1943.

The hospital tried once again try to revive a training programming in 1944 to try to meet staffing needs with the purpose of training men to “[assist] in the male wards at the hospital during busy period[s].” However, this program was short lived and there is no evidence to suggest that it continued after the war.