Rochester's first training school for nurses was established in 1880. Dr William S. Ely proposed a formal training school to the governing Board of Lady Managers in early 1880. Although hesitant at first, the Lady Managers eventually recognized the advantages of the hospital-based nursing program. Miss Aurora Smith, a graduate of New York's Bellevue Hospital was recruited to design the new training program.
The RGH School of Nursing was the twelfth Nursing school in the Nation and the third oldest in New York State.
The first graduation was held on March 31, 1883 and there were four students in this class. Mary E. Dickinson, a member of this first class, later studied medicine and practiced medicine in Rochester until her death in 1937. Three members of the call of 1884, later became physicians.
After the First World War, some of the largest classes were recruited. 1924 saw 47 graduate nurses, in 1927, 43 graduates, and the peak was reached in 1929 when 48 graduates.
The first community graduation was held in 1921 when 72 nurses were graduated from the Hahnemann (later Highland), Homeopathic (Genesee) and Rochester General hospitals. Strong memorial Hospital joined the group in 1928, Park Avenue Hospital in 1930, and St. Mary's hospital in 1931.
The practice of Nursing has evolved into a highly diverse and specialized field of health care. The eventual development of accredited nursing degree programs forced the closing of many hospital-based nurse training programs. The Rochester General Hospital School of Nursing graduated its last class in 1964.
The increased demand for hospital nurses in the years after the Second World War would eventually lead to the training of Licensed Practical Nurses to help alleviate the shortage. The Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing was established in August 1963 and graduated its first class in February 1965.
Today the Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing continues the work of preparing the next generation of nurse professionals.
The Rochester Medical Museum and Archives have joined together with other local historical organizations to make available images from our collections. The New York Heritage site is a portal that provides you with a digital glimpse of some of the rare cultural offerings from among the millions of images and documents preserved in the area's archives. Currently, the NY Heritage database includes almost 10,000 materials from our many participating local contributors.
To view the class photographs of the RGH School of Nursing, click here.