Joining with others to fill the community’s needs
The Sisters of Bon Secours recently joined with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to open a tuition-free middle school for girls in grades 5–8 who come from families of limited economic means. Sisters Academy of Baltimore offers a quality, faith-based education designed to help young girls in the community develop academically, morally, and spiritually and to prepare them for top quality high schools so they will have choices for their future. The small classes provide individual attention and support as the girls are educated to become agents of transformation in their families, communities, and society.
School President Sr. Delia Dowling, a School Sister of Notre Dame, explains how Sisters Academy responds to the needs of the communities it serves. “The Catholic schools in this neighborhood closed 30 years ago, leaving the community without a parish school. We talked with parents, got involved with the community in a variety of ways, and learned the greatest need was for a middle school. These are essential, transitional years for young girls when the seeds for the future are being planted.
In response to those needs, we provide a holistic education, teaching not just academics but also sports, art, and life skills and involving parents in their daughters’ school life through volunteer work. The Sisters of Bon Secours were interested in Sisters Academy since the beginning. They believe providing this education is a new means of liberation and helping support women and children.”
Bon Secours President Sr. Alice Talone, a Sisters Academy Board Member, agrees. “The Sisters of Bon Secours believe in a holistic approach to all of life and because of that believe being a Sponsor of Sisters Academy lives out what Bon Secours means—good help to those in need.”
Schools of Nursing
Bon Secours Schools Of Nursing Have A Rich Tradition
As nursing care in the United States became more sophisticated and specialized and hospitalization became available, so too the mission of the Sisters of Bon Secours recognized the need to expand their ministry to serve patients outside the home setting. To this end, on March 1, 1920, the first Bon Secours hospital in the United States opened in Baltimore with the purpose of “conducting of a hospital and a training School for Nurses.”
Read about our Schools of Nursing:
- Bon Secours Hospital School of Nursing
- Camillus Catholic School of Practical Nursing
- dePaul School of Nursing
- Bon Secours Memorial School of Nursing
- Bon Secours & Canterbury School of Nursing at Christ Hospital
Bon Secours Hospital School of Nursing
The Bon Secours Hospital School of Nursing opened in the fall of 1921, under the direction of Sr. St. Donat. The school offered a three-year diploma program, and for many years the student body was composed exclusively of Sisters of Bon Secours. In the late 1930s, sisters from other communities also were admitted into the school. The first graduation exercises were held in the chapel of Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore in 1925 when 13 Bon Secours Sisters received diplomas of graduation. Archbishop Curley presided over the exercises.
In the following years, sisters were prepared to be professional nurses not only according to state regulations, but also, above all, according to the spirit and traditions of Bon Secours. Because of their reputation for outstanding nursing care and to increase the student body, the civic community and medical profession requested that the Sisters of Bon Secours admit lay students; this step was also a recognition that the Bon Secours spirit of compassionate care of the sick should be shared with others and permeate beyond the scope of the sisters alone. The first group of 21 lay students was admitted on September 2, 1952.
The 50s and early 60s were years of growth for the School of Nursing. However, in 1967 the difficult decision was made that the last class to graduate would be the class of 1970. A changing neighborhood, financial losses to the hospital, decline in student enrollment, and largely the new trend that nursing education be based in a collegiate setting, all contributed to the decision. Sr. Athanasius, Sr. Urban Auer, and Sr. Mary Margaret had successfully guided the School of Nursing, and the sad job of phasing it out fell to Sr. Elizabeth McGlade.
“With the graduation ceremonies in 1970, an era in the history of Bon Secours came to an end, but not the proud tradition of excellence in nursing care,” said Sr. Urban. Sr. Elaine Davia, Class of 1970, added: “The school put an emphasis on compassion, direct patient care, and education on the principles of nursing care. Even with all the changes and new technology today, compassion, hands-on care, and knowledge of basic principles remain the foundation of the care I try to provide my patients today.”
Camillus Catholic School of Practical Nursing
In the 1950s, St. Francis Country House was a well-established nursing home, run by the Sisters of Bon Secours, in the Philadelphia, Pa., area. The home was always working to keep up with an influx of patients and advances in medical technology. But with this growth in size and services came the need for an increase in nursing staff.
To provide the home with adequate staffing, Fr. Gleason led the establishment of the Camillus Catholic School of Practical Nursing in 1956. With renovated accommodations for the school at St. Francis Country Home, the school opened its doors on September 10, 1956, with Sr. Mary Cecilia as the first director. Even at its inception, the school was bound to distinguish itself from other nursing schools in the region; it was the first practical nursing school in Philadelphia.
As a result of Monsignor Gleason’s hard work and encouragement of the faculty and students, the National Association for Practical Nurse Education accredited the school in its first year. This feat was made even more impressive by the fact that Camillus was the first school of practical nursing in the Philadelphia area to receive national accreditation and one of only four schools in the state. Students earned nearly consistent 100 percent state board examination scores, continuing the tradition of excellence for which Camillus was quickly becoming known. “Camillus School had a reputation for excellent nurses. The programs were above and beyond other schools,” said Sr. Peggy Mathewson. “Graduates were sought after because of the exceptional training and bedside skills.”
However, as time went on, St. Francis Country Home, the school’s sponsoring facility, experienced financial losses and the school’s graduates chose to work in hospitals rather than nursing homes. Camillus merged with Misericordia School of Practical Nursing in 1973 and became the Camillus Mercy School of Practical Nursing. Sponsorship of the school was transferred to Mercy Catholic Medical Center.
dePaul School of Nursing
Founded in 1893 in the Norfolk, Va., area by the Daughters of Charity of Emmittsburg, Md., the St. Vincent de Paul School of Nursing became a school of high repute, regionally and nationally. Since its inception, the school had been continually state approved and nationally accredited. With its national accreditation by the National League of Nursing, de Paul became the only non-university affiliated nursing school in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia to earn such an endorsement.
But the educational excellence carried out within the school walls emphasized not only professional skills but also people skills. “The school’s focus was on competent and compassionate nursing practice, with devotion to the poor and maintenance of high ethical and professional standards,” said Ms. Mary Hall, a retired director of dePaul School of Nursing.
By 1944, the school had moved to a new location in Norfolk and changed its name to dePaul School of Nursing. As economics of the health care industry changed and nursing schools changed to degree programs, dePaul closed its doors in 1998 after 105 years of educating knowledgeable and compassionate nurses.
The tradition of excellence continues, and today there are two schools of nursing in the Bon Secours Health System: Bon Secours Memorial School of Nursing and Bon Secours & Canterbury School of Nursing at Christ Hospital. Both are models in their communities, graduating quality nurses who serve in Bon Secours Hospitals and other health care facilities in the Richmond and Jersey City areas respectively as well as throughout the country.
Bon Secours Memorial School of Nursing
Bon Secours Memorial School of Nursing in Richmond, Va., is sponsored and supported by Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center. The mission of the school is to benefit the students, the hospital, and the community as well as to improve the quality of nursing care in the area. The nursing program focuses on strong clinical practice application beginning in the first semester. The curriculum is constantly revised to anticipate the ever changing and demanding health care environment, and the school is known for its excellent teacher-student ratio.
“Throughout everything we do,” explained Dean Mary Ruth Fox, “is a thread of spirituality. We even have a mission program in the school where during spring break our students provide ‘Good Help to Those in Need’ by practicing nursing and health teaching in medically underserved areas such as Haiti and Appalachia.”
The first class of 43 students entered the three-year diploma program in September 1961. In fall 2002, 130 students entered the school, and the school now boasts 300 students. Since 1961, more than 900 nurses have completed the program and received their pins and diplomas. Students currently range in age from 18 to 55 years with the average age being 26.6 years, younger than in the past. Students include recent high school graduates, college graduates, people making first career decisions, and individuals preparing for a second career. With no end to the nursing shortage in sight, Dean Fox is pleased to report that over 90 percent of the graduates are employed at Bon Secours Richmond health care facilities.
In 2000, the site of the school was moved to a new building in Henrico County, and, in August 2000, an addition was completed in time for the fall 2002 class. The School of Nursing Building contains well-equipped classrooms, skill laboratories, computer laboratories, conference rooms, faculty and administrative offices, a library, and student lounges. The school uses Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Richmond Community Hospital as well as other community agencies for clinical experiences. Students also are enrolled at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College to take required courses in basic biological sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
Dean Mary Ruth Fox is no stranger to Bon Secours. She had her first job at Bon Secours Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Mich., when she was 16 years old. She subsequently taught at the Bon Secours School of Nursing in Baltimore for 10 years. She joined the faculty of the Bon Secours Richmond Memorial School of Nursing in 1997, and was named dean in January 2000. She reflects on the changes in teaching nursing over the years. She sees a movement away from the highly technical Generation X to the more caring Generation Y.
“Generation Y tends to be more like the compassionate ‘Baby Boomers,’” she explains. She also sees an emphasis on professionalism, more flexible scheduling to include evening and weekend courses, and Web-based classes. The school also now offers accelerated two-year programs for students with college work completed.
Bon Secours & Canterbury School of Nursing at Christ Hospital
In 1923, three young women entered the St. Francis School of Nursing founded by the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in New Jersey. Since then, thousands of graduates have completed the three-year diploma program. In 1998, St. Francis School of Nursing formed an association with the Hudson County Community College to grant an associate degree in science to its graduates.
And, in 2001, St. Francis School of Nursing merged with Christ Hospital School of Nursing. Ruth Braddock, director of St. Francis School of Nursing from 1995–2001, explained that, “the two schools, only a few blocks apart in Jersey City, have always worked closely together to provide a wonderful service to the community, giving community hospitals an employee-base that they could depend on.” The merged entity is part of the Bon Secours Health System and is called Bon Secours & Canterbury School of Nursing at Christ Hospital.
Under the sponsorship of the Episcopal Church, Christ Hospital School of Nursing was founded in 1890 by Sr. Amy. Today the two-year diploma program has 185 students enrolled. Students graduate with a diploma in nursing and an associate degree in science from the Hudson County Community College. It is one of the largest nursing schools in the area and makes every effort to accommodate people in the community who would like to enter the nursing field. To this end, the school has both day and evening classes as well as a day care center. The average age of its students, who are both male and female, is 28 years of age.
“Bon Secours & Canterbury School of Nursing at Christ Hospital is known for its high quality of education and excellent clinical training,” explains Carol Fasano, director of the School of Nursing. “Located in an urban community, the school is known also for the diversity of its population.” The school helps students who want to move up the career ladder and has special programs, for example, for L.P.N.’s who want to become R.N.’s. It is also interesting to note that 70 percent of the school’s graduates go on for Bachelor of Science degrees in Nursing.
The tradition of Bon Secours schools of nursing continues throughout the world. There is a Bon Secours School of Nursing in Cork, Ireland.
The Sisters of Bon Secours and Bon Secours Health System are indeed fortunate to have two such fine schools of nursing in their system today.