September 28, 2020

A legacy of disruptive innovation

Proceeds from a new book detailing the history of the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing will benefit today’s nursing students.

Nurses in training at the Kaiser Foundation School of Nurses in 1968.

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist and Historian


In 1947, the Permanente Foundation (the charitable trust set up by Henry J. Kaiser and his wife Bess) established the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing to train more caregivers and help alleviate the severe postwar shortage. Before it closed in 1976, the school graduated over a thousand nurses and boasted numerous accomplishments. The school remains an important milestone in Kaiser Permanente’s history.

But that’s just the tweet version.

The full story can be found in the new book “Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing: A Legacy of Disruptive Innovation,” edited by Deloras Jones, MS, RN, Kaiser Permanente’s first chief nursing executive across Northern and Southern California; and Jim D’Alfonso, DNP, PhD, RN, executive director of professional excellence for the Kaiser Permanente Scholars Academy.

The lead author is anthropologist and long-time historian Steve Gilford. The 189-page full-color book contains historical photos from the Kaiser Permanente archives and tells how KFSN students learned a new philosophy emphasizing prevention, wellness, and integrated patient care.

4 young women inside a dorm room reading a book

KFSN students in dorm room, circa 1956    

“The KFSN alumni and faculty share a tremendous sense of satisfaction in the accomplishments of their school, revealed through interviews and archival research in this book,” said Linda Knodel, senior vice president for National Patient Care Services and chief nurse executive at Kaiser Permanente. “The school exemplified an inspirational vision and leadership that responded to the demands of the time: the building of Grand Coulee Dam; World War II; transformation in health care financing, delivery, and technology; and the revolutionary civil rights movement. That connection to what is happening within our communities is at the core of Kaiser Permanente nursing today.”

One point of pride is that the KFSN included students of color from its beginning. It was also tuition-free for the first 10 years, offering substantial financial support after that. This legacy continues, with proceeds from the sale of the book to benefit the KFSN Alumni Association’s Scholarship Fund for nursing student tuition. The amount of the scholarship is determined by the funds available and number of qualified applicants.

The book can be ordered directly from the publisher, Moss Communications. An e-book version will be available as well.

Book cover