Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing grads launch fundraising campaign.
Guest author: Deloras Jones, RN, MS, Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing Alumni Association Board member
Sidney Garfield, MD, Kaiser Permanente's co-founder with Henry J. Kaiser, had a vision for health care. A key component of his dream was high-quality care and the requisite excellent education and training for the physicians and nurses who would take care of the health plan’s patients.
Garfield articulated his hopes for the future in the "Second Annual Report of the Permanente Foundation Hospital," 1945:
We have mentioned previously our conviction that teaching and training is essential to quality maintenance.
We are planning an accredited school of nursing which will be free from the traditional pressure of economics on nursing education, and permit proper emphasis and time in the purely medical aspect of instruction, carrying this on to nursing specialization in the various fields and medical care on a parallel with resident physician training in medicine.
In line with Garfield’s vision: The Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing opened its doors in 1947 at the Oakland hospital offering a three-year diploma program. Over the decades, strong leadership and high academic standards earned the school a reputation as an exemplary institution.
The school was noted for its recruitment of students that represented the diversity of the community — this set it apart from most others at that time in California.
From the beginning, students took general education and science courses at nearby College of Holy Names in Oakland and Contra Costa College in El Sobrante; this allowed them to earn credits that were transferable to a four-year college where they could pursue higher degrees.
KFSN students participated in clinical rotation programs in rehabilitation, community, and rural health. In the 1960s and 1970s, the school’s California licensing board examination scores were consistently in the top three in the state.
In 1976, the school graduated its last class, as the Board of Trustees was unsuccessful in developing a partnership with a four-year college to offer a baccalaureate degree in nursing. Over a period of 30 years, 1,065 nurses were educated at the school of nursing.
The 2014 opening of the new Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center is a unique opportunity to commemorate the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing’s contribution to the heritage of Kaiser Permanente.
Medical center planners have set aside space in the main corridor of the new specialty medical office building for the recounting of Oakland Kaiser Permanente’s history. The Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing Alumni Association has collaborated with medical center officials and the Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources staff to develop a portion of the display to recognize the school of nursing.
Additionally, the alumni association plans to raise funds to pay for a life-size bronze sculpture of a student nurse. The statue will be given to the Oakland Medical Center, which was the home of the nursing school.
The sculpture will be placed in a prominent location on the new Oakland campus, serving as a monument to the legacy of the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing and to honor the nursing profession as a whole.
The likeness of the nurse with a child will remind passers-by of the essential contribution nurses make to the health of the community and the care they provide to all patients.
The nursing school alumni association’s mission also includes promoting professional nursing careers and the advancement of the profession through scholarships for nursing education.
Editor's note: Deloras Jones, RN, MS, retired Kaiser Permanente nursing leader, is a member of the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing Alumni Association Board and serves as the association's Heritage Project director. She graduated from the school with the Class of 1963.
Clair Lisker, RN, MSc, retired Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center nursing administrator, longtime nursing school faculty member and graduate of the Class of 1951, provided historical information for this article.