July 1, 2015

Sculpture dedicated to Kaiser Nursing School

“We found our voice, we found our place.” Phyllis Moroney, Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing class of 1957 and President of the KFSN Alumni Association Board.

A group of women surround a bronze statue of a female nurse cradling a baby in her arms.
Nurses Dorothy Thomas Hackett, class of 1955 (on left), and Bonnie Davis Grunseth, class of 1968, enjoying the sculpture.

The powerful legacy of the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing was honored on June 20 when a sea of white caps came to dedicate a sculpture installed at the new Kaiser Oakland hospital, a few hundred yards from the site of the original school. Nurse Moroney, herself a Kaiser baby of World War II Kaiser shipyard workers, hosted this culmination of a multi-year project.

At the end of World War II when the Permanente health plan opened to the public, qualified nurses were in short supply. The Permanente Foundation established the school in 1947 to train more nurses and help alleviate the shortage. Before it closed in 1976 it had produced 1,065 nurses and boasted numerous accomplishments. It trained a diverse pool of highly skilled nurses, and student scores in State Board Examinations consistently ranked in the top three of all California programs, including university schools. California’s first nurse practitioners were trained there by physicians from The Permanente Medical Group so they could better work in a pre-paid healthcare system that focused on prevention and wellness.

Grey-haired female nurs with cap seated at a desk.
Phyllis Moroney with sculpture maquette

Betty Saletta's sculpture is an homage to all nurses in the profession, and the nurse’s image was a composite of characteristics of multiple ethnicities, representing the diversity of KFSN students.

The dedication was attended by scores of nurse graduates and Kaiser Permanente officials and physicians, including James Vohs, Health Plan and Hospitals CEO 1975-1992. The school administration reported to Vohs, and he recounted efforts to keep the school alive when California changed its accreditation requirements. Dr. Marilyn Chow, Vice President of National Patient Care Services, pointed out that nurses constitute about a third of the Kaiser Permanente workforce – over 50,000 people. Dr. Chow reminded us of how far the nursing profession has come since the earlier days, when many treatment responsibilities previously only held by physicians are now widely practiced by today’s nurses.

Two smiling women wearing nursing hats
Dorris Facey Lovrin, class of 1950 and Lynn DeForest Robie, class of 1957B, watching unveiling

Dorris Facey Lovrin was present, a proud graduate of the first class in 1950 who retired last year after 63 years of nursing at Kaiser Permanente. Also present was Clair Lisker, class of 1951A, who became a faculty member of the school of nursing early on and touched the lives of every single student of the school. She was Chief Nursing Office of the Oakland Hospital before retirement. Other nurses added their support for this tribute.