Nurses

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First graduating class of the Jackson Sanatorium Training School for Nurses, 1902. Middle row center is Mrs. Elizabeth Alsdorf, the first Superintendent of Nurses. Courtesy of the Town of North Dansville Historian’s Collection.

The Jackson Sanatorium Training School for Nurses


The Jackson Sanatorium Training School for Nurses was established in Dansville in 1902 and was fully accredited by the New York State Regents two years later. The school operated successfully until about 1915 when the institution went into bankruptcy.


Although the school was short-lived, it was recognized as a quality training program and offered specialized training in hydriatics (water cures), massage, and the nursing of convalescent and neurasthenic (fatigued and/or depressed) patients. Several graduates of the Training School for Nurses went on to distinguish themselves in the field of nursing and medical administration.  


It is not coincidental that a nurses’ training school in Livingston County was established here, given Dansville’s national reputation as a place for health and wellness. After all, Dansville was the location of the world’s largest water cure. It was also where Granula, America’s first cold breakfast cereal, was invented, and was the town where Clara Barton founded the first chapter of the American Red Cross.


The 20th century ushered in an era of change as the Jackson Sanatorium was experiencing declining business. Labor-intensive water cures and health resorts in general suffered amid economic distress. As a means of survival, the institution transitioned away from the stringent dietary restrictions and somewhat radical methods of the mid- to late 1800s established under Dr. James Caleb Jackson, the original owner. His son, Dr. James H. Jackson, branched out and embraced more mainstream medical practices and developed the three-year nurses’ training program, which prepared graduates to become registered nurses in an effort to meet the demand of the expanding hospital systems in the U.S.


Some practices at the Jackson Sanatorium (renamed the Jackson Health Resort) did not change, however. Exercise, healthy dietary choices, cultural entertainment, and intellectual stimulation were still promoted as keys to wellness. Dr. James H. Jackson emphasized that student nurses must not only be capable of caring for the sick but also be qualified to teach them how to stay healthy - a fundamental philosophy passed down from his father. 


Bankruptcy of the Jackson Health Resort ended the nurses’ training school but did not end the story of the institution. During World War I, the U. S. Army leased the facility for use as a hospital. The Jackson staff was discharged and the patients were released. A large contingent of Army officers, staff, and Red Cross nurses began arriving November 21, 1918, just ten days after the war ended.


The hospital treated several hundred soldiers. This time period coincided with the height of the Spanish Influenza epidemic and Dansville was not immune to the virus. More than 1,000 residents were infected and several citizens and health workers in the community died as a result. In addition to taking care of sick soldiers, the Army doctors and nurses from the hospital also provided assistance to the Dansville community. By 1920, the hospital closed and the military vacated the property. The remaining veterans were transferred to VA hospitals. The Jackson Health Resort buildings were in rough condition and then eventually sold. The legacy of promoting health and wellness was left to the next generation of owners.

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Class of 1940, Craig Colony Training School for Nurses

Craig Colony Training School for Nurses


Craig Colony School of Nursing was organized in 1897, one year after Craig Colony for Epileptics opened for patients. The first class graduated in 1899 and consisted of four males and seven females. The school operated until 1977 and boasted a total of approximately 750 graduates. Upon successful completion of their courses, many of the nurses joined the large staff of Craig Colony and cared for upwards of 2,000 patients annually. The nurses’ clinical experience included chronic nervous disorders, and medical, surgical, orthopedic, pediatric and rehabilitative nursing.


The New York State institution for epileptics was established in 1894 in the hamlet of Sonyea, in the town of Groveland, on the former Shaker lands. The first patients were admitted in 1896. The locating of Craig Colony in Livingston County was due to William Pryor Letchworth, who received international recognition for his work in social reform. The colony was constructed on over 1,900 acres using the cottage plan - a cluster of small buildings rather than one large structure. 


Craig Colony for Epileptics, named in honor of Dr. Oscar Craig of Rochester, was the second institution specifically for epileptics in the United States. Craig had a working farm, craft shops, a school, churches, and a hospital. The nursing service administered to the hospital patients and also to those residing in the colony’s 37 buildings.


In 1912, the Craig Colony School of Nursing was re-organized and in 1913 became Craig Colony Training School for Nurses, accredited by the New York State Education Department. This change elevated the status of the school and was the beginning of affiliations with major hospitals in New York City and across the state. 


America’s entry into World War I in 1917, and the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1918, led to a severe shortage of nurses nationwide that extended into the early 1920s. During that time period only a handful of students graduated from the school, yet the program managed to survive.


Changes occurred in the 1920s as the two-year course expanded to three years, pupils were required to take an entrance exam, and nursing schools across the state were required to include nutrition and cooking instruction. In the 1930s, maximum work hours were established with an eight-hour-per-day shift for nurses and four-hour shift for students, in addition to their classes. 


WWII ushered in another era of change and challenges for the Craig Colony Training School as many nurses (and other hospital staff) enlisted in military service. In addition, an application was made to the U. S. Public Health Service for approval of the School of Nursing participation in the U. S. Cadet Nurse Corps. According to the organization’s website, this was the nation's first integrated uniformed U.S. service corps. While nurses fulfilled an urgent need in the military during the war years, enlistments led to a lack of students entering the Craig Colony Training School.


Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, enrollments increased and class sizes grew to the largest since the training school’s inception. The curriculum expanded as students began to take college courses at SUNY Geneseo in addition to affiliating with major hospitals and taking nursing classes at Craig Colony. The curriculum also included a four-week block at the New York State Tuberculosis Hospital at Mt. Morris before that hospital closed in 1971.


The 1970s witnessed the era of de-institutionalization, and together with state budget cuts, this led to the demise of the Craig Colony Training School for Nurses. In 1972, the nursing program was reduced from three to two years. The school merged with Alfred State College to offer an associate’s degree in nursing. Then, in 1976, Craig was one of a dozen state nurses’ schools to come under the axe, despite the continuing need for professional nurses locally and across the state.


Craig Colony Training School for Nurses weathered many storms, including two world wars, an influenza pandemic, and the Great Depression before the school was forced to close. The last class graduated May 28, 1977, after a successful run of 80 years.

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Mrs. Josephine G. Buckley, 1933

Geneseo Visiting Nurse Association

 

In 1914, Mrs. Josephine G. Buckley of Geneseo, secretary of the St. Michael’s Episcopal Church branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society, saw an opportunity to improve public health services for Geneseo residents. The Girls’ Friendly Society had fundraised through local events, helping to furnish the Village of Geneseo with its first visiting nurse, Miss Katharine Lesser. The ladies’ organization eventually concluded, however, that a visiting nurse program would be better able to meet public health needs if it were a separate organization in partnership with Village of Geneseo officials. Thus, the Nurse Association of the Village of Geneseo was formed in January 1914. Its purpose was to employ a registered nurse to make house calls for chronic cases as well as emergency situations and provide public health education.


The Nurses’ Auxiliary was established almost immediately to help support the equipment needs of the Village Nurse. This formed the basis of the present Geneseo Loan Closet, which provides residents with durable medical equipment, such as walkers, wheelchairs, and crutches.


In 1918, as the “Spanish Influenza” pandemic swept through the region, the meeting minutes of the Geneseo Visiting Nurse Association, as it came to be known, capture little of the Village Nurse’s intense work. During two meetings in 1919, the tremendous labors by Miss Louise Krotsch, the Village Nurse at the time, were primly summarized:


“Meeting Tues Mar 25 [1919]

The meeting was largely a discussion of the diphtheria conditions of Geneseo at the present time.

It was suggested that the Secretary write a notice for the paper, showing the efficient way in which the village nurse has cooperated with the health officer + the doctors in the influenza epidemic, in the discovering of the preventive measures taken against further cases.

A dance + play are to be given May 2 by the Girls’ Friendly. Village nurse asso. asked to cooperate in serving refreshments.

Meeting adjourned till 2nd Tues in Apr.

 

Annual Report [June, 1919]

There is little doubt that the Village of Geneseo was saved from a serious epidemic during the time that the surrounding towns were in the throes of Influenza though the work of the Village Nurse.

She also did efficient work during an epidemic of Diphtheria in the Italian Quarter. …

Miss Krotch was of great assistance in discovering probable cases of tuberculosis during the recent tb. clinic. …

The value of the work of a village nurse in a community of this size cannot be overestimated.

 

Newspaper articles around this time praised the Village Nurse for her long days and “persistent and unobtrusive campaign for better sanitation and greater cleanliness in our homes.”


The Geneseo Visiting Nurse Association saw the resignation of Miss Krotsch in 1920, but continued operations. The Village Nurse assisted the elderly, visited expectant and new mothers, tracked cases of communicable disease, distributed milk and cod liver oil to undernourished children, and provided instruction in sanitation, among many other responsibilities. A clinic, first held on Court Street, was later located in the Village Building on Main Street.


The Village Nurse worked under the direction of local physicians, and funds for the program came from village appropriations, the Community Chest, individual charitable donation, and fees paid by patients. If a patient was not able to pay, however, services to them were free. Although well-known Geneseo men served as advisors initially, the executive committee consisted mainly of women during the Association’s operation.


In 1964, the Livingston Republican reported that Geneseo was the only village in the region that still supported a visiting nurse. But by autumn of 1975, with the modernizing system of hospitals, clinics, and county and regional home health care agencies, the Geneseo Visiting Nurse Association was discontinued after 61 years of service.


Livingston County continued to be served by a local home health agency, operated by the Livingston County Department of Health, until the Visiting Nurse Association of Western New York purchased the agency in 2013.


(By Holly Watson, Deputy County Historian, 5.2020)


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Mt. Morris Tuberculosis Hospital

Information coming soon!