NEWS

Mount Nursing dean reveals history of 1960s Chicago-based nursing school for men

April 10, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -

Susan LaRocco, Dean of Mount Saint Mary College’s School of Nursing.

Susan LaRocco, Dean of Mount Saint Mary College’s School of Nursing.

In 1969, the Alexian Brothers Hospital School of Nursing in Chicago – one of the few nursing schools for men in the United States – closed its doors for good.
 
Susan LaRocco, Dean of the School of Nursing at Mount Saint Mary College, refused to let the rich history of the school or its alumni be lost to time.
 
LaRocco’s talk “Histories of the Men Who Graduated from the Alexian Brothers Hospital School of Nursing” drew from her interviews with nearly two dozen men who graduated from the Alexian Brothers Hospital School of Nursing, as well as her research in the Provincial archives. The goal of LaRocco’s efforts was to present the history of the defunct nursing school and its impact on those who used to attend.
 
According to LaRocco, during the 1950s and 1960s, many nursing schools did not admit men. The Alexian Brothers Hospital School of Nursing in Chicago was one of the few male nursing schools in the United States, and when it closed, it was the last of its kind.
 
Those who graduated from the Alexian Brothers School had a unique educational experience, with much of their clinical time spent in the all-male hospital.
 
“How they chose nursing, and their accomplishments as nurses, are a fascinating and under-reported piece of nursing history,” said LaRocco, whose major interest in academic research is the recruitment and retention of men in the nursing field.
 
LaRocco discovered that most of the men became nurses due to four factors: the low cost of the education, influence of a family member who was a nurse, some kind of exposure to hospital work such as previous employment in the field, and the desire to be a nurse anesthetist (an occupation with a higher salary than other nurses).
 
Some of the men experienced gender discrimination, LaRocco reported. Often, students would apply to the Alexian Brothers School of Nursing because they knew other nursing schools would not accept them.
 
“I was turned down by every school in the state of Wisconsin, and you know the obvious reason,” said one interviewee, “Roger,” of the Class of 1959. “I was a male and I wasn’t accepted. There wasn’t a school in the state that accepted men at the time.”
 
However, LaRocco added that everyone she interviewed found nursing to be a fulfilling career.
 
“We were serious on how to work, yet joyful in our appearance,” noted Roger. “I would have to say in my 50 years of nursing, since ’59, I have not had one day, not one day that I ever, ever regret coming into the profession.” 
 
The talk was part of the college’s Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) series. The goal of iROC is to “provide a forum for Mount faculty, staff, and students to showcase their research endeavors with both Mount Saint Mary College and the local community in a manner easily understood by attendees,” explained series coordinators Merkhofer and Jennifer Park, assistant librarian for Access and Outreach services. Presentations include research proposals, initial data collection, and completed research projects.