Washington Hospital School of Nursing _Lives of persons and families in 'Little Washington'_Washington County PA Genealogy and Family History

Life in Washington Co., PA "Little Washington" 
1700s to Present


Washington Hospital School of Nursing

The Washington Hospital School of Nursing has graduated many local women, and men.  These once-students became professional Registered Nurses, serving locally and across the nation.  Each page will focus on a different person.

Nurses with old caps


The Washington Hospital School of Nursing (with picture) - Est. 1897:  The picture shown in the website link is the Main (front) door of the School, a door I entered the first time in 1980 for an entrance interview.  Inside the door is a very small (4-foot square?) foyer.  The front desk is inside on the left, where the House Mother doubled as telephone receptionist.  Between 1981-83, the school still had a dorm section for students who were not local.  Being a native of Washington, I never saw the dorm rooms.  After our class graduated, they eliminated the residence for out-of-town students (I guess they have to find apartments now.)

  The graduating class of 1983 (my class) was the last completely Diploma Program offered at WHSN to become a Registered Nurse.  The next year, students were required to take classes at California State University (California PA) as part of the WHSN program.  Our class completed 2175 hours and completed 90 weeks of practice; now they require 1085 clinical hours plus 34 college credits through Waynesburg College.  Over 4000 students have graduated from WHSN over the years.

  Because nursing standards (the things that govern what nurses can do or should know) changes so frequently, probably every class has different stories of what they were required to do in order to graduate.  Nursing, by its nature, is a changing profession.  Nursing has gone from a role of being a "hand-maiden" to doctors, to now being independent professionals who have a very distinct role in the care and well-being of patients.

  As well, the school requirements have changed.  In the 1930's and 1940s, nursing students lived at the school; I believe it was required.  During the '40s, the Pennsylvania Nursing Board also issued LPNs a "licensed by Waiver," in which they proved what they knew 


  I'm not sure how old she was, but one "Mrs. Chase" was an integral part of WHSN in 1981-83 when I attended.  Regardless of her age, Mrs. Chase seemed an eternal 25-30 year old. She never complained, despite her illnesses (of which she had many).  Nor did she complain about inept nursing students who sometimes rolled her too far to one side of the hospital bed, or when she was treated a bit roughly by some.  

Mrs. Chase was largely ignored also, staying quietly in her room, awaiting care by the next class.  No one ever offered to brush her hair, or rub her back.

But, throughout student's inattentiveness, Mrs. Chase's only goal was to teach all of us good nursing skills.  A few students got so attached to Mrs. Chase that they said they would invite her to our class graduation... but... Mrs. Chase never got to see any of the students walk across the stage in white uniforms as we each accepted our diplomas.  At the end of the day, just as at the end of a school year, Mrs. Chase was often just left half laying across her hospital bed, or worse, stuffed in a corner like an adult-sized doll.  Indeed, through the years, Mrs. Chase has been the best practice-mannequin ever to assist student nurses.  Her plastic-like skin and almost-real hair, and eyes that seemed to follow us while in the room, were the only things that confirmed she was not really "human."  But, for the amount of times students noticed that they felt rather fond of her, she certainly evoked human feelings from us all.  Mrs. Chase, I am told, still resides on the lower floor of the School, and continues to meet students of every class.


  Our other instructors helped us learn a lot about Mrs. Chase, and our other very human patients and their very real illnesses.  Mrs. Rose Scuglia was probably the toughest instructors that WHSN has ever employed.  Teaching "Life Science Labs," (think cellular, and microscopes, and slides of things both marvelous and yuckky), Mrs. Scuglia was very, very intelligent, and very tough.  (Using "was" sounds like she is gone, but she is still very much alive and still teaches at the school -- I bet she's just as tough, too!)  The lab (room) is on the lower floor also, as is the auditorium where all the other classes are taught.  In the lab each student had a separate cubicle made of a desk with a high back.  On each desk top sat a large cassette player with headphones attached.  Mrs. Scuglia had taped a class lecture (yes, every one was on tape) and each student had a stapled booklet of questions that needed answered.  The answers were on the tape - sounds easy huh?  The only thing easy was putting on the headphones, inserting the tape, and turning on the player.  To get the answers required listening, re-winding the tape, listening to it again.... and again...and again... and........... again............ until............... finally...............you..........found........ "the" ........ one answer ........that..... fit......... the........ specific........question!


  Often the questions were in several parts, each part needing an answer.  The type of question might be: "Name the essential structures of the heart" or to name all the components present normally in blood.  The class covered biology, micro-biology, science, chemistry -- and everything except how planets came into existence!  The booklet was not a test, just a study guide, but the booklet had to be done each week in order to fulfill the Life Science class requirement.  With a hundred-some students vying for maybe 10 desks, each of us had a limited number of hours we could stick our butts on a seat in the lab.  Each of us rushed to get to the sign-up sheet first, to enter our name in the 2-hour time slots given, before someone else took the times we wanted most.  For moms (and dads, yes we had at least 1 male student) and if someone had a job at all outside school, there was high-anxiety to get signed up for lab time.  And, if the material was difficult, it might take double the "suggested amount of time" needed to complete that week's material.  It wasn't unusual for folks to eat lunch while listening to the tape, once all the way through, then after eating they'd listen again to the whole tape, busily scribbling with pen/pencil on the open study guide.  And, always in the back of the student's mind was, first having to find the answers in a 60-90 minute talking tape, second getting the lab done on time, and third whether we'd pass the test at the end of the week that was based all on this material.  Making the test anxiety worse, the actual test covered only about 0.05% of what was in the lab tapes -- meaning, 'ya had to pretty much know everything in order to pass a test that could cover *anything*.


  Ah, leaving Life Science Lab was a joyous day!  Other classes that were just as hard  seemed a lot easier.  Of course, I had little interest in nutrition (gag me), taught by Mrs. Phelan, who often asked rhetorical questions.  Silly me, sometimes I'd offer answers when none was wanted.

  Sometimes the instructors taught classes as team, with Mrs. Campsey, Mrs. Lydic, and Mrs. Estes taking turns at the lectern, each covering a different section of material.  Judith Campsey taught many of the nursing classes, which taught the how-to part of our jobs.  These classes continued throughout the two years, beginning at the basics of taking temperature, pulse, respiration, to using correct body mechanics, and on to more complex nursing duties and practices.  All these classes in the first year were to prepare us for clinicals that started in the beginning of our second year. 


  Clinicals were liberating as well as terrifying.  We'd report a half-hour before the starting times of normal shifts (e.g. 7-3; 3-11; 11-7 -- night turn was in our last semester).  At first we were only assigned to ONE patient, and only part of the nursing care, such as looking up all the medications that patient was taking, listing each one on a 3x5 index card, along with side effects and other information.  Slowly, we were given more and more patients to care for each shift, until by the end of the school year, we'd be caring for one entire "side." [The hospital unit was divided, usually by hallway or section, so a "side" usually meant 20-30 patients or 1/2 of the unit.]  We had rotations through med-surg (medical-surgical), pediatrics, obstetrics, ICU, and the operating/recovery rooms.  It was a very tough year with a lot crammed in and we were all thrilled when it got closer to graduation.


  When I attended, there were three primary ceremonies during the 2 year course.  The first was at the end of the first year.  At the Capping ceremony, we were officially "capped" with our stiff white regular nurse's caps, replacing the caps with a blue stripe that marked each of us as "students."  During our clinicals the second year, our student uniforms was the only thing that set us apart and identified us as learners. 

  The second ceremonial type affair was an awards party, where students were acknowledged for their skills and successes, and also "roasted" based on unique aspects of our personalities or personal habits.  The ceremony and bash was a way to break the seriousness and tension of the fast-paced program, and something we all enjoyed.

  The third, and biggest, our families and friends were present as they had been for the capping ceremony.  But this time, excitement was in the air! Each of us in crisp, new white uniforms, white hose and white nursing shoes, students filed in two columns down the center aisle of Trinity High School Auditorium (big enough for all of us and our guests).  This was the evening of GRADUATION!!  Each column of students turned right or left, filing into the first and second rows down in front of the stage, while students in the chorus continued on up onto the stage where we lined up on risers set up on the auditorium's stage.  After rituals carried on in each graduation ceremony, each student's name was called, and reaching center stage, each was handed their diploma in the midst of rounds of applause.  More than a few students had tears; all had smiles on lit up faces.  It was the hardest two years I ever went through, but also the most satisfying.  


Visit My Town-Talk Pages Also!
Learn about some Washington Co. towns, boroughs 
and areas in the Town-Talk pages.
Rather than fact-only (and often boring) information, I'd like to describe my impressions and experiences of some landmark places in Washington.  Strictly history type information can be easily found on other Washington County, PA websites.


If you are looking for documents, newspaper items, obituaries, etc. for
families of Washington Co., PA and surrounding areas, see my primary website at:

"Little Washington," Washington Co., PA: Genealogy and Family History

McDonald Area Newspapers are also on the Little Washington website.

For pictures of some places, go to

Washington PA Nostalgia 

A few current street scenes are at the City Hall website.

Washington PA Personal Perspectives:  Memories of Locations

Read Jefferson Avenue to Main Street

Read Uptown Landmarks - n1 for North Main Street Locations.

Read Uptown Landmarks - s2 for South Main Street Locations

Read about lower South Main Street to Maiden Street

 City Bus and G.G.& C. Bus Co. - Stories

MAPS see below

Old Webpages from The Washington Business District Authority "Main Street" Program (WBDA) 

-- Bus Route Map 

-- Mapquest City of Washington PA, streets around downtown 

Street Map of 1 South Main Street 
and surrounding streets uptown

-- Washington PA Improvement Development Map with primary downtown locations

-- Old Newsletters from The Washington Business District Authority "Main Street" Program (WBDA) 



This page was last updated on Saturday, December 05, 2015 02:13

Judith Ann Florian
Girard, Ohio 44420

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Backgrounds by Marie. The background was chosen specifically to emphasize the matriarchal role of women in "the life" of children and families, and the resilience of all the women of southwestern Pennsylvania.