Celebrating the History of California Hospital Medical Center

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Dignity Health’s unique museum offers a glimpse into the nursing’s past

The California Hospital Medical Center, then known as the California Hospital School of Nursing, first began on June 11, 1898 at Dr. Walter Lindley’s private hospital on 6th Street in downtown Los Angeles. The hospital only accommodated up to eight patients, and four nursing students graduated from the school on June 10, 1899.

California Hospital Medical CenterAt the turn of the century, the School of Nursing moved to the new five-bed California Hospital building on South Hope Street, which was considered one of the largest private hospitals in the country. In 1921, the management of California Hospital was transferred to the Lutheran Hospital Society of Southern California. In 1924, Mr. Adolph Larson, a building contractor and president of the California Hospital Board of Directors, built a new nurse’s home at 320 West 15th Street. lt housed 150 students and became known as “Larson Hall”. The building provided not only living quarters for the nursing students, it also had classroom and laboratory space. May 2, 1926 the new building was able to accommodate 35 patients, plus bassinettes for infants opened.

Growth of the Profession

During the early 1940s the United States became increasingly involved in World War ll, and the demand for nurses grew rapidly. To meet the need, the Federal Government enacted the United States Cadet Nurse Corp. Most of the Class of 1946, which entered the California Hospital School of Nursing in 1943, volunteered to become part of this Cadet Nurse Corp in October. Since 1948, students entering the California Hospital School of Nursing had the opportunity to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing with a Registered Nurse license from the University of Southern California. The quality of this education extended into the curriculum with the School of Nursing receiving accreditation with both on-site and written surveys with accreditation through the final graduation Class of 1984.

After serving the nursing profession for 86 years, the Board of Directors of California Hospital School of Nursing reached a decision to close the school. The Class of 1984 was the last to complete the school’s diploma nursing education. The purpose of the School of Nursing was completed, but its rich tradition of excellence will continue in the memories of the graduates and in the archive room.

Telling the Story of Nursing

At present, in the Leavey Hall building, there is a wonderful room known as The Archive Room. It tells the history of the Dignity Health – California Hospital Medical Center and its excellent historical program where the three-year diploma nurses graduated to become some of the country’s leading registered nurses.

According to Margaret R. Peterson, Ph.D., RN, and president of Dignity Health – California Hospital Medical Center, “The Archive Room will take you back to 1898 with pictures, books, nursing attire, and medical equipment. Everyone who enters the room stands and looks with wonder and awe at the wool cape and capping ceremony that is now the celebrated iconic and historical figures of the School of Nursing.”

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Autumn Heisler
Autumn Heisler

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer for ADVANCE for Nursing. Contact her at aheisler@advanceweb.com.

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