School of Nursing Associate Professor Awarded Grants to Complete Nursing History Research

School of Nursing Associate Professor Awarded Grants to Complete Nursing History Research

School of Nursing Associate Professor April Matthias was recently awarded two grants to complete her nursing history research.

The grants—American Association for the History of Nursing H-15 Research Grant ($3000) and The Karyn and Terrance Holm Visiting Scholar Award ($1500)—are funding for archive research to study early distance education, correspondence courses in nursing that operated in the early 20th century.

A correspondence course is a self-guided, self-paced course where instructional materials and examinations are sent through the mail. For these courses, no practical or what is today known as clinical experiences, were required or evaluated, which is the reason this type of course was criticized.

Matthias will focus her research on the Chautauqua School of Nursing in Jamestown, N.Y. and the Chicago School of Nursing in Chicago, I.L., which were the two schools to offer correspondence courses for decades during the early part of the century.

This research will provide an enhanced understanding of the influence these courses may have had on the development of a professional nurse identity and practice role for the graduates. The study will concentrate on the quality of the education offered by these courses, of which an analysis has not yet been published. 

At the time of these courses, there were extreme inconsistencies in preparation of the nurse within hospital training schools. Simultaneously, organized nursing was working to standardize training and protect the title, nurse, by professionalizing nursing practice with registration. But due to the fact that these correspondence courses challenged organized nursing's efforts, no nursing group has evaluated these courses.

An analysis of the courses will provide a new perspective on nursing education’s history and a new lens to view current and future innovative educational methods and delivery formats. Additionally, broadening the historical context of the early educational pathways to nursing practice to include correspondence courses in nursing has the potential to enhance sensitivity to and understanding of challenges experienced by nurse leaders in their efforts to standardize nurse training and professionalize nursing practice in the 20th century. 

“I’m overjoyed that the relevance of these courses to nursing's history was recognized by the grant reviewers and that I presented the relevance with strength in my proposals to be awarded both grants,” Matthias said. “I look forward to contributing to the nursing profession's history with this narrative.”

The grants are for one year. Matthias said she plans on completing the archive research in August and October.