The Polish professional nursing, beginning at the first decade of the 20th century, was integrally connected with development of modern nursing schools. Turnover of 19th and 20th centuries was a turbulent time of changes in Europe and globally, as well as time of secular nursing development, started by Florence Nightingale (the Nightingale Training School and Home for Nurses at St Thomas' Hospital in London, opened in 1860). Development of disciplines such as biology and medicine, as well as technology, forced introduction of new methods of treating and care. Changes in medicine and nursing education, new teaching methods have become necessary.
In that times information flow in Poland, was limited by political and geographical division and annexation to Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Cracow, belonging to the Austrian territory, received many privileges. Schools and universities were functioning there, science and the arts were developing. In 1911 the first modern nursing school was opened there - The Professional Nurses School of the Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul.
It’s graduates – like Maria Epstein and Anna Rydlówna – have played importand role in development and maintenance of nursing school after the World War I. In 1918 Poland regained independence. After 123 years of servitude, the state was in extremely difficult economic situation. The Poles’ health became one of fundamental problems.
The American Red Cross Management Board, alarmed by reports concerning dramatic situation in Poland, epidemics of typhoid fever, typhus and dysentery, as well as numerous injured, sent its mission to our country. After evaluation of number and professional competencies of nurses, the Mission Headquarters in Paris decided about its help in organization of nursing school in Poland. Nine schools were established in the years 1918-1939 (second are closing dates):
- The Polish Red Cross Nursing School in Poznań – July 27, 1921,
- The Warsaw Nursing School – September 19, 1921,
- The Nursing School at the Orthodox Jew Hospital in Warsaw – July 8, 1923,
- The University School for Nurses in Cracow – December 12, 1925,
- The PRC School of Nursing and Social Care in Katowice – April 1, 1927 – September 30, 1929,
- The PRC School of Nursing in Warsaw – April 19,1929 – 1944,
- The Regional Union of National Health Service in Poznań – April 5, 1932 – February 15, 1934,
- the Catholic School for Nurses in Poznań – October 22, 1936,
- The Nursing School at the Public Hospital in Lvov – 1938 (full rights).
First three of them, organized thanks to American funds, realized a nursing education system of the United States. Most of them were managed by perfectly educated American nurses.
Curricula were developed by particular schools and accepted by the Ministry of Public Health. The graduates, with their attitudes and professionalism, confirmed rightness of those changes. Women caring for the sick with no adequate preparation were particularly attended. They received possibility of continuing education and registration after passing the state examinations. After the World War II outbreak, the nursing schools were closed, like many others. The only ones survived were those in Warsaw.
The Warsaw Nursing School worked until the Warsaw Uprising. The Nursing School at the Transfiguration Hospital worked until the end of occupation. Both were active in the resistance.
Many nurses died in the battles, in concentration camps and prisons, the others have no possibility to come back to Poland and the profession because of political reasons. Destroyed country required immediate activities rescuing life and health of its citizens. Lack of qualified medical personnel forced many temporary and quick forms of nursing education. There were eighteen possibilities of gaining professional nursing registration until 1965.
Nursing education after the World War II will be presented subsequently.
Elaborated by Krystyna Wolska-Lipiec