The Nursing School a the General Hospital in Lvov


The Nursing School at the General Hospital in Lvov was established by the National Department’s Resolution on 29.07.1895, at the beginning as a set of courses of different length.

The National Department signed the agreement with the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul on April 5th, 1870, on supervision and care for the sick in the General Hospital in Lvov (“Przegląd Lekarski” 1870 No 44 p. 353). The nuns did not have any formal preparation, so their care was not sufficient (this was a problem in other hospitals too). Dr Jan Stella Sawicki, inspector of Lvov hospitals, in the report on general hospitals in Galicia for the year 1874, proposed indispensable changes “for the hospitals’ wellness”, and postulated “well-prepared staff, gained by organization of schools at Lvov and Cracow hospitals, where they could learn caring for the sick” (“Przegląd Lekarski” 1875 No 18, pp. 175-176). Referring to texts of Prof. Bilroth and F. Nightingale, on the National Department commission he wrote a manual for caring the sick.

Thanks to the initiative of the National Department and the Red Cross, as well as the activity of the General Hospital in Lvov doctors, the course for the women interested in a nursing profession was organized in 1895. The School for Sick Carers were seated in former Piarists’ convent. It aimed in professional instruction of nursing candidates to work in hospitals and caring homes. A several months’ long course was ended with an exam. However, first graduates did not find employment, because (according to A. Maksymowicz) convent sisters did not allow for introducing educated, secular staff to the hospitals. “In the hospitals where the nuns care for the sick, such professional carers have no place to act, and in local hospitals, where there are no nuns, costs of such a staff exceed their resources” (“Przegląd Lekarski” 1896 No 42 p. 568). Twelve carers graduated the school in two first years of it’s activity, but only one of them, having also a diploma of professional midwife, found employment in a hospital.

The Act on 28.07.1897, “introducing legal foundations for general and public hospitals, as well as institutes for the women in childbirth and the mad, binding in Galicia and Lodomeria, including Cracow Great County”, said, that “caring for the sick, managing kitchen and pantry, supervising the servants, will be given to the nuns or other spiritual association (…). Secular persons can realize these activities only if gaining the nuns proves to be impossible”.

The Nursing School at the General Hospital in Lvov was opened in 1889, established and maintained by the National Department and the Red Cross. It taught the nuns, mostly the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. They realized their internship in convent’s hospitals and caring units.

The medical press mentioned in 1909 the necessity of immediate reform in Galician hospitals, aiming in “disappearance of a source of permanent and justified complaints for hospital services” (“Przegląd Lekarski” 1909 No 41 p. 588). This was one of the most urgent postulates of hospital care: “Galicia is the only part of Polish territory, where nursing could and should have developed. Unfortunately, it is here, where least, almost nothing, has been done until now” (“Lwowski Przegląd Lekarski 1910 No 10 pp. 153-154). Appreciating sisters’ zeal and devotion, attention was put on deficiencies in their professional education.

In 1910 the National Department, according to the new agreement with the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, allocated 2000 crowns annually for opening an obligatory school for the carers in the National Lvov Hospital. Another one was planned in Cracow, and later in local hospitals too.

The first in the country, model school of care for the sick, educating nursing personnel for all public hospitals in Galicia, was opened on March 1st, 1910. The ceremony was participated by: Dr Bernadzikowski, the National Department representative, meritorious in the school development; representatives of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr Krzyszkowski – director of Cracow hospital; inspector of national hospitals Müller, who “did not grudge neither effort nor time, to prepare everything in proper time and place” (“Lwowski Tygodnik Lekarski” 1910 No 10 pp. 153-154).

Dr Józef Starzewski, director and professor of the National School of Nurses, director of the Universal Hospital in Lvov, member of the Highest Council of Health, in his speech on that ceremony, mentioned the country poverty, lack of resources for “rudimentary equipment” of health care units, and dislike of the nuns for nursing education, being afraid that the reform of nursing is against their care, and that they are to be replaced by secular staff, are the causes of “terrible deficiencies in care for the sick”. The Lvov School of Nursing curriculum included an eight months course of theory and practice. There were 24 students from 8 convents in the first year of education. The aim was to educate all the nurses caring for the sick in Galician hospitals.

The new Management Board of the Polish Red Cross gained from the National Department the right to use a national school at the Orthodox Hospital in Lvov. A dormitory was organized at the school, temporary placed in a sanatorium (of Dr Solecki) bought by the Board. It was to be transformed into a nurses’ house, and the school was to prepare nurses for work either in health care units or in private houses. Plans of lengthening courses to two years were destroyed by the World War I. The school was closed in 1914, and re-opened on March 25th, 1922, thanks to the efforts of Maria Czarlińska, responsible for education. It was visited and evaluated by E. Crowell, the Rockefeller Foundation representatives. The instructors tried to realize the whole curriculum of one year during the first, four month long course. There were 123 hours of learning. The doctors gave lectures, and practical lessons were offered by a nursing instructor. The latter depended on situation and the hospital needs. The students worked in the hospital since 6.30 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. with two hours break for learning and meals, supervised by an instructor. A two-years curriculum was implemented in 1924.

The Lvov School of Nursing was graduated by 393 nuns and 54 secular students in the years 1895-1929. On March 1930 there were 63 nuns and 4 secular students. Nursing aids were also educated in the Universal Hospital in Lvov.

The Lvov School of Nursing gained full rights in 1937 – it’s statute and name – the National School of Nursing at the Universal Hospital in Lvov, the stamp and diploma were approved. Since then the enrollment conditions were the same as in other nursing schools: certificate of secondary education or equivalent. The course took 2,5 year, finished with a diploma exam before a commission accepted by the Ministry of Social Care, with it’s representative. The mix-education system were realized, i.e.  lectures and practice simultaneously. Education was payable. The nuns from the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul lived in a closed school dormitory at the General Hospital, other nuns in their convents. The director supervised directly the lecturers, instructors, administrative and support staff.

The School reached it’s best achievements when managed by Izabela Łuszczkiewicz, graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy, Jagiellonian University, and the Higher School of Nursing in Paris, with the French state diploma. She had worked as a nurse at the neurological ward of the General Hospital in Lvov since 1926. She became the ricetor of the School in 1937. She maintained permanent relations with the Paris school, and was bringing the newest medical achievements from abroad. In 1937 only she participated in three international nursing conferences: in Paris, London and Wien, and in Vilnius. She left to New York, a world medical exhibition, just before the war, and came back with a film projector for the patients and guests of the hospital.

The School functioned continuously until 1939, closed because of the World War II and Lvov occupation by the Red Army. That meant, that the School had not been graduated by any student with full professional rights. Izabela Łuszczkiewicz actively participated in an uprising.

The Lvov Nursing School, closely related to the hospital, prepared it’s staff. It’s organization was adapted to the needs of the convents. It educated mostly the nuns, with a few secular students. A hospital director – medicine doctor – managed the school. It’s following directors were probably: Dr Józef Merunowicz, it’s establisher, Dr Józef Starzewski, author of “Caring for the Sick” manual, Dr ZIembiński, head of a ward. Dr Andrzej Pohorecki was a deputy director since 1926.

It is quite difficult (basing on available documents) to indicate precisely, how long the course was, who were the teachers, what where enrollment requirements, or even the following names of the school. It accepted nuns, often not fulfilling those requirements. The hospital interests influenced significantly practical education. The School had not full reights. In § 13 of the Resolution on nursing of March 17th, 1936, the Lvov School was mentioned among “nursing courses to be included among those which can be ranked as professional nursing work, counting one month of a course for 6 months of work”. Not before 1938, after removal of curriculum differences, it was approved by the Health Department of the Ministry of Social Care, and it’s final exam received status of a state one. In the same year the graduates of the National School of Nursing at the General Hospital in Lvov received a right of voting to Senate.

Regarding – among others – organizational status of the School, it’s curriculum far from national and international tendencies in nursing of that time, dominating education of the nuns for the hospital needs, the School – as says J. Kaniewska-Iżycka – had hardly any significance in development of the modern Polish nursing.


Elaborated by Iwona Kowalkowska