History of the Polish Red Cross Nursing School in Poznań

On August 1st, 1921, on the Polish Red Cross – Wielkopolska Region initiative, with the American Red Cross participation, the PRC Nursing School in Poznań was opened.

It was a difficult time for Poland and its citizens. Years of servitude, gehenna of the World War I, caused poverty and huge shortages. The American Red Cross and the Rockefeller Foundation offered help. Funds were also gathered thanks to generosity of citizens of Poznań and Wielkopolska Region.

The School was sited in a private apartment on 5 Grottgera street, 3rd floor, nearby hospital were students worked. It consisted of a demonstration, recreation, and dining rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. Despite humble circumstances, the School aimed at fully professional nursing education on international level, both in practical and theoretical aspects. Education was modeled on American nursing, because the teaching personel consisted of American nurses sent by the ARC. During the first two years the School’s director was Miss Ita Mc Donell, cooperating with other American nurses – Miss Mettel, Miss Johnson, and Miss Skorupa.

Despite difficult circumstances, recruitment was particularly selective. Precedence belong to the candidates with higher education or experience in social or educational work. Criterion of preliminary education was finished 6 classes of junior high school. Other criterion was a candidate’s age – between 18 and 35 years. Health report from a family doctor, current immunization certificate against chicken-pox, moral certificate from local priest were also required.

The students mostly came from well-situated families, because education was quite expensive. Apart from registration tuition fees, a candidate  had to bring: a clock with second hand, scissors, a napkin ring, two bag for dirty clothes, slippers, a dressing-gown, comfortable black or yellow low-heel shoes, adequate number of modest underwear and clothes.

The course in Nursing School in Poznań took two years, including three months of trial. After this trial each candidate was evaluated by the Director, who decided whether she can be enrolled or not. Practical skills, as well as learning outcomes were verified.

The first course was graduated by 9 of 10 students. They become an extremely valuable as a fundament of instructive and managerial personnel in the following years. Among them were: Janina Bejner, Elżbieta Borkowska, Kazimiera Chełmińska, Dorota Dudzińska, Maria Jędrzejewska, Zofia Łazarewicz, Irena Rudzka, Maria Stenclówna, Aniela Żniniewicz.

In 1923, when the ARC mission in Poland was closed, the School faced financial and personal difficulties. Thanks to the graduates’ determination, and the efforts of the PRC – Wielkopolska Branch, it was kept open. However, those deficiencies influenced negatively on an educational process – the second course was completed by only 5 students, the third – only 4 students.

The situation become slightly better in 1925, when the School received a practical training site in Gniezno. Number of students increased to 50-60 annually, on all courses in total. However, transport of students, teachers, and a director was tiring and expensive. IN 1927, thanks to intervention and support of Prof. Jurasz – member of the PRC Management Board – the School received new sites for practical training in the Transfiguration Hospital in Poznań. Devotion of the students and instructors resulted in vanished prejudices and increased awareness of managerial staff in healthcare settings regarding professional education of nurses. Since 1930 practical training was realized only in Poznań hospitals. In 1931 the School’s existence was menaced again. Increasing number of students resulted in financial difficulties. The PRC Management Board accepted patronage, and financed the School since 1932 until the WW II outbreak. The year 1938 was breakthrough and joyful. On December 22nd the School moved to the new building at 28 Wały Leszczynskiego street, called “a glass palace” by the students. There were optimistic perspectives of development. A modern building, planned for 120 students, was perfectly equipped for educational purposes. Unfortunately, tragic September 1939 broke and damaged everything.

Before the WW II the Higher Nursing School in Poznań realized 33 nursing courses, graduated by approx. 300 students before 1939.

Elaborated by Jadwiga Gnich, based on the CAPN documents