January 2, 1931, the school opened its doors to its first class of 24 undergraduate students under the direction of Dean Bessie Baker and instructor Ann Henshaw Gardiner.
The school has offered many different degrees over the years. The first students, high school graduates, received a diploma after a three-year program that cost just $100 per year. In 1938, the school began offering baccalaureate degrees to students who had completed two years of college along with the nursing curricula. In 1944, the school began a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Education degree program. In 1953, it added a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program. Five years later, under the leadership of Thelma Ingles, The Duke School of Nursing was one of the first schools in the nation to offer a graduate nursing program.
In 1984, as a part of Duke University’s retrenchment plan, the last class of BSN students graduated. The graduate programs also ended in 1984, re-opening in 1985 with a new curriculum and focus on research. In response to the increasing nursing shortage, in 2002 the school once again began offering a BSN degree – this time as an accelerated, 16-month degree offered to students already holding an undergraduate degree. In 2006, the school accepted the first students into the new PhD program. In 2008, the school launched the first Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program in North Carolina to prepare nurses for leadership positions in clinical care.
Fundamental to all of these programs has been the role of the nurse in delivering and improving patient care.
History of Duke University’s School of Nursing (Volume One: 1931 to 1971)
In the years between 1931 and 1971, the School faced an economic depression, a world war, boom times and a cultural revolution. Through it all, our leaders and students moved forward to develop and advance the practice of nursing in teaching, research, and clinical practice. Read how it happened
History of Duke University’s School of Nursing (Volume Two: 1971 to 2013)
With the ongoing growth of the School, new leadership and expanded programs for students, volume two of our history covers one of the most challenge periods when in 1979 the School of Nursing was targeted for closing. From the difficult challenges of this period, visionary leadership, and new programs helped the School enjoy a remarkable turnaround. Read how it happened
1924 - Duke University is founded, being named in honor of Washington Duke and his family.
1925 - James B. Duke leaves a $4 million bequest in his will to create the Duke University School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and Hospital.
1930 - Dean Wilburt C. Davison, MD, the medical school's founding dean, recruits Bessie Baker, RN (1930-1938)to become the first dean of the School of Nursing and head of Nursing Services for Duke Hospital. Baker served as dean, instructor, recruiter, and hospital liaison at Duke University.
1931 - The Duke School of Nursing is founded.
1931 - Baker recruited and selected the first students to enroll in the new three-year diploma program. On January 2nd, 24 young women are admitted as Duke School of Nursing's first class in the new three-year diploma program. Tuition is $100 per year.
1931 - The Alpha Psi chapter of Sigma Kappa is installed, with a focus on education and scholarship, as well as standards of health, personal grooming, and refined manners.
1931 - The Duke Hospital Auxiliary is started.
1932 - Construction of the Nurses Home (later renamed Baker House in honor of Dean Bessie Baker) completed.
1934 - First meeting of the Duke Nursing Alumnae Association.
1938 - The school began awarding baccalaureate degrees to students who completed two years of college along with the nursing curricula.
1939 - Margaret Pinkerton (1939-1946) named Dean.
1942 - During World War II, Duke trains cadet nurse corps and staffs U.S. Army's 65th General Hospital in England.
1944 - Santa Filomena, the senior honor society of the Duke University School of Nursing, is organized to recognize achievement and promote leadership.
1944 - School launches a bachelor of science in nursing education degree.
1946 - Florence K. Wilson (1946-1954) named Dean.
1952 - Hanes House opens as a dormitory for Duke nursing students.
1953 - In response to the challenges of increasingly specialized health care and greater patient responsibility for nurses, the school starts a four-year professional program leading to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.
1955 - Ann Jacobansky (1955-1967 and interim 1970-1971) named Dean.
1956 - Duke Hospital creates nurse clinician position.
1957 - The original Medical School and Hospital are renamed " Duke University Medical Center."
1958 - Under the leadership of Thelma Ingles, MA, RN, professor and chair of the Department of Medical-Surgical Nursing from 1949-62, Duke develops the clinical nursing specialist program, the first master's program of its kind in the United States. This program prepared nurse leaders with advanced clinical knowledge in the delivery and teaching of nursing care.
1960-1961 - Sixteen new graduates of Duke's BSN program institute the Hanes Project, the first primary care nursing project in the country.
1963 - Ruby L. Wilson, EdD, RN, FAAN, is promoted to Duke Hospital's first clinical nurse specialist, providing care for dialysis and kidney transplant patients in the Division of Nephrology. Wilson also developed a training program for corpsmen that led to the later development of Duke's Physician Assistant Program.
1965 - Virginia Stone, PhD, RN, develops and implements the first gerontological master's degree program for nurses interested in caring for older adults.
1967 - Myrtle Irene Brown (1967-1970) named Dean.
1970 - Ann Jacobansky (1970-1971) serves as Interim Dean.
1970 - Wilma A. Minniear, MSN, RN, a former associate professor in the Duke School of Nursing, becomes Duke Hospital's first executive director of nursing services. During her 14-year tenure, she leads the planning of Duke Hospital's North Division, establishes the first quality assurance program in nursing in the U.S., and raises Duke's nursing staff levels from 167 to 1,200 despite nationwide nursing shortages.
1971 - The BSN program implements a major curriculum revision.
1971 - Ruby L. Wilson, EdD, RN, FAAN (1971-1984) named Dean.
1972 - Beta Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing, was established at Duke with a charter membership of 100 students, faculty, and alumni.
1980 - The new $94.5 million, 616-bed Duke North Hospital opens, bringing the total beds to over 1,000.
1984 - Rachel Booth (1984-1987) named Dean.
1984 - The final students of the traditional four-year BSN program graduate and the master's program is closed for a curriculum overhaul as part of Duke University's retrenchment.
1984 - Eight Duke nurses join three pilots to form Duke Life Flight, North Carolina's first private hospital-based helicopter transport service.
1985 - Master of Science Program re-opens with new curriculum.
1987 - Dorothy Brundage (1987-1990) named Interim Dean.
1988 - Friends of Nursing at Duke developed. This program is designed to recognize professional excellence in nursing practice, education and research, and to promote the image of nursing as a positive career choice.
1988 - Duke University Hospital establishes the Clinical Ladder Program to award nursing excellence at the bedside. In subsequent years, the program would grow to encompass three tracks, administration, clinical, and education, and helps to establish succession planning for the nursing staff with focuses on leadership and career development.
1989 - Women's Health Nursing Internship and the Medical Specialty Nursing Internship initiated at Duke.
1991 - With the arrival of Mary T. Champagne, PhD, RN, FAAN, (1991-2004) as dean, the school of enters a period of tremendous growth.
1992 - North Carolina's first Master's Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Program begins at Duke. Other nurse practitioner programs soon follow, including pediatric, acute care and oncology/HIV.
1995 - Duke's family nurse practitioner program launches one of eight national projects designed to address disparities of care in rural areas. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant supports collaboration with East Carolina University to take master's education to rural areas.
1996 - School of Nursing alumna Brenda Nevidjon, MSN'78, RN, FAAN (BSN'72), becomes the first registered nurse to hold the position of chief operating officer of Duke University Hospital.
1998 - Duke Health System expands to include Duke Health Raleigh Hospital, Durham Regional Hospital, Duke Health Community Care and Duke University Affiliated Physicians, adding several hundred more nurses into the Duke Nursing family and expanding learning opportunities for nursing students. Today the Duke University Health System employs more than 5,800 nurses.
1999 - New Health and Nursing Ministries Program created combines master's-level work in theology and advanced nursing practices.
2000 - McGovern-Davison Children's Health Center opens. School launches Trajectories of Aging and Care Center, the first Duke center funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research and a major step toward creating a PhD program.
2001 - Duke School of Nursing ranked #27 of 200 graduate nursing programs in 2001 U.S. News & World Report ranking.
2002 - New 18-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program for students who already have their college degree is established to address the national nursing shortage.
2004 - Catherine Lynch Gilliss, (BSN'71), PhD, RN, FAAN, (2004-2014) becomes the first alumna to serve as Dean of the Duke University School of Nursing and Vice Chancellor for Nursing Affairs.
2004 - Under the leadership of Barbara Turner, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Center for Nursing Research helps Duke reach 23rd in National Institutes of Health research funding for nursing schools nationally.
2005 - Ground is broken on a new facility to physically unite all nursing education and research programs on one campus.
2006 - New PhD program admits first class of students and School occupies brand new state-of-the-art facility is centrally located on Trent Drive, between Duke Clinic and Duke Hospital.
2007 - Duke School of Nursing ranked 5th among all private schools of nursing and 15th overall in US News & World report ranking.
2008 - New DNP program admits first class of 25 students, specializing in translational science. One year later, the program expands to admit 40 new students.
2010 - As of January, the full-time, regular rank faculty for the school totals 56, with males and others historically underrepresented in nursing making up 25%, and 69% holding doctoral degrees.
2010 – Duke School of Nursing ranked #1 Best Nursing School for Men in Nursing by the American Assembly for Men in Nursing.
2011 – The Executive Committee of the Duke Board of Trustees approves the naming of the facility located at 307 Trent Drive as the Christine Siegler Pearson Building. The building’s name honors the philanthropic commitment of J. Michael Pearson, MBA, E’81, and Christine Siegler Pearson, BSN’84, who donated $15 million to the School, the largest single donation Duke University School of Nursing has received to date.
2011 – Duke School of Nursing ranked #7 among graduate schools of nursing in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
2012 – Ground is broken on a 45,000-square foot addition to the Christine Siegler Pearson Building. The expansion project is the result of the School’s rising student enrollment as well as the growth of its research portfolio, academic programs, and innovative partnerships locally and around the world.
2012 – Under the leadership of Diane Holditch-Davis, PhD, RN, FAAN, Duke School of Nursing reaches 10th in National Institutes of Health research funding for nursing schools nationally.
2013 – Duke School of Nursing named the second best Graduate Nursing Program in the country by Graduateprograms.com.
2013 – Duke School of Nursing receives first designation as a National Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing in the category Promoting Pedagogical Expertise of Faculty.
2014 – Under the leadership of Diane Holditch-Davis, PhD, RN, FAAN, Duke School of Nursing reaches 10th in National Institutes of Health research funding for nursing schools nationally.
2014 - Marion E. Broome named Dean; Vice Chancellor for Nursing Affairs, Duke University; and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for Nursing, Duke University Health System.
2015 – Duke School of Nursing receives second designation as a National Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing in the category Enhancing Student Learning and Professional Development.
2015 – Duke School of Nursing reaches 9th in National Institutes of Health research funding for nursing schools nationally.
2016 – Duke School of Nursing ranked #5 among online graduate nursing programs and #6 among graduate schools of nursing in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
2016 – Duke School of Nursing receives the AAMN 2016 Best School or College of Nursing Award by the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN).
2016 – Duke School of Nursing reaches 4th in National Institutes of Health research funding for nursing schools nationally.
2017 – Duke School of Nursing ranked #4 among graduate schools of nursing in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
2017 - Duke School of Nursing receives the AAMN 2017 Best School or College of Nursing Award by the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN).
2017 – Duke School of Nursing ranked #3 among online graduate nursing programs by U.S. News & World Report.
2018 – Duke School of Nursing ranked #1 among graduate schools of nursing in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
2019 - Duke School of Nursing ranked #2 among graduate schools of nursing in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.