The Simmons-Harvard Graduate Program in Public Health Nursing, 1953–1961: An Experiment in Nursing Education


Address correspondence to Phyllis Moore, R.N., Department of Nursing, Simmons College, 300 Th Fenway, Boston, MA 02115. Telephone (617) 738–2207.


This historical study recalls the evolution, contributions, and demise of a graduate public health nursing program. The Simmons College-Harvard School of Public Health Graduate Program in Public Health Nursing existed for eight years from 1953 to 1961. The account of the program's design and cooperative, interdisciplinary approach is based on historical documents, oral histories, interviews, and professional publications. Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the program borrowed the best from two fields: nursing education and public health theory and practice. It relied on institutional cooperation, and highcaliber faculty, students, and curriculum. The program succeeded in preparing students for leadership positions in the nursing field. It failed to sustain the interest of a significant number of students and also failed to become a model for other institutions. The historical division within public health nursing practice, a division that supported two distinct educational tracks—graduate schools of public health and graduate schools of nursing—is one factor that led to the demise of the program.