La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing (La Junta, Colorado, USA)
The Mennonite Sanitarium Training School for nurses at La Junta, Colorado, was founded in 1915 by the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (MC), under whose general control it operated until the fall of 1949, when it was transferred to the Mennonite Board of Education, whose primary purpose was to administer the educational institutions of the church. Until 1946 the school was an integral part of the Mennonite Hospital and Sanitarium. At this time the school was set up as an independent institution under the direct supervision of a school board of control. The name was changed to La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing. From its beginning the purpose of the school was to "give Christian young women training in the care of the sick in such an environment that they may develop in Christian life and character." The motto of the school, "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister," was the basis for the formulation of the philosophy which underlay its total program. The school was fully accredited by the Colorado State Board of Nurse Examiners from its beginning and it received temporary accreditation from the National Accrediting Service in 1951.
The school’s program covered a period of 39 months: nine months in an accredited college, where the pre-nursing sciences were studied, and 30 months in the nursing school, where the clinical instruction and practice were taught. Clinical practice in medical and surgical nursing, maternity, operating room, tuberculosis, and diet therapy were obtained in the Mennonite Hospital and Sanitarium at La Junta. Pediatric and Psychiatric Nursing were obtained by affiliation with the Children's Hospital in Denver and Colorado University School of Nursing at the State Hospital in Pueblo. An elective in Public Health Nursing was also available through the University.
A total of 343 nurses had graduated by 1957. The enrollment at that time was 51. Lydia Heatwole, a graduate of the first class, was the director 1918-1932, and Nora Mae Miller, of the class of 1923, was the director of education 1925-1950. They were guiding personalities in the history of the school. Maude Swartzendruber became the director in 1943 and Edna Amstutz became the director of education in 1950. Because of a decline in the patient census at the Mennonite Hospital it was decided to discontinue the School of Nursing with the class graduating in 1958.
Dr. Andrew S. Brunk, a young Mennonite doctor from Elida, Ohio, who served as medical director of the Mennonite Sanitarium at Swink, Colorado (some 4-5 miles west of La Junta) from 1911 to 1922, began promoting establishment of an accredited School of Nursing because of the continuing need for trained Mennonite nurses to staff the sanitarium. Although some Mennonites believed that a course in "practical training" was sufficient, the Sanitarium Board authorized Brunk and Emma L. Eby, the sanitarium’s head nurse and matron, to contact the Colorado Board of Nurse Examiners regarding the requirements for setting up a school. Accordingly, the Sanitarium Board established the Mennonite Sanitarium Training School on 7 October 1914, under overall control of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (Mennonite Church). The new school included a strong missionary emphasis with its primary objective being the preparation of Mennonite girls for Christian service in the field of nursing.
Members of the first graduating class in 1918 and all following ones received part of their professional training at hospitals in Denver, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs. Because the nursing students were required to make excursions into these "big and wicked" cities, outside of the protective womb of the Mennonite community, Mennonite Church congregations were established in Denver, Pueblo, and Manitou Springs (the latter near Colorado Springs) during subsequent years in part to serve as safe “Menno havens” and places of spiritual nurture for the nursing students.
When a new 70-bed medical complex – the "Mennonite Hospital and Sanitarium" -- was completed in La Junta under the direction of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities on 8 April 1928, the Mennonite Sanitarium Training School was moved from Swink to the site of the former La Junta City Hospital at 9th and Carson Streets. This facility housed both the school and nurses’ residences from 1928 to 1950. By 1940 the School of Nursing had trained more than 130 nurses, most of whom had reportedly "been saved for the Church" through the auspices of the training program. Until 1946 the school was an integral part of the Mennonite Hospital and Sanitarium. That year the school, renamed the La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing, was reorganized as an independent institution under the direct supervision of a school board of control. During the fall of 1949 administration of the school was transferred to the Mennonite Board of Education.
Miller Hall, named for Nora Mae Miller, a graduate of the school’s class of 1923 and director of its education department from 1925-1950, was constructed at the medical complex in 1950 to house the nursing school and serve as a residence for the nursing students and other hospital and sanitarium nurses. The School of Nursing closed with its last graduating class in 1958. Approximately 350 nurses graduated from the School of Nursing between 1918 and 1958. Thereafter, a Practical Nursing Program was commenced, but it closed in 1973 when Otero Junior College in La Junta took over the program.
See also Mennonite Hospital and Sanitarium
Swartzendruber, Maude. The Lamp in the West. Newton, Kansas: La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing Alumnae Association, 1975.
Unrau, Harlan D. In Pursuit of Land, Health and Mission: A History of Mennonites in the Mountain States Region. Denver: Unrau, 2007.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 264. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Swartzendruber, Maude and Harlan D. Unrau. "La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing (La Junta, Colorado, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2011. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L1835.html.
APA style: Swartzendruber, Maude and Harlan D. Unrau. (October 2011). La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing (La Junta, Colorado, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L1835.html.