As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Baptist Health, I want to highlight that it’s also the 100th anniversary of our educational program, which began with the original School of Nursing that opened at the same time as the original hospital.
Nursing education has changed significantly during the past 100 years, as has nursing practice. Those first students lived in the hospital and were trained by the hospital’s physicians and staff nurses in an apprentice-like system.
This training focused on the practical skills the nurses needed. It’s hard to imagine doing this today, but early students recalled that they each were given one syringe that they had to sterilize after each use, and that the same needle was used repeatedly and resharpened periodically.
Nurses at that time were expected to dispense prescribed medicine and to keep patients safe, clean, fed, and comfortable. Available technology was minimal and care was mostly routine.
By the 1950s nursing required additional skills, and nurses increasingly had to identify and solve care problems using their own judgement. Diploma programs began to be replaced by degree programs that included college-level education as advanced critical-thinking skills became more and more necessary.
Baptist Health’s educational programs evolved and grew as health care and technology advanced. Specialized training began in the 1950s with the School of X-ray Technology, followed by the School of Medical Laboratory Science and the School of Practical Nursing in the 1960s.
By 1989, the system had added schools for Histotechnology, Nuclear Medicine Technology, and Coding Technology and the educational program had outgrown the existing space—the nursing schools alone enrolled 484 students in 1989, a 42% increase from the previous year. In fact, by 1990, ours was the largest hospital-owned school of nursing in the country.
The various schools moved from the downtown campus to their current home in west Little Rock—the former I-430 Shoppers Mall located at Colonel Glenn and Bowman roads—in 1989. The Baptist Medical System Foundation raised more than $100,000 at its second annual Bolo Bash to help renovate the new facility for the school.
Baptist Health Schools became Baptist Health College in 2015 after gaining certification through the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to grant degrees. Today the college offers nine programs of study:
- Medical Laboratory Science – Medical Technologists perform tests on blood and body fluids to determine the presence or absence of disease, monitor response to treatment, and aid in health maintenance.
- Nuclear Medicine Technology – Nuclear Medicine Technologists utilize small amounts of radioactive pharmaceuticals for diagnosing and treating various diseases.
- Occupational Therapy Assistant – Occupational Therapy Assistants help clients of all ages learn or regain the skills required to function as independently as possible with self care, work, play and leisure activities.
- Practical Nursing – Under the supervision of a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse provides direct patient bedside care such as personal hygiene, treatments, and medication administration.
- Radiography – Radiographers are medical professionals who perform diagnostic x-ray examinations using ionizing radiation and assist physicians in the diagnosis of disease.
- Traditional – Nurses provide and direct others in the provision of nursing care to patients in acute care settings and a variety of other healthcare agencies.
- LPN/Paramedic – Nurses provide and direct others in the provision of nursing care to patients in acute care settings and a variety of other healthcare agencies. The Accelerated Track is an option for Paramedics and LPN/LPTNs who wish to become a nurse.
- Sleep Technology – Sleep technologists are medical professionals responsible for patient care and outpatient procedures associated with the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.
- Surgical Technology – Surgical technologists work under the supervision of a surgeon or registered nurse, and anticipate the needs of the surgeon utilize surgical equipment and provide for the needs of the patient and surgical team.
We are proud to have launched the careers of thousands of nursing and allied health professionals during our long history. And we’re proud that so many of our graduates have chosen to work for Baptist Health after graduation.