The Nursing program which began in 1931 was offered jointly by Pembroke College and the Rhode Island Hospital Training School for Nurses. It was called “A Course for the Training of Teachers of Nursing,” and its aim was “to meet the need for graduate nurses properly trained to teach in schools of nursing.” The suggestion for a program of this type first appeared in the report of the Survey Committee which studied the University and made recommendations in 1930. The report mentioned the lack of enough professional opportunities for the increasing number of women college graduates and the advance of the nursing profession to a higher level which would require more educated women, and, as an answer to both problems, recommended a degree program for nurses. The plan for the program was drawn up by Dean Margaret S. Morriss, Dean Samuel T. Arnold, and Professor Charles A. Stuart. The connection with Rhode Island Hospital was a long one. Professor George Ide Chace was president of the Board of Trustees when the hospital’s nursing school was started in 1882. In the same year Charles V. Chapin was appointed instructor of anatomy and physiology at both Brown and the hospital nursing school. Among the Brown biology professors who served on the board of trustees of the hospital were Professor Hermon Carey Bumpus from 1895 to 1901, and Professor Albert D. Mead, who succeeded him in 1901 and was president of the board in 1934. Mead lectured on embryology at the school, Professors Frederic P. Gorham and Charles Stuart lectured on microbiology and immunology, and Professor Samuel T. Arnold lectured on chemistry.
The five-year course led to a diploma from the hospital school of nursing and a bachelor of science degree from Brown. The first three years were spent at Pembroke with summer work at the hospital; the last two years were spent at the hospital with one course each year taken at the College. In addition to the clinical work at Rhode Island Hospital, students were given training in communicable disease nursing at Charles V. Chapin Hospital, in obstetrical nursing at Providence Lying-In Hospital, in psychiatric nursing at Butler Hospital, and in public health nursing by the Providence District Nursing Association. Five students enrolled in the fall of 1931, before the program was formerly approved by the Corporation on January 8, 1932. The first two students were graduated from the nursing school in 1935 and received their degrees in 1936. In the 1938-39 Pembroke College catalogue the name of the program was changed from “A Course for the Training of Teachers of Nursing” to “A Course in Nursing Education.” The course did not have the support of President Wriston, who was wary of situations which involved Brown faculty as instructors in institutions of less than collegiate standing. He did agree that Magel Wilder, assistant professor of biology at Brown, might teach a course in anatomy and physiology for the nursing students. Charlotte C. Skooglund taught the only other course offered at Brown specifically for the nursing students.
The program was beset by problems relating to the coordination of the two autonomous units. The hospital nursing school was wary of control exerted by the University, and the University was reluctant to appoint nursing school teachers to its faculty. Miss Skoogland held a dual appointment as director of the hospital nursing school and assistant professor of nursing education at Brown with an office in Pembroke Hall. Miss Skoogland initiated a review of the nursing program, addressing a questionnaire to the 45 graduates from 1936 to 1948, and a meeting of a “Special Committee on the Five Year Program” composed of University and hospital representatives was held on November 3, 1948. The success of the nursing program was further thwarted when the National Nursing Accrediting Service visited in 1950 and accredited the hospital nursing school, but not the five-year program. Later invitations to apply for accreditation in 1953 and 1957 were not pursued. In 1959 a special committee, noting that the University of Rhode Island and Salve Regina College were offering four-year nursing programs and that the steps necessary for accreditation of the Pembroke program were not practical considering the small number of students, recommended that registration for the bachelor of science degree in nursing be discontinued with the class entering in 1960. The last nursing diploma received by a Pembroke student was awarded in November 1963, and the last degree in nursing in June 1964.