Pioneers of Nursing at The UWI

Photo from 1955 Pelican Annual

Like the 33 medicals students who made history in 1948, 47 young women, on January 4, 1949, forged a new path when they enrolled in the Basic Nursing Education Programme at the University College Hospital of the West Indies.[1] The programme had two phases. Phase one was a three-month Preliminary Training School programme that students had to successfully complete before they could proceed to phase two, which led to the registered nurse certification.  The PTS was jointly operated by the UCHWI and the Kingston Public Hospital. Nursing students would attend lectures at Mona and receive practical training at KPH and the UCH, however, before the opening of the University Hospital in 1952 all training was provided at KPH. 

Photo from 1955 Pelican Annual

Prior to the establishment of the PTS at Mona, there was no standardized nurses’ training programme in Jamaica. Nurses training was practice based and conducted on the job, and as such, the nurses were practically skilled but lacking in theoretical knowledge. Due to the limitations in the nursing educational programme then, Jamaican nurses lacked the certification needed to work outside of the country. Those who wished to work overseas had to seek further training at an internationally accredited institution. Having recognised the challenges faced by nurses who trained in Jamaica, a group of internationally qualified nurses decided to form the Jamaica General Trained Nurses Association (JGTNA) (now Nurses Association of Jamaica) to advance nurses training and professional status. These nurses were influential in developing an internationally accredited nursing education programme in Jamaica and supported the passing of the Nurses Registration Law in 1951. The first batch of nurses to graduate from the UCHWI were the first set of nurses to obtain the title of registered nurse under this law.  Consequently, they were able to seek gainful employment both within and outside of Jamaica. Some graduates from the first batch later returned to the University to lecture and tutor in nursing education.

As we approach the graduation season, the UWI Museum wishes to hail the first set of nursing graduates who have set the tone for developments in nursing education at the University and paved the way for future graduates. 

Nurses, we salute you. 


[1] Note, until 2006 when the baton was passed to the University of the West Indies School of Nursing, the University Hospital of the West Indies School of Nursing was responsible the education of registered nurses at the University.

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