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The VCU School of Nursing was organized in 1893 following the method of Florence Nightingale. We evolved from the Virginia Hospital Training School, which operated as a diploma program until 1953, when a four-year baccalaureate program was initiated.

In 1968, the first master’s degree program in nursing in Virginia was implemented at the Medical College of Virginia, now the VCU School of Medicine. In 1974, a certificate family nurse practitioner program was begun. In 1975, certificate nurse practitioner programs were added in obstetrics-gynecology, followed by pediatrics in 1976.

In the late 1970s, efforts were made to increase the flexibility of the undergraduate program for registered nurses — so an evening option began in 1979, followed by a weekend track in 1989.

In 1983, the nurse practitioner programs were moved into the master’s framework and subsequently tracks were added. In January 1986, a Ph.D. program in nursing was approved for implementation in fall 1986. An online format for the Ph.D. program was approved in 2012.  Following approval in May 2015, the school launched an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program in the fall.

The school celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2018 with a number of activities, including a 125th anniversary gala, a commemorative painting, a time capsule dedication ceremony and more. In fall 2020, the school, in collaboration with the VCU da Vinci Center, started offering a graduate certificate in health care innovation. 

Please view a timeline further below of some of our school's major milestones. 

Heritage Room

The Heritage Room is located on the first floor of the VCU School of Nursing, adjacent to the Office of Enrollment and Student Services. This mini-museum features vintage nursing uniforms, yearbooks, photographs and other historical artifacts that celebrate the rich history of our school. Exhibits span from our beginnings as the Virginia Hospital Training School, through the merger of the St. Philip School of Nursing with the MCV School of Nursing, the creation of VCU School of Nursing in 1968, and where the school stands today in our community.

Permanent displays are in place, and the rotation of temporary exhibits will take place throughout each year as well. This exhibition space is supported by an endowed fund, and its creation was overseen by the Heritage Room Committee, consisting of both current and former VCU School of Nursing faculty as well as distinguished alumni.


MCV/VCU School of Nursing — A Proud Heritage
Betsy A. Bampton (Class of 1960) undertook the writing of this school history published as the centennial celebration was set to begin. In this abundantly illustrated work, Bampton and her collaborators chronicle the development and growth of the eight diverse schools and programs that formed the foundation of VCU School of Nursing.

  • VCU School of Nursing: a timeline

    1893: The University College of Medicine opens the Virginia Hospital Training School of Nurses.

    1895: The Old Dominion Hospital Training School for Nurses opens under the auspices of the Medical College of Virginia and the leadership of Sadie Heath Cabaniss. Sadie Heath Cabaniss is recognized as the school’s founding director.

    1917: The Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health opens and offers instruction in public health for graduated nurses and social workers.

    1920: During the segregation era, MCV establishes the St. Philip School of Nursing to educate black women to provide nursing care for patients in the newly opened St. Philip Hospital.

    1925: The MCV School of Nursing is formally organized with a dean holding the same status as those for the schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.

    1928: Cabaniss Hall, a dormitory and classroom building for nursing, opens on Broad Street. The Richmond Division of the College of William and Mary initiates a five-year course in nursing with Stuart Circle Hospital leading to a bachelor’s degree in nursing and health.

    1931: St. Philip Hall, a dormitory and classroom building for the St. Philip School of Nursing, opens on Marshall Street.

    1943: The National League for Nursing Education grants national accreditation to the MCV and St. Philip nursing programs. A U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps program is implemented at both schools.

    1953: The MCV School of Nursing admits its first students to the four-year degree program.

    1958: A two-year program leading to an Associate in Science degree in nursing is established (discontinued in 1965).

    1960: The baccalaureate program is accredited by the National League for Nursing.

    1962: The school initiates an RN to BS program. The last class of students graduate from the St. Philip School of Nursing and the school is closed.

    1967: The MCV School of Nursing’s proposal to initiate Virginia’s first master’s program is approved and students are admitted the following year. The first nursing lectureship is held, now known as the Mahoney-Hamner Lectureship.

    1968: MCV and Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) merge to form Virginia Commonwealth University.

    1974: The school becomes the first in Virginia to prepare Family Nurse Practitioners at the master’s level.

    1976: The Gamma Omega Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the national nursing honor society, is created. A year later, 86 charter members are inducted.

    1986: The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approves a doctoral program in nursing for VCU.

    1998: The VCU School of Nursing is ranked in the top tier of the nation’s graduate nursing schools for the first time by U.S. News and World Report.

    2002: The school is ranked for the first time in the top 20 schools of nursing nationwide in research funded by the National Institutes of Health.

    2004: The school receives a grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) to establish a P20 Exploratory Center, which launches our Center for Biobehavioral Clinical Research.

    2007: The new School of Nursing building opens, offering 47,000 square feet of modern classroom, clinical learning, office and research space.

    2009: The school receives a five-year grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research for a P30 Center of Excellence in Biobehavioral Approaches to Symptom Management.

    2012: The school launches an online Ph.D. program in a hybrid format, becoming the first nursing school in Virginia with a program of its kind.

    2013: The VCU School of Nursing celebrates its 120th anniversary and recognizes 120 alumni and faculty as Visionary Leaders. The school holds a ceremony to mark the naming of its building as Sadie Heath Cabaniss Hall.

    2015: The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approves a doctor of nursing practice program for VCU.

    2018: The VCU School of Nursing celebrates its 125th anniversary with a number of activities, including a 125th anniversary gala, a commemorative painting, a time capsule dedication ceremony and more.

    2020: The school starts offering a graduate certificate in health care innovation in partnership with the da Vinci Center. 

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