This Way Forward: Anna D. Wolf (1890–1985)

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Anna Dryden Wolf knew what she was getting into at Johns Hopkins, and the institution should have known what it was getting into by hiring her.

The nation was fresh off the Great Depression in 1940 when Elsie M. Lawler stepped down as superintendent of nurses and principal of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses. Wolf, a 1915 graduate, stepped in … with an agenda. She had already been a pioneer, serving in 1919 as the first dean of the first college-level nursing program in China, Peking Union Medical College School of Nursing. But she’d subsequently been unable to raise the nursing education at the New York-Cornell Medical Center and Billings Hospital at the University of Chicago to college level, arriving in East Baltimore bound

Anna D. Wolf

and determined to accomplish the feat there. She insisted, “If we want professional status, we have to have a baccalaureate degree.” Meanwhile, she went to work steamrolling outdated curricula and “military etiquette” at the hospital that, for example, ordered nurses to stand out of respect whenever a doctor entered their station. Nurses were too busy with patient care, she argued, removing non-medical bookkeeping duties from their chores for the same reason.

Though she would never lead it, Wolf’s fierce, clear-eyed determination to raise education and patient-care standards laid the groundwork for the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, which opened in 1984, a year before her death.

Source: Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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