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Rush University Medical Center Archives: Legacy of Nursing at Rush

Welcome to the Rush University Medical Center Archives. The Rush Archives, a department of the Library of Rush University Medical Center, is the official archival agency of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University.

Legacy of Nursing at Rush

Rush University Medical Center has a long legacy of nursing education, research, and practice reaching back to Chicago’s early years.


St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses (also known as the School of Nursing) was located, along with its parent hospital, on South Michigan and Indiana avenues in Chicago. The school opened in 1886, and relocated to the site of Rush’s current campus after the hospital’s merger with Presbyterian Hospital. St. Luke’s graduated its last class in 1959.

Students at St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing experienced a wide variety of clinical roles in wards, private rooms, diet kitchen, pharmacy, distribution and department work in some specialties.

When the first class graduated from the nursing school in 1887, St. Luke’s Hospital was an 84-bed hospital that cared for about 1,000 inpatients annually. It was a charitable institution affiliated with Grace Episcopal Church, and more than half of its patients received their care for free. During the last decade of the hospital’s existence, it annually provided care to more than 16,000 inpatients and approximately $250,000 of free care to patients in need.


Students from Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing completed their classes and clinical work at Presbyterian Hospital on this campus. The first class graduated in 1904, and the final class graduated in 1959, after the school’s merger with St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing.
Students at Presbyterian Hospital performed clinical care throughout their three years of coursework, and they served eight-hour shifts in a variety of areas of practice.

When the first students entered Presbyterian Hospital’s School of Nursing in 1903, the hospital treated about 2,000 patients each year, and a third of those patients received free care. By the 1950s, the hospital admitted more than 13,000 inpatients each year and provided about $150,000 in free care annually to patients in need.


Presbyterian and St. Luke’s hospitals merged in 1956, and their schools of nursing also merged. Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing students attended classes on this campus, and most lived in the Schweppe-Sprague dormitory on Harrison Street. Students continued to identify with their previous school until the first official Presbyterian-St. Luke’s students graduated in 1960. The school’s final class graduated in 1969.

The first two years of the program at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing included clinical laboratory experience related to coursework. The program culminated in a one-year, full-time internship year that included rotations by medical specialty.

Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital was an 838-bed hospital formed by the merger of Presbyterian and St. Luke’s hospitals in 1956. Each year, it provided more than $1.5 million in free patient care.


Through the leadership of James A. Campbell, MD, president of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, Rush University was established in 1972. Soon after, Campbell chose Luther Christman, PhD, RN, FAAN, to serve as the founding dean of the College of Nursing. Christman also oversaw nursing practice as the vice president of nursing affairs. He served in these positions at Rush until his retirement in 1987.

Students at Rush University College of Nursing began their clinical training on this campus in 1974. The College of Nursing’s curriculum includes a combination of classroom and clinical coursework. Students have rich clinical experiences with adult, children and older adult patients in a variety of health care settings.  

Christman was a revolutionary figure who introduced nursing reform and new education standards at every opportunity. He developed the Rush Model for Nursing and the Professional Nursing Staff at Rush. These groundbreaking accomplishments are the foundation of Rush University’s forward-thinking College of Nursing and Rush University Medical Center’s award-winning nursing staff.


Innovating Patient Care: The nursing staff and students at Rush University Medical Center employ advanced technology as they evaluate patients and collaborate with other healthcare professionals. Electronic medical record technology monitors and updates clinical information.

Inspiring Future Leaders with Nursing Education: More than 5,000 nurses have graduated from Rush University’s College of Nursing with degrees at bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels.

Rush offers the following degrees for nursing students, which prepare them for the diverse roles that they will assume as leaders in the future of healthcare:
•    The Generalist Entry M.S. in Nursing
•    The Clinical Nurse Leader M.S. in Nursing
•    DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice): Systems Leadership
•    DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice): Enhancing Population Health Outcomes
•    PhD in Nursing

Advancing Quality of Care with Research: The Center for Clinical Research and Scholarship was established in 2007 to promote clinical nursing research that improves clinical practice and patient outcomes. The Center supports clinical research and scholarship activities to promote best practices in patient care and improvements in health care delivery. 

Magnet Award: The American Nurses Credentialing Center — an independently governed organization within the American Nurses Association — awarded Rush University Medical Center the four-year Magnet designation in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2016. Rush was the first hospital in Illinois serving both adults and children to achieve Magnet status. The Magnet Award is the highest recognition given for nursing excellence and recognizes Rush nursing staff for their overall excellence in patient care.

Rush University Medical Center provides advanced patient care informed by the latest research. U.S. News & World Report's “America's Best Hospitals” issue routinely ranks Rush among the nation’s best in specialties including orthopedics; geriatrics; cancer; ear, nose and throat; gynecology; heart and heart surgery; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; pulmonology; and urology. In addition to its commitment to clinical excellence, Rush continues its predecessors’ commitment to the health of its community. Each year Rush provides more than more than $220 million in community benefits and services, including more than $140 million in unreimbursed care to its patients.

Using the Rush Archives

Rush Archives Service Hours: 

The Rush Archives offers on-site services one day a week. Often, we can assist researchers using digital resources.

Please explore this webpage and our online resources before contacting the Rush Archives for assistance.

Contact the Archivist: 

Submit Request to Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS, Archivist: Ask the Rush Archives [link]

Ask the Archives buttonOutside of Service Hours:  For very urgent requests outside of service hours, please contact the Library of Rush at

Note for researchers: Internal reference requests are given precedence. External requests will be addressed as time allows. However, our website will lead you to a number of digital resources from the Rush Archives that may meet your information needs.

Visiting the Rush Archives: In-person visits from researchers from outside of Rush must be approved by the archivist ahead of time.

Location: 1700 W. Van Buren Street, Suite 086, Chicago, IL 60612.

Using our Material in your Publication/Exhibit/Presentation: Contact the Archivist for a Permission to Publish form and fee table.

Citing our Collections: Footnotes or captions should indicate the collection or other identifying information from our finding aids. Please contact the Archivist for more information. Basic format for citation:

[Identification of item], in the [Name of Collection] [Collection Number], Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill.

Looking for Medical Records/Patient Records? Visit Rush University Medical Center's Health Information Management Office. [link]

Looking for Student Records/Transcripts? Visit Rush University's Office of the Registrar. [link]

Looking for Verification/Credentials for Residency or Fellowship Programs? Visit Graduate Medical Education. [link]

Looking for Birth, Death or other Vital Records? Visit the Illinois Department of Public Health. [link]

About Our Collections

The Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill., is the official archival agency of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University.

The Rush Archives strives to tell the story of Rush and its esteemed history of education, research, patient care, and community leadership in a meaningful way through our collections.

The Rush Archives holds almost 3000 linear feet of material from Rush and its predecessor schools and hospitals going back to the founding of Rush Medical College in 1837, two days before the city of Chicago was incorporated. The Rush Archives also includes the personal papers of many individuals related to those institutions. Photographs, audiovisual material, paintings, artifacts, nursing school uniforms and caps, and digital assets document the history of Rush, also. 

The Rush Archives preserves, identifies, organizes, and provides access to records of long-term historical, evidential, and administrative value to the institution. 

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