Those touring the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing at Beebe Healthcare can look back over the 100 years the school has been in operation.

In 1921, a local girl, Ruth Mitchell requested a course in nursing at what was then Beebe Hospital. Through the efforts of Dr. James Beebe Sr. and his brother Dr. Richard Beebe, the Beebe Hospital Nurses’ Training School was established.

The school, now known as the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing, celebrated its centennial anniversary in September, with less fanfare than hoped with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, representatives noted. A small gathering of alumni, Beebe team members, community members and physicians took tours of the school, including the recently completed third floor. Memorabilia was given to all alumni who attended, and historical pictures of graduates and faculty were displayed on all the screens throughout the building.

Tom Protack, Beebe Medical Foundation president; Dr. David A. Tam, MD, MBA, CPHE, FACHE, president and CEO of Beebe Healthcare; and Karen Pickard, director of the School of Nursing, each gave remarks reflecting on the past, present and future of the school, as well as the importance of the school’s contributions to the future of what is now known as Beebe Healthcare.

“It was a special time to celebrate the School of Nursing’s achievements and the achievements of all graduates,” Pickard said. “Not only did we look back at the past but at the future. We thank all who continue to contribute to the school, our students, and our faculty to make it the No. 1 nursing program in Delaware.”

The School of Nursing now has more than 1,000 graduates who are practicing their profession in all parts of the country. Many continue to obtain higher degrees.

The success of the school was attributed this week not only to the faculty and support from the Beebe Healthcare Board of Directors and the Beebe Medical Foundation, “but also to the local communities whose support and interest have contributed substantially to the success and prestige of the school.”

The Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing was recently recognized on a national platform by the National League for Nursing (NLN) as a 2021 Center of Excellence in Nursing Education. Centers of Excellence are nursing programs that demonstrate visionary leadership in collaboration and exceptional faculty who are able to create and sustain educational excellence.

A flash from the past

After Mitchell requested the nursing class at Beebe, the directress of nurses at the time, Olive Lingo, and a hospital resident, Dr. Florence Kline, are credited with developing the program and designing the uniform. Affiliation was in Wilmington, at the Delaware Hospital.

Through the years, the School of Nursing continued to evolve and grow in both enrollment and reputation. The school became nationally accredited in 1977.

After the name of the school was changed to Beebe School of Nursing in 1988, the growth continued, and an expansion was required. Construction of a new school was contingent upon acquisition of the funds to support the project. The Nursing Education Campaign initiated May 2011 brought the new School of Nursing to fruition.

Many members of the community, Beebe Medical Staff and the Beebe Auxiliary supported the campaign.

“Thanks to their support and the very generous donation of $3 million dollars from the Ma-Ran Foundation by Randall Rollins and Margaret H. Rollins, construction began in 2013.”

At that time, the school was renamed the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing at Beebe Healthcare, to honor the Rollins family and their support. A new chapter in the School of Nursing’s legacy began with a new building and a new name.

The construction of the new school was completed in the spring of 2015. Currently, the School of Nursing houses the latest in nursing education technologies, including computerized medical simulation mannequins, modern classrooms with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, advanced clinical laboratories, an expanded library, student space and administrative offices. The students began taking classes in the new School of Nursing in August of 2015.

Growing for the future

Over the course of the last 100 years, the school has evolved from an apprentice-type curriculum to the present curriculum, which has well-defined outcomes and a detailed systematic plan of evaluation. The school is known for its academic excellence and extensive clinical experiences, promoting very successful performance on the licensure exam (NCLEX), and in contemporary healthcare settings.

The School of Nursing has been ranked as first or second of all nursing schools in the state in NCLEX performance for 20 years. Class size has varied from 2 to 48, with the largest class enrolled in fall of 2020. Today, the average class size ranges between 35 and 45 students.

In 2021, and thanks to another donation from the Ma-Ran Foundation, the School of Nursing was able to complete construction on the third floor of the building. The third floor of the school now houses an additional simulation lab, a four-bed clinical skills lab, area for clinical and simulation debriefing, a control room for simulation and a 40-seat classroom. That area will be used for education of students and hospital team members.