As UTC’s nursing program crosses 50 years of learning, the school looks back on the history of the program, and what may still be in store.
Nursing education was sparse in Chattanooga in 1967, with only two baccalaureate programs offered in the entire state. The city was forced to use hearses to transport people to hospitals due to lack of staff or support. It was in this environment that Martha Butterfield arrived on campus.
Martha struggled to find any work due to the shortage of nurses in the area, so she decided to change things herself. Seeing the demand for education in the region, she appealed to the university with the backing of her peers in Knoxville, as well as local and state representatives.
After years of pushing, she got her wish and became the first faculty member at the college of nursing. While the beginning was rocky, with a lack of support and resources.
“We were the stepchildren of the University,” Butterfield once said in an interview. “We started out with a couple of rooms in Race Hall, then we moved to Brock Hall—and we were kicked out because the people in power didn’t want nursing in that building. Then we went to one of the houses up on the hill next to the dorms.”
But they persisted, and the program grew over time into what it is today. In the present, it still continues to push forward in the field of nursing education. This fall, the college launched its accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program, which will allow students to expedite the learning process, and get into employment faster than before.
“It is hard to believe that we have been educating nursing students for 50 years,” said Dr. Chris Smith, director of the UTC School of Nursing and the University’s chief health affairs officer. “While the curriculum and the faculty have certainly changed, the school’s commitment to our students has never wavered.