History of the Sinclair School of Nursing

A woman getting an x-ray

The Ellis Fischel Cancer Hospital, a leader in the fight against cancer and treatment of it, opened in 1940. Photo courtesy MU School of Medicine. 

Nursing was an integral part of the Parker Memorial Hospital Training School, which served as the university's first hospital in 1901. Although a nursing program was not officially established until 1920 within the School of Medicine, MU graduated its first nursing class in 1904. Sixteen years later, MU Curators approved a graduate nursing designation.

In 1940, the Board of Curators approved a 3-year combined curriculum of nursing and arts and science courses leading to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). In 1950, the 4-year BSN program was approved. Since then, master's, doctoral and online and accelerated programs have been added, although it wasn't until 1973 that the school became an autonomous division.

During the 1950s and 1960s, many new buildings were constructed by the university, many of which directly benefited medical and nursing students. Among the improvements were the Medical Science Building and the Nurses' Residence (McHaney Hall), which is currently part of University Health Care.

Clinical teaching facilities were also expanded to include the University Hospital, Missouri Psychiatric Center, MU Women's and Children's Hospital, Boone Hospital Center and the Harry S. Truman Veterans Hospital. Construction on the School of Nursing building was begun in 1978, and it was occupied in June 1979.

In 1994, the nursing program was officially named the Charles and Josie Smith Sinclair School of Nursing. The Sinclairs highly valued the nursing care they received and provided a substantial endowment to benefit the school and its students.

A new chapter opened when the school surged into the national research spotlight in the mid-1990s with a dramatic expansion in grant funding. In 2001 the school moved from 40th to 17th in National Institutes of Health funded grants. Research focused on such topics as breast cancer, alcoholism, smoking cessation during pregnancy, elder care, wound healing and family obligations to older adults. 

Senior Care, the home-health agency of the school, was formed in 1999. Its mission is to promote the independence, dignity and health of older adults by providing preventative care and the health-support services needed for seniors to live in their preferred home of choice. The agency changed its name in 2006 to MU Sinclair Home Care and is now managed by University Health Care.

TigerPlace is a culmination of the vision, dedication and talent of many individuals at the school. The dream of a model senior housing facility where “aging in place” became a reality in 2004. This facility was designed to keep senior living in their apartments and bring health care to them, thus keeping older adults in their homes with their loves ones and pets. It also provides an interdisciplinary forum where MU students, faculty and researchers from across campus can interact with seniors about their concerns and needs.

Additionally, in 2001 the Center on Aging became an integral part of the school’s effort to enhance the quality of health care for older adults. The center’s mission was to promote, maintain and improve health and health-care delivery within a global perspective through research, clinical service and professional and consumer education. In 2005, the center became the MU Interdisciplinary Center on Aging. The new center’s foundation exists among the three health sciences schools (nursing, medicine, health professions) and interdisciplinary colleagues (e.g., engineering, social work, human development, psychology).

The school’s Nursing Outreach program provides continuing education opportunities for nurses and other health care professionals throughout Missouri and beyond. For nearly 50 years, the fully accredited program has been a leader in providing high-quality and affordable lifelong learning opportunities for registered nurses, regardless of their specialty, practice setting, affiliation, academic preparation or geographic location.