In 1978, Sister Aloysius Williams and the Dean of Nursing Dr. Jacobi, in the interest of Continuing Education for nurses and nursing students in West Texas, began using a “Classroom on Wheels.” Although the nursing program had previously offered classes throughout the region, the rural counties which often lacked a viable hospital, requested assistance in advancing the education of their nurses due to the ever evolving science of their respective fields. By maintaining a program intended to educate the medical community in various rural counties, the professors hoped to create a thorough understanding of the changes that would result in better patient care.
The difficulties faced by the faculty who taught these courses were plentiful. Often there was inadequate space or equipment available to the instructors, and students were taught in extra rooms in the small hospitals or in nursing homes.
In late April 1978, using an appropriation of $113,000 from the Texas Legislature intended for rural nursing care, the nursing school was presented with a mobile classroom that allowed for much greater efficiency. A 33-foot “mobile van” would be used by University faculty to “upgrade the knowledge of patient care.”
The classroom boasted special lighting, a bed with a dummy patient, a small library and a teaching lectern. The “modern” amenities included an AM/FM radio, a cassette player, and air-conditioning. Space was also available for the seating of up to 15 students who had been pre-screened and approved for attendance.
Robert Martin, assistant professor of nursing, taught six lessons for medical personnel at each stop. All 32 members of the College of Nursing faculty committed to the program in El Paso and the outlying counties.
Prior to being located on the local campus, the nursing program was based in Hotel Dieu, and had been run by the Catholic Order of Nuns organized as the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul since the late 1800s. The School of Nursing subsequently moved from Hotel Dieu to the control of the UT System School of Nursing. Next, under Sister Aloysius and Christine Bonds the school was under the control of UTEP itself, and in a position to better educate not only the people of El Paso but to make a more substantial impact on the region as a whole.
Sources: UTEP: A Pictorial History of the University of Texas at El Paso by Nancy Hamilton, The Prospector, Nova Magazine
Photos: UTEP Library Special Collections, Nancy Hamilton, The Prospector
Matthew Liden is a student in the history master's program at UTEP.