Nursing Education Innovator Celebrated

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Nurses tour American Family Children's HospitalMADISON – Former colleagues and friends of the late Florence Blake, a renowned nurse, educator and scholar who established the University of Wisconsin pediatric nursing graduate program in 1963, toured American Family Children's Hospital Thursday to witness Ms. Blake's lifelong work come to fruition.

The tours came on the heels of a University of Wisconsin Foundation fundraising dinner announcing the endowment of the Florence Blake Professorship at the UW-Madison School of Nursing.

Ms. Blake's celebrated career spanned six decades, beginning at the Michael Reese Hospital School of Nursing in 1928. After graduation she worked as instructor and head nurse at the hospital and eventually continued her education, earning a bachelor's degree in teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a master's degree in child development from the University of Michigan.

She began work at the University of Wisconsin in 1963, following faculty stints at Michigan, Yale University and the University of Chicago. Ms. Blake retired in 1970. She passed away in 1983.

Nurses tour at American Family Children's Hospital

Friends and former colleagues of Florence Blake tour American Family Children's Hospital

Discussing her years as an innovator in nursing education for a McGraw Hill, Inc. publication, "From Contemporary American Leaders in Nursing: An Oral History," Ms. Blake said, "My concept of nursing broadened, and my respect for the role that nurses could play in the prevention of ill health as well as care of sick people increased considerably."

As they walked the halls of American Family Children's Hospital, starting on the first floor with the Family Resource Center and Tyler's Place and moving to the specialty clinics on the upper floors, Ms. Blake's former cohorts repeatedly said how pleased she would be with the hospital's patient-friendly touches.

Madison's Mary Gulbrandsen knew Ms. Blake as a friend and studied in the nursing graduate program before working in the Madison public school system for 29 years.

"I think the Children's Hospital reflects Florence's belief that the whole family has to be thought about when the child is hospitalized," she said. "They did a marvelous job of considering the health services that need to be offered in relation to the patient and their families."

Ms. Gulbrandsen said Ms. Blake's professional acumen sprung from a natural connection she had to children. She recalled a visit Ms. Blake paid to her and her 2-year-old son, a child she described with a smile as "active." The child lacked the patience to sit still for anyone or anything, but when Ms. Blake arrived, he planted himself on the couch next to her and didn't leave her side for the rest of the night.

"He was just in awe of her. And she carried on a conversation with him all evening," Ms. Gulbrandsen said. "She had an incredible sense for children. It was almost magical."

Marie Steege, a retired staff nurse and educator at St. Louis Children's Hospital who received her master's degree from the UW-Madison School of Nursing during Ms. Blake's tenure, agreed that Ms. Blake's vivaciousness colored her approach to nursing and teaching.

"She loved life. She loved kids. She taught us so many things that have to do with development of children especially," Ms. Steege said. "She taught about meeting children at the level they were, not the level where you wanted them to be."

That philosophy, Ms. Blake's legacy, exists to this day, with American Family Children's Hospital as proof.

"When you look at the Children's Hospital," said Coleen Southwell, who played a large part in the creation of the Florence Blake Professorship as director of development at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, "it's like Florence Blake's dream come true in many ways, because it's so family-focused."

Date Published: 08/31/2009

News tag(s):  childrennursing

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