Built on the grounds of what now belongs to Northwest Nazarene University, Samaritan Hospital was established as a school for nurses in 1920 by Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Mangum. Its particular emphasis was to provide medical training for nurses going to the mission field. Although the school was not directly connected to Northwest Nazarene College, its students were able to participate in the life of the college by taking several courses there in addition to their nursing classes. Until 1926, the hospital and school were located in a house built by the Mangums; but that same year, NNU’s current Fine Arts Building was constructed and the nursing academic program was fully accredited by the state of Idaho.

"We learned that the patient was more than their diagnosis. The patient was a person with a diagnosis. And you don’t treat the diagnosis, you treat the patient.” Wardlaw said.

The school provided an excellent education for its time and especially for the region. Mary Wardlaw came to the hospital as a student in 1947 with the hope of becoming a missionary, and she recalls that the students’ daily schedules were rigorous. Each day began at 6 a.m. in the hospital’s prayer chapel where the students gathered for a time of communion and prayer. Work—assisting in patient care—started at 7 a.m. sharp.

“We’d meet in the stairway between the first and second floors to sing,” she said, “and the patients seemed to like that. The prayer chapel, breakfast and singing got us started too.” Younger students took classes during the mornings, and the older students traded places with them in the afternoon. Each junior class spent six months of their studies in Colorado: three at a children’s hospital in Denver followed by three more at a psychiatric hospital in Colorado Springs.

Students served in a variety of areas of the hospital, and Wardlaw remembers having very little downtime. “We were assigned to bathe patients and change the linens and take care of whatever needs they had. Upperclassmen learned how to give medications and were assigned just to do that. And then we worked three months each in the operating room, obstetrics department, surgical floor and medical floor.”


Take a look back in time at the people and places that made Samaritan Hospital what it was. Select the 'i' in the upper left-hand corner for captions.

The oddest job, however, proved to be cooking for the patients. “We worked in the diet kitchen, and that was interesting. The cooks in the hospital only had to cook the food that was for general diets, but there were a lot of patients on special diets, so we had to cook those. Samaritan was the only hospital I knew of that would have nurses do that.”

Wardlaw reflects that the hospital had a definite family atmosphere, that everyone helped each other and got along, and that the doctors were very accommodating with the students —something she would come to appreciate when working in other hospitals.

Most of all, Wardlaw said that the hospital kept spiritual growth a priority. “We not only had physical concerns to manage but spiritual concerns as well. We learned that the patient was more than their diagnosis. The patient was a person with a diagnosis. And you don’t treat the diagnosis, you treat the patient.”

Over time, raising the necessary financial support was increasingly difficult. Additionally, new government regulations following WWII requiring experience in five different clinical areas could not be met and the nursing school closed in 1954 after the last student graduated. Although patient care continued at the hospital until 1967, the closing of the nursing school was an unfortunate since the quality of training the school had provided was no longer available in the region—specifically, training with a missional emphasis intended to prepare students for the medical field in the larger view of God’s kingdom. ■


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