Sacred Heart, Deaconess and St. Luke’s hospitals had their own nurse education programs, along with training at area colleges. The two-year programs usually graduated registered nurses.
In the mid-1960s, the Spokane League for Nursing and the Inland Empire Nurses’ Association formed a committee to find a way to establish a four-year nursing program.
The talks brought together Washington State University, Eastern Washington State College, Whitworth College and Fort Wright College into a consortium where all four would offer pre-nursing classes and feed students into the newly opened Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education, which started with 37 students in 1969.
The center opened at the 1904 Carnegie Library at S. 10 Cedar St. and spread to fill space at other nearby buildings.
Sacred Heart’s school of nursing announced it would close in 1973, but Deaconess’ program continued until 1980, though the school went away from dormitory housing at the hospital. During the transition years, Sister Peter Claver said Sacred Heart’s facilities would be available to the new program.
Starting in 1976, the ICNE expanded with programs in Yakima, the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Vancouver, Washington.
U.S. Senator Warren Magnuson helped obtain federal funding in 1977 to build a new facility to house the nursing school. The Warren G. Magnuson Intercollegiate Nursing Building opened in 1980 on a site across from Spokane Falls Community College. The 59,000-square-foot building, designed by Walker, McGough, Foltz, Lyerla Architects and Engineers, cost $5.76 million.
A master’s degree was added in 1983.
In 1990, the nursing program added two-way remote televised instruction connected to the Yakima and Tri-Cities campuses. The connection would facilitate ongoing programs for RNs to upgrade to bachelor’s degrees.
In 2002, the Washington Legislature approved funds for a new nursing education building on the Riverpoint campus near downtown Spokane and ground was broken in 2006.
The name of the school was changed to the WSU College of Nursing in 2008. A doctorate in nursing practice is now offered. A new 88,000-square-foot building opened in 2009, designated as part of the WSU Spokane health sciences campus.
Eastern Washington University has its own nursing program, part of EWU’s College of Health Science and Public Health.
The Magnuson building at SFCC is currently used for continuing education and extended learning classes, job training and child care programs.