West Penn Hospital School of Nursing: History, Philosophy, and Goals

West Penn Hospital has a rich tradition of preparing capable, caring nurses that dates back to the 1800s. Our philosophies on health and learning have driven us to continually innovate and provide our students with the tools they need to serve their patients.

History of West Penn Hospital School of Nursing

The need for professional nurses became acute near the turn of the twentieth century. In response, the Western Pennsylvania Hospital developed a nursing education program. Fifteen students were chosen and the Western Pennsylvania Hospital Training School for Nurses on September 1, 1892, with a two-year curriculum. Ten students successfully completed the program and graduated on September 20, 1894.

Presently, students at West Penn Hospital School of Nursing gain vast experience in assessing, planning, and administering patient care. Allegheny Health Network’s West Penn Hospital serves as the primary clinical setting for the School of Nursing. Work and study in this dynamic urban hospital environment bring students in contact with professionals from a variety of health care disciplines and institutions.

Other hospitals within Allegheny Health Network and selected agencies in Allegheny County provide opportunities for student enrichment in certain specialty areas.


Philosophy of the school

We, the Faculty of West Penn Hospital School of Nursing, believe that nursing education prepares nurses who focus on promoting and maintaining optimum health of clients within the community. The graduate is accountable within the scope of the nursing profession in a variety of community settings that promote, protect, restore, and rehabilitate the health of patients. The graduate, as an advocate and a health facilitator, assists patients in achieving and maintaining optimum health through the patient’s own actions and decisions.


Nursing is an autonomous health care profession based on a holistic philosophy of health. The foundation of nursing is a body of knowledge derived from the biophysical and psychosocial sciences. Nursing is an art and a science that promotes human betterment and is based on theories and evidence-based clinical practice. Nursing utilizes clinical judgment and systems thinking to give direction to nursing actions that promote health, prevent disease, or restore and rehabilitate health. Nursing incorporates principles of critical thinking, communication, teaching, and management in the provision of excellence in patient care.

Nurses collaborate with patients and with other health care professionals. An appreciation for diversity is apparent as nurses promote health through the development of caring and empathetic relationships.


An individual is a valued being with inherent dignity and is deserving of respect. As an open system with a uniquely determined internal environment, an individual functions holistically through constant interaction with the external environment. An individual is self-regulating and changes physically, psychologically, socially and/or spiritually in response to environmental alterations.


The patient is an open system and the focus of nursing. The patient is an individual, family, or group and is the chief agent of health promotion. The patient is a subsystem of the community; the community is a subsystem of society; society is a subsystem of the world. The community consists of aggregates having common organization, needs, and purposes. Society is comprised of dynamic communities that determine the nature of health care.


Health is the reflection of the patient’s physical, sociocultural, psychological, and spiritual conditions and is defined by the client. Health is dynamic and evolves as the patient continuously adapts to the internal and external environment.


Learning is a continuous, lifelong process by which an individual exhibits a change of behavior resulting from cognitive, affective, and/or psychomotor experiences. The School of Nursing faculty believe that the behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic theories of learning apply to education. Learning is based on a hierarchy progressing from simple to complex and general to specific. Specific conditions of learning emphasized in the program relevant to the teaching-learning process include conditioning, reinforcement modeling, transference, concept formation, psychomotor skill learning, readiness to learn, repetition, empowerment, and learning to learn.

The learner is recognized as an individual with basic human needs, motivation, and capacity to learn, and a unique learning style. Integrity is valued and inherent to the learning process. The learner is expected to participate in the teaching-learning process by actively engaging in all aspects of the education. The learner is ultimately responsible for learning.

Nursing education

A culture of excellence in nursing education is a dynamic process that enables the student to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to practice the profession of nursing. The student and the faculty share their unique knowledge, experience, and creativity in a collaborative learning environment that emphasizes critical thinking and clinical inquiry.

Faculty design learning experiences using a variety of teaching strategies in the classroom and clinical laboratory that take into consideration the diversity of individuals. Students and faculty value learning, autonomy, and the holistic growth of the individual. The teaching-learning process is a partnership whereby both the student and the faculty have rights and responsibilities that result in positive learning outcomes.


Student learning outcomes

At the completion of the program, the graduate nurse will:

  • Integrate clinical judgment grounded in evidence-based practice in the provision of safe health care to patients.
  • Demonstrate responsibility and accountability in the role of a professional nurse.
  • Incorporate principles of communication into the role of the professional nurse.
  • Act as an advocate to guide patients with health promotion, illness prevention, and health care decision-making.
  • Integrate socioeconomic factors, and cultural, spiritual, and health beliefs to meet the health care needs of a diverse patient population.
  • Manage the care of patients within various health care settings to promote positive outcomes.


School goals

The planned total program:

  • Prepare graduates with the knowledge, values, and skills essential for entry-level practice as a professional nurse.
  • Provide high-quality nursing education that is responsive to the individual consumer and the community’s need for qualified nurses.
  • Foster educational mobility and the pursuit of independent initiatives for continuing education to ensure personal and professional growth.
  • Satisfy the standards of the State Board of Nursing and National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) by providing essential curriculum and program resources to support students and faculty.
  • Facilitate successful licensure of graduates.


Professional Licensure Notice

In earning your professional RN diploma from the West Penn Hospital School of Nursing, you will meet all the necessary requirements to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) and become eligible for licensure as a registered nurse (RN) in the state of Pennsylvania.

Our graduates who have taken NCLEX-RN have been deemed eligible for initial licensure in the following states: Arizona, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

If you plan to practice nursing in a state not listed above, please visit nursinglicensure.org for specific state requirements.


Contact the West Penn Hospital School of Nursing

Reach out today to learn more or to attend an information session.

NCLEX is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. and is used with permission.