Jessie M. Scott, 94

Jessie M. Scott, 94; promoted nurse education

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jessie M. Scott, 94, a retired assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service who led the division of nursing for 15 years, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 20 at the Washington Home hospice. She lived in McLean.

Ms. Scott, who was a rear admiral in the Public Health Service commissioned corps, testified before Congress on the need for better nursing training. Her testimony helped lead to the 1964 Nurse Training Act, the first major legislation to provide federal support for nurse education during peacetime.

"I'm convinced that nursing is the linchpin in the delivery of health care in the country," she said, explaining her many appearances before Congress.

She was born May 2, 1915, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and she graduated in 1936 from Wilkes-Barre General Hospital School of Nursing. She worked in private-duty nursing for four years and then was an infirmary nurse while attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her bachelor's degree.

In the mid-1940s, she taught science at Mount Sinai Hospital and Jefferson Medical College Hospital, both in Philadelphia. She moved to New York for two years to nurse and teach at St. Luke's Hospital.

Ms. Scott received a master's degree in personnel administration from Columbia University in 1949 and developed a program of field training in counseling for graduate students, the first of its kind in the country, according to "American Nursing: a Biographical Dictionary" (1992).

She then became assistant executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Nurses Association, a position she held until she entered the Public Health Service in 1955.

She became the deputy chief of the service in 1957. In 1964, Surgeon General Luther Terry appointed her the second director of nursing. Her career led her to work on nursing shortages from Arkansas to Connecticut and later to work with nursing education programs in India, Egypt, Liberia and Kenya.

She toured China in 1977, when it was still largely closed to American visitors, and she was president of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools.

She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1973, and the American Academy of Nursing named her a "living legend."

In retirement, she lectured at George Mason University and the University of Maryland's graduate nursing program, as well as at the University of Texas, and she remained active in international nursing issues and public health policy projects until her death.

She had no immediate family survivors.

-- Patricia Sullivan

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