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The Gainsboro History Project

School of Practical Nursing

Founding of the School

The Burrell Memorial Hospital–Lucy Addison High School of Practical Nursing was founded in 1958 as a collaborative program of the hospital and Roanoke Public Schools. Miriam W. Smith was the school’s director for twenty years. The program, accredited by the Virginia State Board of Nurse Examiners in 1959, offered practical nurse training and certification for high school seniors of Lucy Addison, as well as adults interested in becoming practical nurses. It was subsidized by the State Department of Vocational Education.

An auditorium with nurses dressed in their graduation capes and nurses uniforms. There is a band on stage and some audience members filling the seats
Graduating Nurses. Courtesy of Roanoke Public Libraries

Students at the School of Practical Nursing gained clinical experience at their home institution of Burrell Memorial Hospital as well as other cooperating medical facilities. These connections allowed students to study at the Veterans Hospital, Lewis-Gale Hospital, and Total Action Program’s Day Care Center, gaining experience in subjects like maternity care, physical therapy, pediatrics, and intensive care. The school boasted a 99% passing rate among students on the State Board’s practical nursing licensing examination.


The school accepted and trained students for twenty years until Burrell Memorial Hospital closed in 1978, ending the collaboration between Roanoke schools and the hospital. It continued as a program of Roanoke City Public Schools until 1992.

See Also


Addison-Burrell nurse graduates are licensed. (1960, May 28). New Journal and Guide, ProQuest.

Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare Inc. (author). (2018). Burrell Center history. Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. Gainsboro Branch Library Vertical Files, Roanoke, VA, United States.

Beitzell, N, and Widrick, A., eds. (1977, Dec). Nursing school. Burrell News 1. Gainsboro Branch Library Vertical Files, Roanoke, VA, United States.

Hairston, M. J. (1965, Mar. 14). Superintendent rates nurse as backbone of hospital staff. The Roanoke Times.

Pollitt, P. A. (2016). African American and Cherokee Nurses in Appalachia: A History, 1900–1965. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.