HomeMembersAssemblies and SectionsAssembliesNursingHistory ▶ Introduction


The history of the Assembly on Nursing began in 1944 when the American Lung Association-ALA (then the National Tuberculosis Association-NTA) provided grants for the support of educational programs in tuberculosis to both the National Organization for Public Health Nursing (NOPHN) and the National League for Nursing Education (NLNE).  The NOPHN and the NLNE were 2 of 15 organizations which came together to form the National League for Nursing (NLN) in the 1952.  Both organizations were active in the education of public health nurses by working to ensure that appropriate content was included in the curriculum of schools preparing public health nurses.  During the 1940’s to 1960’s, public health nurses were prepared largely in baccalaureate schools of nursing, the highest educational level available to most nurses at the time.  Because tuberculosis was a major public health concern, there was a critical need to ensure an academic curriculum with appropriate tuberculosis content and high standards of care in all schools of nursing (diploma, as well as baccalaureate).

Given the common interest of the NTA & the NLN in ensuring appropriate curricular content related to pulmonary patients, the NTA Nursing Department was established within the NLN.  The position of Director of the NTA Nursing Department at NLN was held by Jean Smith for many years.  She was instrumental in fostering the NTA-NLN collaboration and involvement with nursing education.  Subsequent directors were Pat Koontz, Alice Longman, and Seigina Frik.  Seigina Frik held the position of Director of the ALA Nursing Department of NLN for 3 years prior to its dissolution in 1975.  Marilyn Hansen, who came to play a major role in nursing involvement in ATS, had been a member of the NLN staff.

By the late 1960’s, the need to educate nurses in pulmonary care was well acknowledged and sessions offering pulmonary nursing content were provided at the annual meeting.  During this period, the name, National Tuberculosis Association, had been broadened to the National Tuberculosis & Respiratory Disease Association-NTRDA.  Just as the name of the Association had changed, the focus of nursing education had also broadened.  In addition to sessions at the national meeting, there were also many continuing education programs supported by the NLN-NTRDA liaison.  In 1968, through the auspices of the NTRDA-NLN, Nursing Advisory Service, the NTRDA provided the first of several grants to nursing programs.  The first award went to the University of California, San Francisco for the development of a Respiratory Disease Clinical Nurse Specialty Program (funded from 1968-1971).  In 1972-1973, the University of Arizona became the second academic institution to receive seed money to develop a post-master’s certificate program in pulmonary nursing.

There were many mileposts for the relationship between the ALA (then the NTRDA), NLN, and ATS in the 1970’s.  In 1971, the NLN advisory service was officially moved to the NTRDA.  This was also the year that nurses were accepted into the ATS as full voting members.  In 1973, the NTRDA became the American Lung Association-ALA.  It was also in this year that an ALA grant program, Clinical Nurse Specialty Program Award, was offered.  This program offered training grants to academic institutions for the development of graduate programs in respiratory clinical specialty.  Awards were made on an annual basis and could be renewed up to two times.  In the first four years of the program, 23 proposals were submitted and five schools were funded.

In 1975, the agreement between NLN and the ALA was terminated and the position of Nursing Consultant in ALA was established.  Marilyn Hansen RN, MPH was selected for the position of Nursing Consultant.  Marilyn Hansen came to the position with a strong background and interest in education, public health and tuberculosis.  In the mid 1970’s, Marilyn saw the wisdom of organizing nurses into playing a more vital role in ALA and ATS and approached the Executive Director of ATS, Robert Weymueller about developing a section on nursing within ATS.  Marilyn identified several nurses who had been active in the ALA Nursing Department at NLN, and arranged for them to meet with the Executive Director and other officers of ATS to discuss the proposed Section on Nursing.  Consequently, Marilyn Abraham RN, MSN, met with the ATS officers at the 1974 meeting of American Association of Chest Physicians in Anaheim, CA.  The ATS Executive Committee endorsed the opportunity for nursing to serve under the Scientific Assembly on Clinical Problems and encouraged Marilyn Abraham and the nurses to develop a formal proposal for a Subsection on Nursing.  The term Subsection on Nursing emphasized the desire of the nurses not to limit its membership to nurses.  It was felt that all health care professionals, in addition to nurses, would have a common interest in the goal of improving the health care of pulmonary patients.

A Committee was then formed to outline the objectives of the Subsection and plan the first annual meeting.  Committee members were Marilyn Abraham RN, MSN (Chair), Barbara Boyce RN, MSN, Suzanne Lareau RN, MS and Louise Nett RN, RRT.  It was also determined by ATS that the Chair of the Subsection would be appointed to the ATS Annual Meeting Committee.  The Annual Meeting Committee has since become the International Conference Committee.

The Subsection on Nursing became a Section on Nursing in 1978.  The formation of Sections within ATS then became an option for other groups with common interest (e.g. Pulmonary Circulation, Critical Care).  In 1992, all Sections within the American Thoracic Society were given Assembly status and the Section on Nursing of the Clinical Problems Assembly became an Assembly on Nursing.

The nursing group was formed within the American Thoracic Society because there was no identified national group dealing with the issues of nurses specializing in the care and study of patients with respiratory conditions.  The Assembly on Nursing has evolved to become the leading scientific body of nurses in the promotion of health and care of pulmonary patients.  Among the nurse members, 25% hold doctorates, and 70% masters degrees.  Several of the nurse membership are Fellows in the American Academy of Nursing.