Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nursing and Allied Health Professions

First Advisor

Edith A. West

Second Advisor

Michele Gerwick

Third Advisor

Jeanine M. Mazak-Kahne


Each year, hundreds of nursing students begin their education at one of the many educational institutions located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Despite the fact that more than a quarter of Pittsburgh’s residents identify themselves as a racial minority, the current demographics of nursing professionals in Pittsburgh remains overwhelmingly White. The city is home to 15 different nursing programs where students can obtain a diploma, associate, or baccalaureate degree, in two, three, or four years’ time. Despite various initiatives to facilitate minority inclusions in the health professions, minorities continue to represent a fraction of nursing students graduating from the 15 nursing programs in the area. Using historical and oral history methods, this study examines the historical circumstances that precipitated this disparity, focusing on the entry of African-Americans into the profession of nursing during the post World War II era at various schools of nursing in the Pittsburgh area. The study explored why and how, nine women decided to enter the nursing profession as well as the lived experience of these individuals as it relates to professional nursing practice. Study findings revealed themes of subvert and overt discrimination, denial of actual discriminatory practices experienced and strong themes of resilience, most notably that of family and community support, personal determination and growing up recognizing the value of an education.