Loretta Ford
Ford in 2019
Loretta C. Pfingstel

(1920-12-28) December 28, 1920 (age 103)
EducationRobert Wood Johnson University Hospital (then Middlesex General Hospital) in New Brunswick, NJ, Diploma in Nursing, 1941

University of Colorado School of Nursing, B.S. 1949 and Master's 1951

University of Colorado, EdD 1961
William Ford
(m. 1947)
Medical career
ProfessionNurse educator
FieldAdvanced practice nursing
InstitutionsUniversity of Colorado School of Nursing in Denver, Assistant Professor 1955, Professor 1965 University of Rochester School of Nursing, Dean 1972, retired 1985
ResearchNurse Practitioner program development, Unification model of nursing
AwardsLiving Legend of the American Academy of Nursing

Loretta C. Ford (née Pfingstel;[1] born December 28, 1920)[2] is an American nurse and the co-founder of the first nurse practitioner program. Along with pediatrician Henry Silver, Ford started the pediatric nurse practitioner program at the University of Colorado in 1965. In 1972, Ford joined the University of Rochester as founding dean of the nursing school.

Early life

Loretta Ford was born December 28, 1920, in New York City.[2][3] When she was young, she wanted to be a teacher, but her family's financial situation led her to choose a less costly educational path. When Ford graduated from high school at 16, she was too young to enter a postgraduate training program, so she worked at Middlesex General Hospital (now Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital) in New Brunswick, New Jersey as a nurses' aide.[4]

While working in the hospital, Ford lived and studied with nursing students, and she decided to pursue nursing as a career.[4] After a year and a half as a nurses' aide, Ford entered the nursing program at Middlesex General and received her Diploma in Nursing in 1941.[2]


After graduation, Ford joined the Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) of New Brunswick. However, her tenure with VNS was short-lived. In 1942, following the death of her fiancé in World War II, Ford joined the US Army Air Force. She had hoped to enter flight nurse training, but was denied due to her vision, and instead served at base hospitals in Florida and Maine.[2] Through the G.I. Bill, Ford was then able to attend the University of Colorado (CU), where she completed a B.S. in nursing with a Public Health Nursing certificate (1949) and Master of Public Health Nursing Supervision (1951).[5][2] At CU, Ford was mentored and impacted by several influential figures in nursing and public health including Lucile Petry Leone, Pearl Parvin Coulter, and Henrietta Loughran.[2] During this time, Ford was also working as a public health nurse for Boulder County and eventually became the director of nursing at the Boulder City-County Health department.[1]

In 1961, Ford received her Doctorate in Education also from the University of Colorado. Her doctoral work was in the development of cases in public health nursing administration and was supported through a National League for Nursing fellowship.[2] Prior to completion of her EdD, Ford was already an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Nursing in Denver, and then earned full professorship in 1965. It was during her tenure at CU that Ford co-developed the first nurse practitioner program. In 1971, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine.[6] Ford became the founding dean of the nursing school at the University of Rochester in 1972. At the University of Rochester, Ford developed the unification model of nursing.[7]

Founding of nurse practitioner programs

As a public health nurse for Boulder County, Ford worked in rural Colorado in the 1940s and 1950s. Through CU's public health nursing program, Ford became one of the first test field teachers, training students from the Denver Visiting Nurse Service in these communities.[2] During this time, she noted a deficit of care in these communities, which she and other nurses filled with temporary health clinics. This experience confirmed for Ford that nurses could independently fill gaps in healthcare if offered specialized training.[8] Ford was given the opportunity to begin developing the specialized training she envisioned through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in Nursing. With this organization, Ford was part of a team of educators who developed a specialized clinical curriculum for community health, a curriculum she brought to CU to further develop.[2]

In 1965, Ford joined with pediatrician Henry Silver to create the pediatric nurse practitioner program at the University of Colorado. This was the first nurse practitioner program in the United States.[9] The program was introduced in a Pediatrics journal article in 1967 as, "a new educational and training program in pediatrics for professional nurses which has been developed to provide increased health care for children in both rural and urban areas."[10][11]

Early nurse practitioner programs faced opposition from established faculty at nursing schools. Due to the medical component of the curriculum, physicians were now involved in training nurses. Opponents were concerned this would lead to a supervisory relationship between nurse practitioners and physicians, instead of a cooperative relationship between independent colleagues. Critics felt this approach would allow medicine to usurp nursing.[1][12] Additionally, there was a great deal of prejudice around the abilities of nurses that Ford worked to overcome in these first nurse practitioner programs.[12]

Unification Model of Nursing

During her tenure as Dean at the University of Rochester, Ford developed a holistic approach to nursing education called the Unification Model of Nursing. The model is designed to include education, research, and clinical practice in the training of nurses.[7]


In 1989, Ford received the Ruth B. Freeman Award in the Public Health Nursing Section from the American Public Health Association. In 1990, she received the Gustav O. Lienhard Award from the National Academy of Medicine.[2] Ford was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing in 1999.[13] In 2003, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Nurse Practitioner.[14] She was honored with the Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Hobart and William Smith Colleges that same year; the award honors "a woman whose life exemplifies outstanding service to humanity."[15] She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.[9] In 2012, she was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.[16] Ford holds honorary doctorates from six universities.[1]

Personal life

As an undergraduate, Loretta married William Ford in 1947, and her daughter was born in 1952.[2]

Ford retired in 1985 and moved to Florida.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Loretta Ford, Boulder woman, co-founded nurse practitioner movement". Boulder Daily Camera. June 1, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Wells, Thelma J. (June 1993). "One Hundred Years of Powerful Women: A Conversation with Loretta C. Ford". Public Health Nursing. 10 (2): 72–77. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1446.1993.tb00028.x. PMID 8378237.
  3. ^ "Papers of Loretta C. Ford". University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Loretta Ford". IPN. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  5. ^ "FORD FOUND A NEW ROLE FOR NURSING". Modern Healthcare. February 27, 1995. Retrieved March 24, 2020.
  6. ^ "Directory: IOM Member - Loretta C. Ford, Ed.D., R.N." Institute of Medicine. Retrieved July 26, 2014.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b Reinisch, Courtney E. (2014). "Loretta Ford: Envisioning the Future". Clinical Scholars Review. 7 (1): 82–84. doi:10.1891/1939-2095.7.1.82. S2CID 76147806. ProQuest 1515913379.
  8. ^ "Barton Associates: Loretta Ford: The "Mother" of the Nurse Practitioner Movement". Barton Associates (en-US). July 23, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Landau, Elizabeth (September 30, 2011). "Nurse Practitioners Were "Lone Rangers", Founder Says". CNN.com. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  10. ^ Hoekelman, Robert A. (July 1, 1998). "A Program to Increase Health Care for Children: The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program , by Henry K. Silver, MD, Loretta C. Ford, EdD, and Susan G. Stearly, MS, Pediatrics , 1967;39:756–760". Pediatrics. 102 (Supplement_1): 245–247. doi:10.1542/peds.102.S1.245. PMID 9651445. S2CID 34839826.
  11. ^ Silver, Henry K.; Ford, Loretta C.; Steady, Susan G. (May 1, 1967). "A Program to Increase Health Care for Children: The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program". Pediatrics. 39 (5): 756–760. doi:10.1542/peds.39.5.756. PMID 6026876.
  12. ^ a b Landau, Elizabeth (September 30, 2011). "Nurse practitioners were 'Lone Rangers,' founder says". CNN. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  13. ^ "Living Legends". American Academy of Nursing. Archived from the original on April 12, 2012. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  14. ^ "NP of the Year Winners". The Nurse Practitioner. 28 (11): 16–17. November 2003. doi:10.1097/00006205-200311000-00009.
  15. ^ "HWS: The Blackwell Award". Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  16. ^ Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, Loretta Ford
  17. ^ electricpulp.com. "Loretta Ford, Founded Nurse Practitioner Movement". Working Nurse. Retrieved March 21, 2020.