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Effie Taylor, a remarkable woman whose long career helped to define the field of nursing, began her professional life at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins working alongside founding director Adolf Meyer. Born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1874 into a large family who believed that both sons and daughter should be educated, she was inspired by nurses caring for her father to study at Johns Hopkins and earned her nursing diploma in 1907.
Taylor was appointed Director of Nursing Service for the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic when it opened in 1913. It appears that her advocacy for the graduate nurses under her supervision, indeed for the field of nursing, began early. In an impassioned letter to Dr. Meyer in 1920, she writes:
“It is the greatest insult to the intelligence and honor of the women, who in every way are equal and in many instances superior educationally and socially to the Medical Students, that they cannot be entrusted with the facts concerning the patient’s illness and the plan of treatment the physician is following.” (Taylor, 1920)
As a result, Dr. Meyer developed weekly rounds that included nurses at which patient cases and disorders were discussed and treatment questions answered.
While still at Hopkins, Taylor served as Assistant Principal of the School of Nursing and developed a course called Practical Psychology and Psychopathology, which was integrated over the three-year course of study for nurses at Hopkins. It was here at Hopkins that she developed her pioneering ideas about nursing education and patient care for which she became well- known.
While championing the need for mental health education in nursing schools, she also believed that no course in nursing would be complete without knowledge and appreciation of mental hygiene, a term coined by Adolf Meyer to describe efforts to prevent mental disorders, to try to intervene early, and to promote mental health in the community.
Taylor is also credited with the development of a patient-centered model of care in which nurses were assigned to specific patients instead of only tasks such as taking vital signs or cleaning. The patient’s emotional and intellectual state was also emphasized in this care model. This precursor to the primary nurse model allowed nurses to put the patients in their central focus and provide a more comprehensive picture of the clinical case.
She left Hopkins in 1922 when she moved to a position of Superintendent of the Connecticut Training School (later Yale University School of Nursing). Taylor served as dean of the program from 1934 to 1944. She also held positions in the Army School of Nurses, serving in both World Wars. She was President of the National League of Nursing Education and was awarded a medal for Humanitarian Work as well as the Florence Nightingale Medal of the International Red Cross. It was her involvement in professional nursing organizations that allowed her to influence nursing curriculum nationwide. Effie Taylor was pivotal, not only to the integration of mental health education into nursing generally, but also to the foundation of psychiatric nursing as clinical specialty.