Our Legacy


With roots dating back to 1899, the Mercy College of Health Sciences legacy spans over 120+ years of providing high-quality healthcare education while transforming students into professionally trained healthcare professionals.

About Us



On April 7, 1899, in a special meeting of the Mercy Des Moines medical staff, it was decided to form the Mercy Des Moines School of Nursing to meet the growing demands for professionally trained nurses in the workforce. The inaugural class of seven students graduated in 1901.

Mercy School of Nursing students walk to graduation in 1946



Iowa’s registered nurses lobbied for a new minimum daily wage of $6 for an 18-hour work day. Student nurses Ellen Patricia Brennan (later Sister Mary Zita), right, and Norah Ryan, left, during their training in the 1920s.



The blue striped aprons that covered student uniforms were replaced by white uniforms, shoes, and hose. Special aprons were used during operating or obstetrical procedures, and in the diet kitchens. Students recalled lining up in their crisp, new uniforms with their caps to a point and hems in a row.


The Mercy Guild, presently known as Mercy Auxiliary of Central Iowa, purchased two eight-slice toasters for use in the students’ dining room, thus sparking a partnership that has since funded millions of dollars in scholarships and renovations.


The National League of Nursing granted Mercy School of Nursing accreditation, making it one of only two Des Moines schools with this distinction.


The Medical and School of Nursing libraries were combined and renamed the Levitt Learning Resource Library. These libraries still co-exist today, giving students access to a broad range of medical books and journals to which they otherwise would not have access.


Mercy began a training program for pre-hospital advanced care, the first in Iowa. This program was renamed the Mercy Regional Emergency Training Center in 1988 and would later become the current Emergency Medical Technician and Paramedic program at Mercy College of Health Sciences.


After the consolidation of Mercy Hospital’s educational programs under the umbrella of Mercy School of Health Sciences in 1994, the School of Nursing joined with the Schools of Radiology, Medical Technology, Perfusion, and the Mercy Regional Emergency Training Center. Unified as one institution in 1995, Mercy College of Health Sciences was officially formed.


The construction of the Sullivan Center was completed and named in honor of Patricia Clare Sullivan, former School of Nursing director (1960-64) and Mercy Medical Center CEO (1977-93). More than $5.5 million was raised to support the project.


The Academic Center for Excellence completed renovations that made more than 22,000 square-feet of office, classroom, and laboratory space available to Mercy College. This expanded space allowed for the consolidation of the College’s academic programs into a two-block radius for the first time in the College’s history. College Hill Apartments also opened 86 housing units on campus.


Mercy College expands their online educational offerings with the launch of Mercy College PLUS. MercyPLUS offers multiple start dates per year, affordable tuition, generous transfer credit acceptance, and flexible courses designed for specifically for adult learners.

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Mercy College is a Catholic, accredited, nonprofit institution of higher learning.