Our History

The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses has gone through a metamorphosis over the years.  It has grown in size from the initial 25 members to a height of over 200 members. The involvement of its members has moved from the local to the National level consistently over the years. 

Prior to becoming a chapter of the National Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN), we were known as the Greater Delaware Valley Rehabilitation Nurses Association. We met monthly at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Osteopathic Medicine Hospital, Moss Rehabilitation, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital or Magee Rehabilitation Hospital,  using the meeting format of educational speakers and a business meeting. In 1978 our focus was on becoming a chapter of the ARN under the direction and leadership of Janet LaMantia, our President.  We worked toward our goal and became an official chapter of the Association on October 20, 1979 at the fifth Annual ARN Educational Conference.

In the Beginning

On May 29, 1974 22 professional nurses representing eight rehabilitation hospitals met together at Moss Rehabilitation Hospital. The purpose of the meeting was to establish formally an organization of rehabilitation nurses, whose objectives would be to provide a forum for the exchange of information among peers, to provide for continuing education to members and guests, to provide community education to meet the specific needs of the public and to improve expertise through the sharing of members’ knowledge and special skills in all program areas. Charter membership in this organization to be known as the Rehabilitation Nurses’ Association, was to be comprised of professional nurses from the Rehabilitation hospitals within Philadelphia and its suburbs.

Two issues which would later prove to have considerable impact on the growth and structure of this organization were discussed at the initial meeting: 1) the desire to become a special interest group of the ANA and 2) to become affiliated with the newly formed Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN). The newly formed Rehab Nurses Association of the Greater Delaware Valley decided not to make any other formal commitments.

Programs during these initial months in 1974 utilized the knowledge and special interest of members, and addressed the topics of human sexuality, respiratory problems of the quadriplegic patient and rheumatoid arthritis. Dues were established to help meet the expenses of the organization. The meeting sites were rotated to Magee, Moss and Bryn Mawr as host facilities for the 1974-75 year.

The attendance at meetings increased to a membership of 25. Insurance nurses began to join the group and formal elections of officers was held. This increase created an interest in ARN. We sent a representative to the first Annual meeting to clarify many of the questions which members had regarding this new organization. We then invited Virginia Wright, President Elect and Arthur Engle, Executive Vice President of ARN to discuss the purpose, objectives and goals of the organization. Program topics for the 1975 -76 year concerned the varied aspects of human sexuality, the patient with COPD, thanatology, nursing audit and a presentation of St. Christopher’s Hospice, London. 

This year marked the establishment of a formal organizational concept. The monthly meeting were held at Magee. In addition to the provision of leadership through elected officers and the establishment of annual membership dues, several other activities reflected the growth and development of the association.

  • The development of a membership directory
  • The purchase of Association letterhead and mailing envelopes
  • The name change of the Association from the Philadelphia Nurses’ Association to the Rehabilitation Nurses’ Association of the Greater Delaware Valley
  • The publication of the program schedule for the entire fiscal year
  • The development and implementation of a formal membership application form
  • The acquisition of an Association Post Office Box
  • The development of association by-laws
  • Appointment of standing committees: by-laws, rehabilitation bibliography and "exchange of ideas"

The most outstanding accomplishment of this year was the production and sale of 100 copies of the 1974-76 Rehabilitation Bibliography. This effort was conducted in cooperation with the Medical College of Pennsylvania Library, and reflected a significant undertaking for any rehabilitation nursing association to date. The membership remained stable at 28 by the end of the 1976-77 year.


During the 1977-78 year Association membership cards were printed and issued to all members.  The association received a tax-exempt status rating. During the 1978-79 year, our membership grew to 41 members and our meetings were held at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The most outstanding accomplishment during the 1978-79 year was the memberships’ decision in March 1979 to become a formal Chapter of the ARN.  Other accomplishments were:

  • The revision of the bylaws to be consistent with ARN bylaws
  • The determination to offer a $30 honorarium to each program speaker
  • The establishment of a $20 guest fee for non-members

Developing Districts within the States

In 1978, one year prior to Philadelphia becoming a chapter of the National Association, the Board established a policy that ARN Chapters must form along state lines. The exception to this policy had been California, which already had four approved chapters. 

With rapid membership growth, some states discovered that the state chapters could not adequately meet the needs of the membership in the state. Chapters were then encouraged to sub-divide that is to create districts wherever membership could support additional groups. Districts were accountable only to the State Chapter not to National and there was no direct communication between the National office and Districts.  Some of the chapters found the structure unworkable

Several ARN committee groups had worked on this issue for several years. Their work involved extensive information gathering from chapters, districts and other members. Pennsylvania Chapter Greater Delaware Valley district was the Mother Chapter of the State. We provided guidance and organization for together districts in the state. Mary Pepe, our Chapter president 1983-84, was the President of the State Organization and Jeanne McGraw was the Chapter representative.

In 1985, during the National Convention, the Board voted to dissolve the districts in the states and allow them to apply for chapter status. As a result, we changed our name to the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of ARN in 1986. 

The 1979-80 year began with Magee Rehabilitation Center hosting the monthly meetings. The goals for the 1979-1980 year were 1) education of our members by providing informative programs each month, and 2) to increase the staff nurse membership in our organization. The members made great strides toward fulfilling these goals. Committee activities heightened and the Special Project Committee “newsletter” was undertaken to help facilitate our outreach to the nursing community.

The membership committee developed objectives toward increasing membership from within the many services employing rehabilitation nurses within the state. The education committee developed an excellent schedule of programs. The president Elect Maureen Q. McKeown, was the Regional Editor for the development of the Core Curriculum which was completed in October 1980. Vendor participation was incorporated into the monthly meetings not only to provide financial support for the organization, but also to act as a resource for the disabled consumers.

We sent members to the 5the Annual ARN meeting and Conference to receive the Chapter Charter, which was granted to the Pennsylvania Chapter- Greater Delaware Valley District- ARN, On October 20, 1980 Chicago, IL. This event was a milestone in the life of the Association and reflected may years of growth effort, and accomplishment since that original meeting date 51/2 years earlier.

Regional Seminars, National and Local conferences

Our first hosting of a Region II Seminar was held at the Philadelphia Marriott, May 12 and 13, 1983.  200 people from six states attended this conference. The conference coordinator was Michelle Young. 

The next conference was our biggest challenge- a National Conference during Halloween Weekend in 1986.  The Conference co-chairs were Marilyn Sweeny and Peggy Reddy. This was the first time the National Conference had to be separated into tow hotels. We also had a large block party Memorial Hall with food and costumes. The Philadelphia Chapter dressed up as characters from the Wizard of oz.  I wonder if people can remember who was the Witch, Toto or Dorothy?

The Chapter also sponsored local and reginal seminars to get the word out about Rehabilitation Nursing: 

  • 1984    The Impact of Prospective Reimbursement on Rehab Nursing”
  • 1985    “Ethics and Economics- Nursing Perspective”
  • 1988    “Re-entry: Roll of the Dice” in Atlantic City (a regional conference)
  • 1992    “Rehabilitation: Lifelong Health Maintenance”

As a chapter we have remained committed to expanding and providing education to our members to improve the delivery of quality rehabilitation nursing.

We once again were the host city to the e National Conference in 2001.  Chapter members manned the host table with tourist and dining information. We coordinated  room monitors for paper presentations. We also held a cocktail party for chapter members and other local attendees. 

Jeanne McGraw Award for Excellence

In 1987, the chapter board voted to establish an award in memory of one of our devoted members, Jeanne McGraw, who died suddenly in 1986. She was the chapter secretary from 1983-85 and also the chapter representative on the state level when that structure was in use. She had worked on the Rehabilitation unit at Graduated Hospital then later worked for Home Health Corporation of America. The award was developed to honor a colleague who had made a significant contribution to the practice of Rehabilitation Nursing. The criteria for the award was: 1) Professional registered nurse who has a minimum of two years in the specialty and is a current provider of rehabilitation services 2) current ember in the greater Philadelphia chapter and or national member in ARN and 3) primary responsibility for providing rehabilitation nursing services.  The following is a list of recipients of the Jeanne McGraw Award for Excellence:

  • 1986       Karen Mandzak-McCarron
  • 1989       Bonnie Crofford
  • 1990       Jill Derstine
  • 1991       Theresa Sherman
  • 1992       Anne Julie White

Scholarship/Professional Development Committee

Mary Brassell, first envisioned the Scholarship Committee, in 1992 when she was president-elect. She wanted to provide individual members with some assistance in furthering their education. Throughout the years, many of the members have been awarded this scholarship to enhance their rehabilitation skills and abilities.