Mercy College & Our History

The founding beliefs established by the Sisters of Mercy guide the College as it educates nurses and allied health care professionals in its third century of operation.

Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin in 1831 in response to the desperate poverty of Ireland's Catholics under the British penal laws. Catherine used her inheritance to open Baggot Street House of Mercy where she and like-minded women instructed children and taught young women the skills they needed to become independent. They visited the sick in hospitals and in their homes and became known in Dublin as "The Walking Nuns." The Vatican formally recognized the community in 1841, shortly before Catherine died.

Frances Warde, one of the first women to profess her vows as a Sister of Mercy, came to the United States in 1843 in response to requests from U.S. Bishops to minister to Irish immigrants. By 1893, three sisters from Mercy Hospital in Davenport opened a new hospital in Des Moines. Under the leadership of Mother Mary Baptist Martin, they provided their first care from rooms rented at Hoyt Sherman Place.

In 1899, the Mercy Hospital Training School was established to educate nurses. Seven students graduated in the first class in 1901.

Mercy College evolved from Mercy School of Health Sciences, a certificate and diploma institution established as a consolidation of the Mercy Schools of Nursing, Radiology and Emergency Medical Services in January 1994.

Mercy College of Health Sciences was formed in July 1995. 

We’ve continued to expand our educational programs to meet the healthcare community’s needs, with the creation of bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration (est. 2002), health science (est. 2009), health information management (est. 2017) and public health (est. 2017) to address the needs of healthcare employers searching for leaders with advanced knowledge and greater understanding of the complexity of healthcare delivery.

We have a working relationship with Mercy Medical Center (MMC) – Des Moines , Mercy Health Network (MHN) and Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) – which allows us to stay at the forefront of the changing landscape in healthcare, ultimately helping you to be better prepared on your first day of professional practice. We also engage with many other community healthcare organizations to give you added perspective.