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Book and Media Reviews
August 10, 2011

American Catholic Hospitals: A Century of Changing Markets and Mission

JAMA. 2011;306(6):659. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1133

The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, in remarks he made in 1994 to leaders of Catholic health care facilities in the Archdiocese of Chicago, stated that he was “unequivocally committed to the belief that the provision of faith-inspired health care . . . is essential to the Church's life and mission. While the manner in which this ministry is exercised has changed, and will change even more, the ministry itself must continue (emphasis added).” (Unpublished session outline, August 31, 1994.) The cardinal's statement about change and continuity is borne out and documented in Barbara Mann Wall's American Catholic Hospitals: A Century of Changing Markets and Mission. A nurse historian at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing known for her studies on women (particularly nurses and Sisters) and health care, Wall provides a historical analysis of the changing shape of Catholic health care over the span of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st. Her study, which is topical rather than chronological, focuses mostly on Catholic hospitals in 4 US cities—Austin, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Seattle—but is also illustrative of developments in health care generally during this period.