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UW School of Nursing Mourns Loss of Nursing Pioneer "Betty" Giblin


For immediate release
Date:  2005

Seattle, Feb. 23, 2005 - Elizabeth "Betty" Giblin, professor emeritus in the University of Washington School of Nursing and pioneer of sleep research in nursing, died Feb. 16, 2005, in Bellingham, Wash., at the age of 88. Giblin, a member of the UW School of Nursing faculty since 1959, pioneered the laboratory study of sleep in schools of nursing, and in 1979 she established the nation's first nursing school sleep lab at the UW. Her early research on sleep apnea and sleep patterns in Alzheimer's disease and chronic obstructive lung disease set the stage for a growing national interest in the role of sleep in many different illnesses.

"Each time I walk by the sleep lab I think of Dr. Giblin and her numerous contributions to so many of us in the School of Nursing," said Nancy Woods, dean. "She touched many lives through her work and her influence on nursing education here will continue to reverberate through the school."

Giblin earned her bachelor's degree from the UW School of Nursing in 1943, when founding dean Elizabeth Sterling Soule was head of the school. Upon graduation, she joined the Army Nurse Corps and served during WWII at the Battle of the Bulge, providing both operating room and psychiatric nursing care. After the war she returned to Seattle and worked as an operating room nurse at Harborview Medical Center and The Doctors Hospital. In 1950 she started teaching nursing courses at the UW School of Nursing while earning her master's in nursing from UW, which she completed in 1954. After earning her doctorate in education from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1959, she joined the faculty at the UW School of Nursing. For many years, she chaired the Department of Physiological Nursing, now known as the Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems. She served on numerous national nursing committees, including committees for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Nurses Association and the Food and Drug Administration.

She also continued to serve in the Army Nurse Corps reserves until 1972, when she retired with the rank of colonel.

Upon retirement from the UW in 1982, she was appointed professor emeritus, and she continued her research and involvement in the school. She served as co-investigator on the very first studies of sleep patterns in midlife women funded by the National Center for Nursing Research (now the National Institute of Nursing Research), a program of research that continues to this day in the School of Nursing's sleep research laboratory.

In 1985 Giblin established an endowed research fund to stimulate and enhance research in the UW School of Nursing. The Elizabeth Giblin Endowed Research Fund provides for salary support, research materials, lab equipment, instruments and supplies, publication expenses, costs associated with training and supervising research assistants, and other research-related needs.

Giblin, the 1991 recipient of the UW School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni Award, was a role model for many nursing scientists engaged in sleep research.

"Many of us think of her as our 'nursing sleep' mentor," says Carol Landis, professor of biobehavioral nursing and health systems. "At the annual scientific meetings throughout the 1980's, Dr. Giblin encouraged, challenged and supported us in our work."

In June 2002 at the scientific meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Seattle, many of Giblin's former students honored her at the annual nurse's breakfast. Those former students are now faculty members at nursing schools across the country, continuing research into a variety of sleep problems in both healthy individuals and those with medical conditions.

A memorial service will be held March 24 from 1-3 p.m. at University House at Wallingford, 4400 Stone Way North, Seattle. The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Elizabeth Giblin Endowed Research Fund, care of the UW School of Nursing, Box 357260, Seattle, WA 98195-7260.

Learn more: Nursing Near the Battle of the Bulge


The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently the nation’s No. 1-ranked nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 3 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service.