Document Type



Oregon Health & Science University


Virginia Tilden was born overseas and grew up in the Commonwealth of Nations and the Far East. Her family returned to the United States while Tilden was in high school, and she decided to pursue a B.S. in Nursing at Georgetown University. It was there that Tilden found her calling in psychiatric nursing and was awarded a National Institute of Mental Health traineeship. After graduating from Georgetown in 1967, Tilden moved to San Francisco to pursue her Master's in Psychiatric Nursing from UCSF, studying under interdisciplinary faculty members Anselm Strauss and Virginia Oleson. After completing her degree, Tilden served as a clinical instructor before going on to pursue her Ph.D. in Nursing from UCSF. She completed her doctorate in 1981, writing her dissertation on the psychological experiences of women during pregnancy and childbirth. The following year, she accepted a faculty position in the School of Nursing at OHSU, where she researched domestic violence and abuse.

In 1989, Tilden became the Associate Dean for Research and earned a postdoctoral certificate in Clinical Bioethics from the School of Medicine at the University of Washington. This program was a turning point for Tilden, who became invested in the ethics of end-of-life care. Along with Michael Garland, Susan Tolle, and Gary Chiodo, Tilden worked to create an Ethics Center at OHSU. Tilden's work in the Ethics Center supported the creation and development of Physician Orders for Life-Saving Treatment (POLST). After serving as the Associate Dean of Research for 12 years, Tilden accepted the position of Dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where she served for 8 years. Tilden retired in 2011, returning to Portland and eventually resuming her position as Senior Associate for Research. In this oral history, Tilden reflects on her storied career and the role of teamwork and ethics in healthcare.


Transcript of oral history interview with Virginia Tilden, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., conducted on October 27, 2017 by Michael Garland, D.Sc.Rel.


School of Nursing


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