About Mercy

Mercy celebrates 145 years


The story of Mercy Hospital in Iowa City is remarkable, with all the twists and turns you’d expect for an organization celebrating its 145th anniversary. Now called Mercy Iowa City, the original hospital opened its doors and began providing care on September 27, 1873. Their first patient was a man with tuberculosis. The Sisters of Mercy had opened Iowa’s first hospital in Davenport four years earlier and were invited to come to Iowa City to open another hospital where students in the State University of Iowa’s new medical program could learn the practice of medicine. The four Sisters of Mercy who traveled from Davenport by train carried as many furnishings and medical supplies as they could manage. A kindly local farmer offered them a ride in his wagon to their destination, Mechanics Academy where the University of Iowa’s Seashore Hall stands today, three blocks from Mercy’s current location.

Although the Sisters of Mercy operated the hospital, the building was owned by the State Board of Regents, and disagreements about mission and vision occurred. In 1885 the Sisters purchased and moved three blocks to what was called the Dostal house, a property offered to them by the Iowa City Council. The Sisters of Mercy now owned their own hospital although the physicians and surgeons were still from the University.

By 1911 the Sisters had started a School of Nursing that would teach generations of young women until its closing in 1972, when more academic programs became available. By 1929 the medical staff had grown from five half-time positions to 29 who were full-time and dedicated to Mercy. And the Sisters were able to fulfill their vow of caring for the poor and sick by devoting their lives to that care and training more than 900 nurses who graduated from their three-year program.

Many additions were made to Mercy over the subsequent years, increasing the hospital’s footprint to cover almost four square city blocks. Expansion continued in other directions too, and today many physician offices and the Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) are located at Northgate (I80 and Hwy. 1) and the Coral West building (Hwy. 965 and Heartland Drive) in Coralville. The hospital owns 28 primary and specialty care clinics conveniently located in five counties, and specialty outreach clinics throughout southeast Iowa. The Sisters who founded and operated Mercy for its first 100 years could not have imagined a service area that extends east, west and south to the Missouri State line.

If the founding Sisters could visit Mercy today, they would see that their mission to heal and comfort the sick, and improve the health of the community, is alive and well at Mercy Iowa City," says Sean Williams, President and CEO. With private patient rooms, an Emergency Room satisfaction rate of 99% and wait times averaging 10 minutes or less, a Cardiology program ranked in the top 50 in the U.S. (Watson), dedicated hospice unit, inpatient and outpatient behavioral health care, and the only hospital in Iowa to have received five stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) two years in a row, putting it in the top 2% of hospitals nationwide, the Sisters would be very pleased.

Today Mercy Iowa City is an acute care hospital and regional referral center caring for patients from throughout southeast Iowa. Mercy has 234 acute care beds, 25 private rooms for outpatient surgery, 26-bed nursery with a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a medical staff of 250 physicians representing all major medical specialties and most sub-specialties and 1,350 employees. Mercy Iowa City was sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy Chicago for many years. In 2008, they became part of the Sisters of the West Midwest Community and in 2017 became an affiliate of the statewide Mercy Health Network. For more information, please visit www.mercyiowacity.org.