American Nursing History
In Our Past, Lies our Future
History bears witness to key events and in the development of our professional identity.
Historians often record the lives of nurses considered to have made a ‘noteworthy’ contribution to nursing or those who have witnessed or been part of an important event. I believe that it’s important to look at the experiences of all nurses as each, in their own way have contributed to the nursing profession.
The American Nurses Association states on their website “The world of professional nursing practice and health policy is ever evolving to meet the new dynamics of care needs in every setting”. Achieving professional status for nurses has been a long and, at times, rocky process.
Reviewing the history of nursing in America as told in literature and the personal histories of nurses, aids in understanding how nurses have conquered obstacles along the way to achieving full partnership in decision making in healthcare. These stories are told in this website Whenever possible, I plan to quote the words of past nurses as captured through their oral histories, memoirs, letters and written articles.
I have had a long career in nursing so when I felt it was appropriate I have included parts of my journey.
Davida Michaels, MSN, M.Ed. R.N.
Why Study History?
One question that I've been asked is: why study nursing history? How is the history of nursing and nursing education relevant to current nursing practice? In 1907, Adelaide Nutting and Lavinia Dock wrote in the preface to their book on the history of nursing:
". . . the modern nurse, keenly interested as she is in the present and future of her profession, knows little of its past. She loses both the inspiration which arises from cherished tradition, and the perspective which shows the relation of one progressive movement to others. Only in the light of history can she see how closely her own calling is linked with the general conditions of education and liberty that obtain - as they rise, she rises, and as they sink, she falls."
The study of nursing history encourages critical reflection and assists in defining our professional identity. As such, it is relevant to current nursing practice. "Indeed, nursing history should be included as part of the nursing curriculum; including nursing history into the curriculum will allow us to educate rather than "train" our students. In so doing, we will give them a sense of professional identity, a useful methodological research skill, and a context for evaluating information. Overall, it will provide students with the cognitive flexibility that will be required for the formation and navigation of tomorrow's health care environment" (Borsy, 2009).
Allen, Margaret, (2006).Mapping the literature of nursing education, Journal Medical Library Association94(2 Supplement 2006
Nutting, M. Adelaide and Lavinia L. Dock, 1907, A History of Nursing,Prefacep. V.G.P. Putnam's Sons The Knickerbocker Press, New York
Borsay, Anne,Nursing History Review 17 (2009);14-27 A Publication of the American Association for the History of Nursing, Springer Publishing Company DOI:10.1891/1062-8061.17.14 Quote attributed to :Keeling , Arlene and Mary Ramos The role of nursing history in preparing nursing for the future.Nursing and Health Care16
(l):30-34 from http://www.aahn.org Nursing History in the Curriculum: Preparing nurses for the 21st Century
American Nursing History - Topics
Nursing Education in America
[Includes Oral History , Oral Histories of graduates
of Diploma, ADN, Baccalaureate and Advanced Degree Programs]