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The True History of Nursing

The True History of Nursing

When I was in nursing school, one of our first classes in our BSN program was the History of Nursing. At the time, I was inspired by the one nurse we were taught about - Florence Nightingale.

The science of her work during the Crimea war, and her focus on hygiene was impressed upon my class, as we all were required to read her words in “Notes on Nursing." 

However, what I have come to realize, and all nurses should also come to understand is that only noting Florence Nightingale in the pedestal of nursing history and only seeing the positive aspect of her work and thoughts is myopic or nearsighted. It lacks the diversity and depth of the nursing profession and the true history of nursing.

One project that tackles a broader look at nursing history and highlights nurses of color is “Nurses You Should Know” led by Joanna Seltzer Uribe RN, MSN, EdD and Ravenne Aponte, PhD. This project started as a Johnson and Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship project of Fellow Joanna Selzter Uribe, who partnered with Ravenne Aponte who focuses her work on Nursing History. Learn more here: About: Nurses You Should Know or on the Lumify Hub under "Education Partners" you can access the "Nurses You Should Know" project. 

Lumify Co-Founders Anthony Scarpone-Lambert and Jennifferre Mancillas sat down with Dr. Seltzer Uribe and Dr. Aponte to discuss the "Nurses You Should Know" project. Dr. Aponte discussed also sharing a similar experience with learning solely of Florence Nightingale and thinking “there’s a big part of the story that’s not there." Jennifferre commended the work in calling it “empowering” and highlighting the importance of showcasing the diversity in nursing. Dr. Aponte shared how this work has helped nursing professors integrate the truth of nursing history in their curriculum. Below are a few nurses the project highlights from the past and current history in nursing:

  • Mary Seacole – Denied a place to work at the Nightingale Hospital during the Crimea war, she self-funded a boarding house called the British Hotel to treat soldiers. She was also the first known Black woman in Britain to have written an autobiography. Read more here
  • Michelle Kahn-John – A member of Navajo Nation, Big Water Clan using her PhD to focus on mental health protective factors while integrating the Navajo concept of wellness to inform her practice and research. Read more here.
  • Milagros Elia – A nurse environmental activist “It would be my wish that as patient advocates, nurses begin to feel supported right from the beginning of their educational process — and throughout their careers — to speak out against climate injustices that affect the communities they love and serve. As a whole, my hope is that moving forward, the nursing profession begins at the undergraduate level and embraces a universally standardized curriculum that includes the impact of climate change on human health."  Read more here.

Dr. Seltzer Uribe proclaimed that nursing needs disabled nurses, nurses of color, LGBTQ nurses, men in nursing and more as that strengthens nursing as a profession. She stated that “we want to expand the nursing profession to show how inclusive we can be, our default is weeding people out and that’s counterproductive." 

Finally, Dr. Aponte said it beautifully, “there is no one type of nurse." As nurses we should strive to continue to learn more about nursing history, and celebrate our breadth, depth of our past, and work to unite the diversity of nursing.

Check out Lumify Care’s Instagram (Previously Recorded) Live here! Lumify Care IG Live: Nurses You Should Know

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