As a regular follower of Anne Cooper’s blogs, I enjoyed her recent ‘fantasy party guest’ post.  Not necessarily a list of people with whom to paint the town red, but a list of colleagues and others that she enjoys learning from and with, and who inspire and motivate her in her professional life.  At the end of the blog Annie exhorted readers to draw up their own list and to share it.   So, here are the people I would like to attend my own ‘salon’ to talk nursing, past and present.  Unlike Annie – I haven’t restricted my list to people I know personally and not all of them are, ahem, alive.  They are, of course, in no particular order.

Professors Debra Jackson, Trish Davidson and Nicky Cullum – all fierce nurse believers, strong in thought, word and deed.  Always a joy to listen to and talk with, full of energy and optimism.

Debra, a single-minded, action-oriented powerhouse of a Prof, it was my great pleasure to appoint her to lead the Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and AHP Research at Oxford Brookes University.  One year in, when I retired as Dean, the Institute was well established and she was consolidating connections locally and globally.  She had already achieved more than I expected.  Relentlessly energetic, I have never met a more single-minded person.  An amazing woman.  She’s also a great mentor, a good laugh, and a brilliant storyteller.  I love her.

Trish, arguably one of the most powerful women in nursing today,  presiding over the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore, has had the kind of career one dreams about.  A globally recognised researcher, leader, manager, teacher she is the stuff of nursing legend.  I have met Trish just once, but have read her work, listened to her speak and followed her achievements with awe.  To see someone who is a significant influence on nursing right here, right now – just look to Trish Davidson.  Respect.

Nicky, I got to know through the Council of Deans UK.  Down to earth, no nonsense, straight-talking Head of the Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the University of Manchester.  Frighteningly intelligent, not easily impressed, and reassuringly irreverent, I count myself lucky to be an acquaintance.

These three would lead a conversation about nursing scholarship that would set intellectual sparks flying.

To challenge and question, I would invite Elaine Maxwell @maxwele2 and Alison Leary @alisonleary1 .  Always interested, engaged and incisive, they would remind us of our need to be politically aware and our obligation to always seek for evidence – robust and valid evidence.  Smart, funny and clever, unafraid to prick the pompous and deflate the self-important they would keep our feet on the ground whilst our heads were in the air.  Invaluable contributions.

Dr Ann Ewens @AnnEwens would be round the table.  Ann has just taken up post as Dean of the School of Health and Social Care at Staffordshire University and prior to this worked with me for a while as Head of Department at Oxford Brookes University.  Ann is one of the few people I know who really does turn absolutely every experience into a learning experience.  Many times when working together I have been aware of Ann quietly listening and processing, asking questions and clarifying, challenging and provoking and then utilising what she has gathered and synthesised into her academic practice.  A voracious learner, a pragmatist with a huge capacity for resolving the complex and awkward, and a delight to spend time with, I can see Ann just ‘hoovering up’ everything she was hearing and filing it away for future reflection and use.

My invitation list would also include Virginia Avenal Henderson (1897 – 1996).  A legendary figure in 20th century nursing, how could any nurse of my generation not want Henderson round their fantasy dining table?  The woman who gave us the most enduring definition of nursing…‘the unique function of the nurse is to…’ etc.  and stressed the importance of patient self-determination at a time when being a passive recipient of care was the norm.  A profound influence on nursing world wide, Henderson is, in my view, the 20th century’s Nightingale.  I would sit at her feet.

Given the discussions we have today about the title ‘Nurse’, the importance of regulation and rights of the public to expect those Nursing them to actually be Nurses, I would welcome a conversation with Ethel Bedford Fenwick 1857 –  1947.  Mrs Bedford Fenwick campaigned successfully for a longer education preparation for nurses (three years), for a nationally recognised qualification (State Registration) and the regulation of nurses through a professional register, the latter in direct opposition to Florence Nightingale who was against what she saw as the ‘professionalisation’ of nursing through registration.  It was Bedford Fenwick’s view that the biggest issue facing nurses and the general public who might need their attention was that anyone, with any or no training, could call themselves a nurse.  Oh, how we would talk into the night about this!  What Bedford Fenwick experienced in opposition to her plans, is so very similar to the arguments we see today around Registered Nurses and supporting nursing roles.  Bedford Fenwick thought she had achieved safeguarding and protection of the title “Nurse’ when the register came into being in 1919.  Sadly, despite campaigning for thirty years, we now know that she didn’t do enough.  There is some fabulous reporting on Mrs Bedford Fenwick’s battles and the chaotic debates around nursing summarised here.  It’s rather depressing to see how history repeats itself.  I would lift Ethel from her grave to spin around my table, which she would surely be doing at the current professional issues in nursing.

I think the above eight women would make for a fascinating dinner table conversation.  Who wants an invite?



‘A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry, *”either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse”). Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, were carried on until as recently as the 1940s in urban settings.’ Wikipedia.