Just a couple of blogs back I was thinking about the lack of 20th century figures who are well-known to the profession for having an impact on its development. It seems to be quite a serious gap in our history. The blog, and a subsequent editorial in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, has piqued the interest of a few people and I think we have the makings of a serious project to try to address this vacuum in some way. We have conducted one short survey aimed at Nursing departments in the UK; we are going through the results of that and will write about it soon. As things progress, you will be able to keep up to date with it here.
As a result of the early conversations we have already had a number of suggestions to consider, and as always, social media has been an interesting source of names. Social media conversations were also useful in helping us to think about the questions we wanted to ask those who lead nursing programmes. Will our suspicions – that large numbers of student nurses are not being taught the history of their profession or about the many influences on its development – be confirmed?
The names we are hearing informally come mostly from the latter quarter of the 20th century and are predominantly female. Historical male figures seem to be an equally closed book. It is sad to think that some of today’s young men thinking of joining the profession may only be able to relate to fictional characters – Charlie Fairhead or the other bloke that used to be in The Bill – when it comes to significant male figures in nursing. At least Nightingale and Seacole were real. All good reasons to be getting on with what seems to be a very necessary project.
So dig around in your memories, oral histories, local archives. It’s a fascinating process and between us we will uncover or rediscover nursing luminaries for at least one more generation. And, by the way, in terms of men here are a few starters to consider. Try looking up Bob Tiffany, Trevor Clay, Phil Barker or Alan Pearson.