Nursing History: An Honors Elective Nursing Course

Saturday, 28 October 2017

William T. Campbell, EdD, MS
Department of Nursing, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD, USA

Due to ever increasing technology, more skills, and new theory content, all within a limited timeframe for classroom delivery, nursing faculty and nursing curricula are constantly struggling for instructional space. As a result something has to be minimized or eliminated from the curriculum. Increasingly that topic is nursing history. However nursing history is an extremely important topic within nursing education and the nursing profession. Nursing leaders such as Nutting and Dock called for the study of nursing history over 100 years ago and the call was repeated soon afterwards by the National League for Nursing (NLN) (Davis, 1995). Today that call is still echoed by the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in Standard I, the AACN in Essentials Standard VIII, Quality and Safety Education for Nurses Initiative, U.S Department of Health and Human Services in Healthy People 2020, National Partnership for Action, Institute of Medicine (IOM), and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Orkiszewski, Pollitt, Leonard, and Lane, 2016). The strongest of all calls is from the American Association for the History of Nursing (AAHN) (Keeling, 2002).

In a public state university in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., nursing history within the undergraduate nursing program had been drastically decreased within the structured curriculum. This decrease followed the national trend repeated within many American nursing programs. It had become a single module and video in the foundations or introductory course. A new hybrid course was created and introduced by the author as first a special topics course to meet the requirement for the nursing elective and would then evolve into the Nursing Honors course to meet the upper level requirement for the Honors College. The format included a didactic portion utilizing a nursing history textbook with online power points and a formal lecture, but expanded beyond that approach. A second portion included reading literature about or by historical nursing figures or viewing films (or clips) illustrating nurses in action during a historical period. This arts portion of the class involved extensive in-class student lead discussions and included an understanding of the historical importance and application to today’s profession. Critical thinking within the situation was always emphasized. A third portion of each class involved the examination and discussion of a historical nursing or medical artifact. The artifact and its importance to that time period are discussed as well as its impact on healthcare today. Additional historical nursing books are read and discussed outside of class in small groups. Since the course neither involved any lab or clinical component nor required any pre-knowledge of nursing it was ideal for Honors students, for pre-nursing students, for upper level nursing students, and for RN-to-BS students. The multiple levels of students and their experiences only added to the discussions.