"Use It or Lose It:" A College of Nursing Oral History Project

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 1:15 PM

Carolyn (Carrie) J. Lee, PhD, CNE, RN
College of Nursing, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH

Curricular content on nursing history and nursing history scholarship are endorsed as valuable to our profession and relevant to nursing education. The responsibility to preserve and study our history rests with individual nurses, organizations, historians and nurse educators (Canadian Nurses Association, 2004). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2008) mandates that students gain an appreciation of nursing history and an understanding of the historical context of nursing practice. History serves as a tool through which students connect to professional heritage and grow in role identity.

Professional nursing history rests upon the journeys and investments of countless nurses whose stories are rarely told or heard. The oral history tradition captures personal stories in the context of professional and social change, expands perspective, fills in evidence and clarifies information missing in other documents (Oral History Association, 2009; Bierdermann, 2001; Brown, Nolan & Crawford (2000). An ongoing oral history research study in our college has to date documented the nursing journeys of thirteen retired faculty members with graduate students serving as data collectors in their capstone course.

With the use of a structured interview guide, graduate students captured information about the participant’s original and graduate nursing education, career paths, faculty role development, history of our college, and nursing career reflections. Study participants have been enthusiastic in recalling and sharing their nursing paths. Valuable information about their careers and our college history have been recorded and stored in a permanent digital archive. The transcripts provide testimony to the evolution of nursing practice and education within an ever-changing social context. The stories reveal to students a sustained passion for our profession, examples of dynamic career paths and persistence in achieving important goals. Listening to the stories of participants honors their work and provides students a deeper connection to those who have walked before them.