History Comes Alive for Nursing

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 1:35 PM

Margaret McAllister, EdD, MEd, RN
Faculty of Science, Health and Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC QLD, Australia

Every year nurses all over the world celebrate Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12. To mark the occasion at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, we plan interactive learning experiences involving student, faculty and the public.  It has come to be known as “In My Day”, playfully drawing upon the turn of phrase people often use as they look with nostalgia upon the past.

We have planned events so that students: a) could mix as peers with diverse and previously separated nursing cohorts such as community members, retired and practising nurses and other students; and b) learn about crystallising moments in nursing history . Reflecting on nursing’s past reveals enduring lessons: that much of nursing work happens behind the screens; that there never is or has been ‘enough time’; and often what nurses were achieving was much more than what they thought they were doing at the time. These notions resonate today! Nurses today, like those in the past, are life-savers, healers and inventors. They provide a means through which medical treatments may have a better chance to succeed.  Nurses today, like yesterday, need to develop their practice so that it strikes a balance between provision of: kindness as well as knowledge; dignity as well as deliberate skills; encouragement as well as ethics; and compassion as well as calculated interventions.    

Immersion learning experiences, such as this, are a valuable addition to the undergraduate curriculum, bringing meaning and coherence to otherwise subject driven programs. This paper explores the value of celebrations involving history, within the nursing curriculum. It examines the transformative learning that was released throughout the experience from the points of view of students and staff.