Researching Nursing History in Australia: Using Autoethnography as Method!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012: 2:20 PM

Lesley M. Siegloff, BEd, (Ntud), MNA, (UNSW)1
Paul Arbon, AM, BSc, MEd, (Studies), PhD1
Heather Smigiel, PhD2
(1)School of Nursing & Midwifery, Flinders University, Adelaide; South Australia, Australia
(2)Department of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Centre for University Teaching, Flinders University, Adelaide; South Australia, Australia

Learning Objective 1: Develop an argument to support autoethnography as a legitimate method for research into nursing history.

Learning Objective 2: Identify the place of the new and emerging research methods of the qualitative paradigm.


I entered nursing 45 years ago in the ensuing years so much has changed that I believe the nature of nursing has changed exponentially. To explore this story further I have embarked as a higher degree student on a study of the history of nursing in Australia. My methodological choice is Autoethnography. This paper will  engage in debate about the use of Autoethnography as a valid approach to researching nursing history.


In autoethnography the subject is self (auto) and ethnos the study of culture. Autoethnography according to Holt uses highly personalised accounts where they draw on their own experiences to extend understanding of a particular discipline of culture (2003:2).


The paper is designed to discuss a number of issues related to the use of  Autoethnography as a valid approach to history research.


There have been a number of approaches to nursing history research over the years. The author reviewed methods such as Histiography, Biography, Autobiography and conculded that by using autoethnography to tell the story against the nursing journey of the last 45 years. 

Holt, NL 2003 Representation, Legitimation, and Autoethnography: An Autoethnographic Writing Story. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2(1). Article retrieved January 2011) from