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We can learn from the history of nursing

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We can learn from the history of nursing We can learn from the history of nursing

Is nursing history important? It is to me, because I am a nurse and I am interested in history, so the chance to combine the two things is irresistible. I feel privileged to be a member of the steering group for the RCN's History of Nursing Society, which is hosting an event at RCN Congress in May, looking at the image of nurses and media portrayal of the nurse over the last 200 years, and what this can teach us about the image of nursing now.

And there lies the connection with today's world of nursing. History is not just about the past, and what happened then. It is about the chain of precursor events that brought us, whether individually, as a country or a profession, to where we are now.

It is a chance to remember and learn, and apply that learning to the future, so nursing history should be important to all of us. It is part of our professional DNA, influencing every aspect of the way we are now. Ignoring it would be like tearing up the biology, sociology, psychology and genetics research that helps us understand how we function as human beings.

The RCN is currently embarking on an interesting project regarding the history of nursing. As part of the refurbishment of its London headquarters, it plans to name a series of rooms after nurses from the past nominated by members.

So here is a challenge: to name as many nurses as you can whose contribution makes them worthy of having a room named after them. Who would be in and who would be out? And what kind of contribution makes a nurse shape history?

It will be fascinating to see how much variety there is in the nominations, where there is consensus and where disagreements will arise. It may be a small thing symbolically to simply have a name on a door, but it is a big thing to pause to identify our heroines, leaders, inspirations and exemplars.

To attend the RCN Congress History of Nursing Society event or to nominate a nurse, visit the RCN website at

Rosemary Cook, director, The Queen's Nursing Institute

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