In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

1 It has been said and written scores of times, that every woman makes a good nurse. I believe, on the contrary, that the very elements of nursing are all but unknown. —Florence Nightingale1 he professionalization framework is the starting point for under standing the written history of nursing, as this remains the predominant approach to nursing’s past. Two factors help to explain this. First, professionalization has long been the dominant strategy of nursing leaders. Second, historians of nursing have been inclined to use this strategy as their framework in interpreting nursing history. Indeed, for much of nursing’s past, the historians and leaders of nursing were one and the same. As Oderkirk explains,“Nursing history has been counted among that historiographical species pejoratively called ‘in-house’ history, written by practitioners for practitioners, and identified by a propensity toward hagiography, evangelism, and images of professional destiny.”2 Underlying this framework is the assumption that nursing is advancing through a process of professionalization. Among the leaders of nursing, this idea has been so deeply ingrained that ideas to the contrary are unfathomable . Thus, in the texts that are written to help socialize fledgling nurses into their chosen work, nursing authors regularly exhort their readers to recall nursing’s emergence as a profession from a dark past. Typical of such treatises, one author remarks, “From its unorganized and poorly defined beginnings,a profession based on ...competence,autonomy,determination, and human caring evolved.”3 Small wonder, then, that doubts about the professionalization of nursing seem almost as improbable as questioning the 1 Introduction: The Nature of Nursing T Olson_CH1_3rd.qxd 1/13/2004 2:20 PM Page 1 nature of nursing itself, which in contemporary discussions is often typified by the phrase “nursing is caring.” Professionalization in nursing is most often viewed as occurring in a series of stages, as professions are typically understood.4 Progress through each stage is thought to involve certain accomplishments: a focus on academics or theory-driven knowledge, including a constant upgrading of educational standards; consolidation of authority; establishment of state registration and accreditation of schools; and attainment of self-regulation or autonomy. Of course, specific descriptions often vary in terms of the aspect of professionalization emphasized. However, the underlying message remains the same. Some authors spotlight the consolidation of authority among the major nursing organizations in describing the path to professionalism in nursing. One such individual warns against “the dilution of the profession ’s strength and the diffusion of its leadership.”5 In a slightly different example, another writer stresses the increased quality and length of nurses’ training, along with greater control over their education and work, in tracing “nursing’s progress toward professionalism” during the period 1850 to 1920.6 Another cites “the silent battle” over nurse registration, between 1903 and 1920, as the pivotal factor in the ongoing conflict to distinguish nursing from a skilled trade and to raise it from the status of a “semi-profession ” to that of a full profession.7 Accounts that boldly raise an alternative explanation of nursing’s past tend to quickly revert to familiar patterns. For instance, in an essay entitled “Constructing the Mind of Nursing,” a leading nurse historian reflects that “revisionist historical scholars have lately expanded the explanations of nursing’s conception beyond ‘the great woman theory’ of Nightingale’s genius’” to encompass a wider array of ideas. Yet venturing only slightly beyond Nightingale, nursing is seen here as a field of “emerging professionals ,”in an“intellectual terrain”dominated by three of North America’s nursing ’s elite: Lillian Wald, Annie Goodrich, and Lavinia Dock. The outcome is predictable, as the account continues:“And once again, the idea of compassion and caring as a central virtue in nursing appeals to the core of nurses.”8 As this study will explore, caring has become the rallying point for academicians in nursing have sought to define a unique occupational knowledge base that will establish the field’s full-fledged professional status.9 In a well-researched book on technology, gender, and American nursing , another author similarly promises new insights into the nature of nursing. “Angling for space (with doctors and others) in the ‘narrow passageway ’ leading to the bedside of patients,” this individual contends, “ . . . nurses believed that the tangibility of things and the visibility of proce2 Chapter 1 Olson_CH1_3rd.qxd 1/13/2004 2:20 PM Page 2 dures embracing those things would make their knowledge and work more perceptible and discrete.” However, incorporating new technologies into...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.