Women’s History Month

In today’s post from Off the Charts (a blog of the American Journal of Nursing):

Women’s History Month 2023: Telling Our (Nursing) Stories

Shawn Kennedy, editor-in-chief (emerita)

The National Women’s History Alliance organizes Women’s History Month each March. This year, the theme, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories,” was picked to draw attention to “women in every community who have devoted their lives and talents to producing art, pursuing truth, and reflecting the human condition decade after decade.” To this end, the organization has been highlighting such literary notables as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Gloria Steinem, and Willa Cather, among others.

For Women’s History Month in March 2015, I wrote an editorial in AJN discussing the importance of knowing nursing history and pointing out that as a female-majority profession, nursing’s history is closely entwined with women’s history. Nurses have made significant contributions to developing the health system of this country—indeed, community health services, school health, and public health were built through the efforts of nurses.

In that editorial, I drew attention to several of the more widely known nurses and their contributions. But in AJN’s archives, which date from the first issue in 1900, one can find reports of nurses’ contributions, big and small, written by those who lived them. For example, Lina Rogers, the first nurse sent by Lillian Wald as a school-based nurse, writes (to read this and the following article, click on the PDF version in the upper left of the destination page) in 1903 about her experiences during her first year; Anne Colon, a district nurse in northern Michigan, describes her foray into the deep woods to a logging camp to provide care to loggers during the 1918 influenza epidemic. And there are so many others who are unknown to most of us.

Making our work visible.

As someone who has spent over 15 years encouraging nurses to tell their “stories”—whether in scholarly reports of research and practice innovations, accounts of community health projects they’ve initiated, thought-provoking opinion pieces, and heartfelt and personal reflections—I applaud this year’s theme. As nurses, we need to ensure that our work is made visible and that our contributions are recognized. Good work and innovative projects and practice need to be shared. We need to document nursing’s legacy of contributions.”

Shawn Kennedy, editor-in-chief (emerita, Off the Charts


In keeping with the “Telling Our (Nursing) Stories” theme, I am highlighting a book that keeps our nurse practitioner history alive. Cindy, a friend and fellow NP, has completed a book detailing the birthing of the nurse practitioner role in North Carolina. Developing nurse practitioner practice in NC shares many of the obstacles faced by other states and shows the tenacity of the nurses who championed the expanded role.

A New Order of Things: Origins of a Nurse Practitioner Movement

By Cynthia Freund, PhD, NP, RN

Professor and Dean Emerita, University of North Carolina, College of Nursing

Nursing practice changed dramatically in the mid-1960s as experiments across the country demonstrated the effectiveness of nurses’ expanded diagnostic and decision-making authority. The result was a new breed of nurse, the nurse practitioner.
In A New Order of Things, Freund takes readers through that evolution. Beginning with a demonstration project at the University of North Carolina, leading to the emergence of an innovative nurse practitioner training program, the siting of rural clinics with nurse practitioners as the primary providers of health services, a consortium of nurse practitioner training programs spanning the state, and ultimately to a movement: a new order of advanced nursing practice and primary care service delivery.
A New Order of Things is unique in that it documents a history with contemporary relevance, a case study illustrating how a major innovation was strategically engineered toward adoption at the organizational, health system, and state levels. Using multiple sources of historical records and 36 hours of interviews with leaders of the N.C. nurse practitioner movement, Freund illustrates how change leaders formed alliances in a politically nuanced process, thought ahead and of the present moment simultaneously, were adept at recognizing subtle clues and nimble enough to take advantage of opportune moments.
This story is N.C.’s story, but it is far more than that. It is a story for any health professional striving to make change in health services and move an innovative idea into widespread adoption.

By Marianna Crane

After a long career in nursing--I was one of the first certified gerontological nurse practitioners--I am now a writer. My writings center around patients I have had over the years that continue to haunt my memory unless I record their stories. In addition, I write about growing older, confronting ageism, creativity and food. My memoir, "Stories from the Tenth Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers" is available where ever books are sold.

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