Nursing History in Nurse Education

At the EAHN meeting in Utrecht in 2017, we explored how Nursing History forms part of the curriculum for Nurse Education, and some of the drivers that might support or hinder its incorporation in curricula.

A small investigation in the United Kingdom showed that in the curricula of nurse education some have nursing history and some do not. Those contacted said they were interested in nursing history, but there was no provision in the curriculum. If nursing history is present it is optional, which means that there is a risk that it disappears. The purpose of nurse education is seen as training clinically competent nurses, and nursing history is not, therefore, compulsory.

In Germany the history of nursing was traditionally included in nurse education, but reforms to nurse education in 2003 resulted in a competency based curricula. For now nursing history is included in the German curricula usually inserted in other lessons, for example, in professional identity and reflective thinking. The German Nurse Association wants nursing history history in the curriculum, and there is ongoing discussion.

Ireland has at a major shortage of nurses and this is a problem. The healthcare system in Ireland is a bit like that in the United Kingdom. There are ongoing crises and it is all very politically driven. For now nursing history is still in the curriculum, but it is optional, and it is often an elective module.

Nursing history in Israel is not included in the curriculum. If it is taught, it depends of the expertise of the teacher. Furthermore, the meaning of the concept of nursing history is the subject of internal discussions.

The history of nursing used to be a compulsory topic in the curricula of nursing education in the Netherlands. In the nursing education system introduced in 1996 nursing history was abolished. It depended on the individual teacher if the students learned more about nursing history. In September 2016 a new curriculum was introduced and nursing history is now compulsory again. A small survey of 20 nursing schools showed that teachers agreed that nursing history is a necessary item, but they face several problems, such as lack of hours, no modern material and lack of history training. Preferable topics are Florence Nightingale, Nurses’ Day and issues such as leaderhip, home nursing, and professional regulation.

Nursing history has been part of the nursing curriculum in Norway since 1917. National regulations reserve specific time to nursing history. Teachers use several methods for teaching nursing history and different material. The training of teachers in nursing history is variable.

Nursing history is a compulsory topic in the nursing curriculum in Spain. The hours dedicated to nursing history depends on the university delivering nurse education.

Nursing history is considered to be an essential topic for the curriculum in Switzerland, although nationally it is not compulsory. Nursing history is taught in various ways. There are no specific modules. Teaching by narratives is often used: with an older nurse invited to tell her story. This is considered to be an important way of handling this subject.

The drivers supporting or hindering the incorporation of nursing history into nurse education varied country to country. There were some commonalities in terms of factors that impede nursing history been adopted:

External

  • Competency-based curricula that focus on clinical skills and leave little space for nursing history.

Internal

  • a general lack of interest in nursing history
  • not feeling nursing history is part of our nursing identity
  • Nursing history is seen as a hobby