Topic-icon SA Nursing History:time to reconsider & revitalise

1 year 11 months ago #69 by Joan
It it hard to believe that we have been posting South African nursing history content on this forum for a year! Thank you to our small (we have 28 members), but enthusiastic group of supporters who send articles and inform me of nursing related historical events.

Reflecting on this first year, I realize that I learned a few things about history, historical inquiry, history related discourse - and online hackers. Sadly the last mentioned are more active on this site than we, the members! We seem reluctant to commence with an in-depth discussion of our history.

Why is it that we South African nurses are so reluctant to discuss our nursing history? Do we believe that it is not an important topic? Maybe we think that there is nothing more to be said -after all most of us are familiar with the histories of Henrietta Stockdale, Cecilia Makiwane and Dorah Nginza (but to mention a few).

I had the privilege of attending the 27th STTI International Nursing Research Congress in Cape Town (21-25 July 2016) and presenting a portion of my masters dissertation, which explored the history of black professional nurses in South Africa. The congress program contained only two history related presentations: approximately 40 minutes out of a full five days filled with the latest international nursing research. My session was scheduled for the last day of the conference and I erroneously believed that few would attend. Surely everybody was tired and/or leaving early for the airport and after all, nursing history seems not to be valued by most. (I had a fellow student asking me a while back: "So what does one do with a post graduate degree in history?")

Contrary to my belief that I will be speaking to the empty chairs, those chairs were filled! And the session turned into an interesting and lively discussion with South African and international nurses asking questions and debating the history of South African nursing. The participants challenged my academic skills, stimulated my thoughts and created a sense that history is (and should not be) not stagnant.

There is still so much to explore including:
  • The history of Indian and coloured nurses in South Africa
  • The history of male nurses in South Africa
  • A photo history of South African nursing
  • The contribution to the development of professional nursing made by large teaching hospitals such as Baragwanath Hospital, Somerset West hospital and Johannesburg General hospital (to name but a few).
  • Reflections on the influence of apartheid on professional unity (or lack thereof) in South African nursing.
  • The value of history as a teaching tool in South African class rooms - specifically to enhance critical thinking and reflection.

By not thinking, talking and writing about our nursing history we remain unaware of those factors which contributed to the profession as we know it today. We do not recognize the success of the past, nor do we learn from the mistakes. Most importantly of all: by not giving due attention to our nursing history, we are denying generations of nurses their own struggle history. They remain the silent voices - never to be heard. Is it not time to reconsider and revitalise South African nurses' professional history?
2 years 11 months ago #11 by Joan
This week a visit to the South African Nursing Council (SANC), prompted me to reflect on two of the questions mentioned in the Forum's introductory letter:
What value do we attach to our uniquely South African nursing history? How do we communicate appreciation for our nursing history in the profession?
Do South African nurses have an action plan that will assist in presenting our history in a manner that conveys respect and dignity to all involved?

At the entrance to the SANC building is a beautiful plaque (note gallery) referring to the date (12 May 2012) that the building was named after Cecilia Makiwane, the first black professional nurse in South Africa and Africa . The date is significant:12 May is celebrated world wide as International Nurses Day - the birthday of Florence Nightingale. Appreciation for our unique South African and International nursing history is therefore evident every time we enter the Council.

The SANC reception and foyer walls have photos of our current leaders, a framed photo of Cecilia Makiwane - and next to it a plaque containing a list of the previous SANC presidents/chairpersons. The list commences in 1995.

The question arises: how can we give recognition to those who historically contributed to the establishment of the professional council we value and depend on for professional leadership (i.e. the previous presidents since the SANC was established in 1944) in a manner that conveys respect to all? How do we represent and/or recognise the historical period 1944 to 1995?
3 years 1 week ago #4 by Joan
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