"The search for a profession's identity is bound up with the social and historical roots that lead to its creation" - Dr John F. Sweeney

After various discussions among fellow South African nursing history enthusiasts, we came to the conclusion that some form of dialogue about, and support for, an inclusive South African nursing history is required.  It also became evident that there are nurses all over the country who have innovative, practical ways of keeping nursing history’s core values active and its achievements evident.  They need the encouragement and support from a like-minded collective.  We therefore invite you to join this online forum dedicated to matters pertaining to South African nursing history. The aims are:

  • Discuss how South African nursing history can assist in supporting and strengthening our professional ethos.

  • Debate how our nursing history can be represented meaningfully and inclusively in literature, art and professional activities.

  • Share ideas of how to facilitate an understanding of nursing history so that it contributes meaningfully to the curriculum.  History is so much more than a list of dates, names and events.

  • Support fellow history enthusiasts’ history related projects, thus creating a milieu in which history is evident in all our special events.

  • Create a data base of the whereabouts of art, documents or photographs related to the history of South African nursing.

  • Create an easy access, electronically based South African nursing history presence.

The listed aims are diverse and comprehensive.  Not something that can be done by one person - and definitely not in a short time.  But, we have to start somewhere.  Our first online discussion should therefore be about the “what”, “how” and “who” and “when” of commencing with such a venture.  We owe it to future generations of South African nurses to not distort or gloss over our professional history.  Neither can we deny it.  Gaddis (1995:23) states: “The existence of unfrozen contingencies is what distinguish the present and the future from the past; and anyone who ignores this fact - who tries to write change and circumstance out of history - not only distorts that subject, but leaves those who would learn from it ill prepared to confront one of the major conditions of their own lives”  Therefore “…history transmits experience by showing how human behaviour, tectonic forces, and contingency can intersect one another.”

Our nursing history should be portrayed as honestly and objectively (considering the epistemological nature of historical inquiry no easy feat) as possible.  It can inform and guide us in all matters pertaining to professionalism and ethos.  This forum intends to invite an exclusive group of interested nurses to debate the historical issues mentioned and to report and act on the suggested aims. Please join us in this endeavor!

Joan Esterhuizen
Nursing History Researcher
South African Nursing History Forum (SANHF)
14 April 2015


Gaddis,JL. 1995. On contemporary history. An inaugural lecture delivered before the University of Oxford on 18 May 1993. Oxford, Claredon Press.