Excellence in Nursing : AJN The American Journal of Nursing

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From the AJN Archives

Excellence in Nursing

AJN, American Journal of Nursing 120(4):p 64-68, April 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000660064.75297.4a


From its first issue in 1900 through to the present day, AJN has unparalleled archives detailing nurses' work and lives over more than a century. These articles not only chronicle nursing's growth as a profession within the context of the events of the day, but they also reveal prevailing societal attitudes about women, health care, and human rights. Today's nursing school curricula rarely include nursing's history, but it's a history worth knowing. To this end, From the AJN Archives highlights articles selected to fit today's topics and times.

This month's article, from October 1969, is a classic piece by Virginia Henderson, known for her patient-focused theory of nursing practice and her extensive teaching and writing, including many thoughtful articles on the nature of nursing. Here, she illustrates her ideas about excellence in nursing by highlighting the accomplishments of several key nursing figures, from “Miss Nightingale” to 20th-century nursing innovators.

Henderson's broad vision of nursing provides the framework for this discussion. She notes that “no one practices nursing except in relation to his or her times and in relation to the needs of a given society,” and that nursing therefore calls for a social conscience and an interest in civic matters. “It seems hardly possible to me that an excellent nurse can be at the same time an indifferent or socially inexperienced citizen.”

Henderson's perspective seems more relevant and urgent today than even when it was written, during the turbulent 1960s. In this month's Viewpoint column, William E. Rosa builds upon her important work in his discussion of “Nurses as Global and Planetary Citizens.”

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