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Feature: News and Views

Remembering a Nursing Icon: Luther Christman (1915–2011)

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doi: 10.1097/01.JBI.0000405537.66667.b4
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Luther P. Christman was born in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania on February 26, 1915, to Elmer and Elizabeth Christman.

He graduated from the Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing for Men in 1939 (University education for nursing in America did not start until 1944), and married another nurse, Dorothy Black (Dorothy Christman), during the same year. They had three children, Gary James, Judith Ann, and Lillian Jane.

As a man in a profession dominated by women it did not take long for him to appreciate what being part of the minority meant. He was plagued by extraordinary discrimination throughout his career, accused of being immoral, and denied the clinical experience he requested for a maternity rotation (on the basis of being a man).

He was also denied entry to the Army Nurse Corps during World War II and to two University programs for the same reason. He could recount story after story of the abuse, intolerance, and resistance he experienced both as a trainee and as a qualified nurse.

Christman, however, was undeterred by any of this, and worked doggedly and tenaciously to implement radical and innovative ideas in nursing education and practice.

Throughout a nursing career that spanned 65 years, Luther Christman, PhD, RN, FAAN, was a champion for improving professional nursing practice and elevating the educational level of the nursing profession.

The founder and dean of the Rush University College of Nursing, his name is often linked to the “Rush Model,” a unified approach to nursing education and practice that continues to set new standards of excellence in the United States and abroad.

He established a premier school of nursing that pioneered the practitioner-teacher role and science-based academic models from the baccalaureate through the doctorate levels.

Christman also helped establish the National Male Nurse Association in 1974, which became the American Assembly for Men in Nursing in 1981. He was a strong supporter for the recruitment of male nurses, believing that diversity could make the nursing profession stronger.

Indeed, Christman provided ample inspiration for many nurses across the world, including the Founder of the Joanna Briggs Institute, Professor Alan Pearson. It was the unique connection between education, research, and clinical practice together with a strong focus on the development of a systematic research-based approach that drove much of Professor Pearson's early work in the UK. Indeed, the same sentiments still apply to the underpinning philosophy of the Joanna Briggs Institute today, ensuring that there is alignment between research, education, and practice and that the best available research evidence informs clinical decision-making.

From humble beginnings as a coal miner's son, Luther was to become one of the most highly honored and respected, but equally controversial, international nursing leaders of our time. Many nurses will remember him fondly across the world.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.