Viewpoint: The social influence of nursing and how it changed public health

Throughout history, nursing has helped shape the cultural and social dimensions of public health policies and practices, Patricia D'Antonio, PhD, RN, wrote in an editorial published in The American Journal of Public Health.

Dr. D'Antonio is the Carol E. Ware professor in mental health nursing, chair of the Family and Community Health Department and director of the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at Philadelphia-based Penn Nursing.

Dr. D'Antonio suggests that the history of nurses and nursing can offer insight into change in attitudes and beliefs about public health policy as well as how group interests may intersect with social justice issues.

In the editorial, Dr. D'Antonio delves into the impact of black nurses in the U.S. during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, which is detailed in another article in the same issue of the journal. She wrote that the work of those nurses helped push the needle forward with regard to civil rights and create broader opportunities for black nurses.

"Through historical analysis like this, we can see how nurses have used opportunities when there were increased demands for their care to challenge their marginalization or exclusions from larger issues of policy or practice," she writes.

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