This primer is intended to help students find resources in nursing history. Graduate students and researchers are referred to Bibliography for Historical Methodology.
As when searching for information on any topic, always turn first to your library's holdings. Then talk with the reference librarian. Articles published on nursing history will be indexed in the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL, the big red index). The Nursing Studies Index, 1900-1959 is helpful when looking for material published during the first half of the century. Nursing History Review , the official journal of the American Association for the History of Nursing, is an annual publication of historical research. Other journals may periodically publish an issue devoted to nursing history.
If searching for biographical information on a specific nurse, also refer to the nursing biographies (see list below) then to the biographical dictionaries or the general biographical dictionaries.
When the topic is broad, such as changes in the nursing role over the past century, you will need to do a considerable amount of background reading to understand the role of a nurse at various times in the past. Start off by reading one of the nursing history textbooks. It may be illuminating to read some of the early nursing journals, such as the American Journal of Nursing (AJN), which began in 1900, and skim through some articles from the early years. Anniversary years of the AJN, (1925, 1950, 1975) frequently featured articles on how nursing changed.
There are numerous nursing history resources on the Internet; unfortunately some of these are not adequately documented. Students are reminded to always cite sources! For a listing of some nursing history resources on the Internet see the AAHN Internet Resources page.