Bates History Center Update: Spring 2020


Letter From Director Patricia D'Antonio


I write as we are in the midst of the terrifying coronavirus pandemic. I will admit that this feels different for me: as historians, we write on topics in which we know the ending even if historical actors themselves do not. We know that this pandemic will end. But we do not know when, how, or at what cost to our lives, jobs, stability, and peace of mind.


Yet, for all this uncertainty, unfolding events have also brought clarity. We all share multiple personal and professional identities. The coronavirus pandemic has made those of us at the Bates Center recognize again our central identity as nurses – ready and willing to serve as needed. We stand ready to be mobilized to help in the many ways that nurses are needed in the community.


And now, as never before, we know that our history of the discipline in times of pandemics and other emergencies is one of the few resources that can guide our way – and our country’s way – forward. We have been engaging, and engaging successfully, in active public outreach, sharing historical data about how we need to prepare for the fact that there are never enough nurses in times of war and pandemics, about why licensing and certification processes need to be flexible and responsive, and about how we do need a significant investment in coronavirus research. We do need treatments and vaccines, but, as we write in a recent editorial in Research in Nursing and Health “nursing research is also coronavirus research.” We also take as our charge the experiences of individuals, families, and communities as they struggle and cope with illnesses and dislocation.


We build on the shoulders of giants with our current focus on public engagement in the history of nursing. Some of you will remember Joan Lynaugh’s work with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Similarly, Karen Buhler-Wilkerson’s engagement with the Fabric Workshop resulted in RN: The Past, Present, and Future of the Nurses' Uniform, a project that also reimagined nursing uniforms. Most recently, Julie Fairman’s central role on the Future of Nursing commission resulted in historically informed recommendations.


Our own contribution has launched with a new Bates Center websiteCOVID-19: The Presence of the Past that gathers all our recent work with other resources. We might call your attention to our recent opinion piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Coronavirus Nursing Shortage? Three Ways to Get More Nurses - Now.” We preferred our original heading, “Never Enough Nurses.” But we discovered that, like the books we publish, authors have no say in the final title!  And, as I write this, there are several other opinion pieces and research grants in the works.


Please do also read our editorials in professional journals, our radio interviews, and our contributions to print and digital media. And check back often. This is an evolving site. We define “public” broadly and we expect to shortly publish online teaching modules – now being piloted with our own students – that can help colleagues incorporate the policy relevance of the 1918 flu pandemic into their own teaching.


How can you help? We have discovered that placement of opinion pieces, in particular, depends on contacts within the legacy media. If you know anyone at newspapers, we would appreciate an introduction.


And we ask for your patience. In keeping with University policy, the Center and its archives are closed, and staff and faculty are now working remotely. We virtually “huddle” every morning. This morning’s topic: how to best promote Jessica Clark’s social media site, Calm, Cool, and Courageous: Nursing and the 1918 Influenza PandemicThis site was created to honor the anniversary of the 1918 flu pandemicIt uses our digitized “flu scrapbook” to show how the 1918 pandemic unfolded in real time. And our thanks to Elisa Stroh: she has been the glue that holds us, our scholars, our courses, and the visitors to our site together.


As we move forward, we will rely more on digital communications. As you may have noticed, this Spring’s Chronicle is another of the coronavirus pandemic’s casualties. Our production schedule was impacted by “stay at home” and “essential personnel” orders.


But we still have much to share with you. We have, for example, selected outstanding, interdisciplinary scholars for next year’s fellowships. We have students doing important work. And we wish we could have shown you our cover story – in both Chinese and English – that describes the Bates Center’s faculty increasing collaborations with scholars in China, Taiwan, and Japan.


That will be for a later date. Now, we hope you and your families are well sheltered at home, with the supplies and resources you need. We believe we are indeed at “war.” And, as in the past, we will win this war but not without sacrifice, diligence, and determination.


Our thoughts are with you, your families, and your friends during this time.


Patricia D’Antonio, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director, Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing
Chair, Department of Family and Community Health
Carol E. Ware Professor in Mental Health Nursing
Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics