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Florida nursing history comes to light on website

Jean Aertker, RN

More than 61 babies out of 1,000 died, while maternal deaths averaged 10.2 per 1,000 births in Florida in the early 1900s. Granny midwives attended
most births.

How did this appalling situation change? The trend began to reverse when Joyce Ely became the state’s first nurse-midwife and pioneered midwifery
seminars statewide

Ely’s groundbreaking efforts make engrossing reading on the Florida Nursing History Project website. Since launching in June 2014, this digital repository, birthed in Tampa, is preserving the state’s nursing legacy

“A group of nurses and retired nurses in the Tampa area was looking for a project that would provide recognition for our predecessors who had made important contributions to health and healthcare,” said Kim Curry, PhD, ARNP, RN, clinical associate professor at the University of Florida.

The same group was the impetus behind the “Nursing Heroes: Caring for the Community” exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center in 2012

Curry said the project’s goals are twofold: to honor Florida nurses and their contributions to the health of the state and to make available information on the historical contributions of Florida nurses to all who seek it.

“We see the website as a resource for anyone interested in the legacy of nursing, or the study of nursing history,” Curry said.

“Our nursing history group believes that preserving our nursing history is essential for the future of our profession,” said Jean Aertker, DNP, ARNP, RN, FAANP, another group member. Sharing important nursing achievements of the past with the new and upcoming nurses today is important, she said.

One local historian, Christine Ardalan, PhD, agrees the website will appeal to many. “The Florida Nursing History Project will delight all who place nurses at the center of inquiry to explore the broader themes of cultural, social and Southern histories,” said Ardalan, adjunct lecturer in the history department at Florida International University (Miami). “As Florida’s nurses carved out careers for themselves and reached out to the growing multi-cultural communities, their voices and stories help to understand the challenges and problems they faced through time and many that foreshadowed the healthcare issues of today.”

To continue developing the website, Curry and Aertker, both Florida Nursing History Project inaugural members, and other nurses meet monthly for breakfast. They’re also working with Andrew Keller, originator of, for design assistance.

Curry said the group welcomes contributions to the site from all interested nurses. Suggestions for subjects or contributions of biographical sketches can be submitted via the site’s Contact Us link.

“It’s up to us to point out the incredibly important contributions of nurses throughout the history of our state, because nurses as a group aren’t very comfortable with standing up and taking credit for what they’ve done,” Curry said.

Visit the website at

Tips to start nursing history project

Curry shared the following tips to start a regional or statewide history project based on her experience.

• Identify a core group of interested people, even two or three. Consider retired nurses who want to contribute to a worthy nursing cause.

• Locate someone to serve as website designer and administrator. This person can help build the site and assist with organizing and posting.

• Decide the purpose and focus of your project: For example, is it a specialty area of practice or a geographic area? Define this in writing to keep on course.

• To develop content, seek resources in libraries, on the web, through professional organizations and via contact people.

• Commit to slow and steady progress. Consider meeting monthly or quarterly so everyone has a chance to check in and stay interested and involved.

By | 2020-04-15T09:24:17-04:00 November 10th, 2014|Categories: Regional, South|0 Comments

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