Celebrating 50 Years of the Science of Unitary Human Beings

with Jane Flanagan (past SRS President)
Marlaine Smith is current SRS President

Martha E. Rogers

The 33rd Annual Society of Rogerian Scholars (SRS) Conference, Celebrating our Past and Visioning our Future, was held on October 2, 2020 through a virtual format. The conference was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Martha Rogers’ groundbreaking book An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing.  While many of Rogers’ ideas in this book changed significantly since 1970, this publication represents the birth of  the Science of Unitary Human Beings (SUHB). 

There were over 100 participants from across the world registered for the conference. The conference keynote, “The Contributions of Martha E. Rogers Over the Past 50 Years: A Conversation”, was presented by Dr. Violet Malinski and Dr. Anne-Marie Leveille. Dr. Leveille, a former student of Dr. Malinski, posed questions and comments to Dr. Malinski, and Dr. Malinski offered a detailed historical account of the evolution of the SUHB from the perspective of one of the founders of SRS and a student and mentee of Rogers.  This presentation is an essential resource for anyone interested in the SUHB,  a “must see” for all new and continuing students of Rogers’ science. This video is available here on the Nursology website.

Following the keynote, Drs. Dottie Jones, Howard Butcher and Marlaine Smith offered their perspectives in a panel discussion on “Re-envisioning Possibilities for the Science of Unitary Human Beings into Practice, Education and Research on Human Wellbecoming”. The panel was followed by the Martha E. Rogers Scholars Fund scholarship recipients,  Drs. Kathryn Post and Philip Gimber, presenting their research findings and the impact on Rogerian Science, specifically Barrett’s work on Knowing Participation in Change. Each used the Knowing Participation in Change Short Form (KPCSF)  or version III tool  in their work.

Dr. Gimber used the KPCSF tool in a study exploring power and its correlation to quality of life and self-health patterning in persons with chronic illness. He found that there was a two way correlation between power and self-health patterning and power and quality of life. Dr. Post used the KPCSF to examine power and quality of life and patient activation in a nationwide sample of over 300 participants with breast cancer and found that quality of life and patient activation were strongly correlated with KPC.

Last but not least, Dr. Jane Flanagan presented “A Futurist Talk: Possibilities of Rogerian Science for Future Wellbecoming”. Dr. Flanagan’s keynote wove, photography, poetry and music into a tapestry of meaning to inspire us to realize the potentials embodied in unitary science. The presentations by Post, Gimber and a modified version of Flanagan’s talk are available on the SRS website at https://www.societyofrogerianscholars.org/conference-information.html.

The Society of Rogerian Scholars is nearly 35 years old. Its mission is to advance nursing science through an emphasis on Martha E. Rogers’ SUHB in the focus areas of nursing education, research and practice and in service to humankind.  The organization convenes annual conferences, publishes the journal Visions, and provides mentorship, education and consultation to those interested in nursing research, practice and education from a unitary perspective.  The Martha E. Rogers Scholars Fund, the independent development arm of the SRS, sponsors lectureships at the SRS conferences and provides scholarship support to students whose research focuses on unitary science.  SRS welcome new members and is especially interested in recruiting a more diverse racial/ethnic membership. 

If you are interested in joining SRS, please  visit https://www.societyofrogerianscholars.org/membership-application.html and complete the application. 

WWFD: What Would Florence Do in the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Florence Nightingale circa 1860. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale

On May 12th we celebrate Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday in the midst of a global pandemic. Nightingale, the acknowledged founder of modern nursing, was no stranger to the unfettered spread of communicable diseases. During her service in the Crimean War ten times more soldiers died from dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever, and typhus than the wounds of war. Nightingale understood how the human-environment relationship influenced health and healing. According to Nightingale, nursing was about putting the person in the best condition for Nature to act (Nightingale, 1859/1969). In other words, the focus of nursing is on nurturing and supporting the process of healing. Nightingale was a social reformer, justice activist, humanitarian, liberally-educated scholar, and bioinformatician, driven to service and care for others from a deep spirituality (Dunphy, 2020).

In her book, Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not (1860/1969), Nightingale offers guidance about creating an environment that can prevent disease or support healing. While she is focused on care of “sick” persons in the home, her concepts are applicable beyond this. Here are ten practical tips from Florence Nightingale as we live with COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Ventilation. Nightingale said that “keeping the air he (sic) breathes as pure as the external air without chilling him (sic)” is the very first canon of nursing. (p. 12). While we are sheltered-in-place it is important to get fresh air. Make an effort to spend some time outdoors by sitting outside, going on a walk or run while maintaining a social distance, or just opening windows. Those with mild to moderate symptoms of the disease will be managing symptoms at home, staying indoors away from others. Even with these restrictions promoting the flow of some fresh air in the home is possible, opening windows even a few minutes every few hours. We can advocate for those in the community who are not able to have a safe place to be outside or depend on others to get some fresh air.
  2. Health of houses (pure air, water, efficient drainage, cleanliness). Nightingale believed that cleanliness was the first defense in preventing disease. When she came to field hospitals in the Crimea her first action was to start cleaning the space. We know that the novel coronavirus that is causing COVID-19 is highly infectious. Because it spreads mainly through respiratory droplets keeping surfaces clean and washing hands after touching anything that could be touched by others, like doorbells, elevator buttons, mailboxes, etc. is important. Having water to wash hands, clothes, and surfaces is essential, but we know that those who are homeless and those whose water has been turned off need our advocacy to turn the water on and to have hand sanitizer available for those without homes. I diffuse antimicrobial essential oils like eucalyptus, tea tree and cajeput in my bedroom and family room to cleanse the air.
  3. Petty management is about the holistic coordination or management of care through environmental scanning, information and planning. I found one passage particularly relevant to our experience with COVID-19. “Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion. Remember he is face-to-face with his enemy all the time, internally wrestling with him, having long imaginary conversations with him…Rid him of his adversary quickly” (Nightingale, 1859/1969, p. 38). This is a stressful time in our lives and many are living with fear and anxiety. Receiving clear and consistent messages is important in a crisis. Providing honest information to those we encounter about the transmission of the virus, incubation period, ways to protect self from infection, and what to do when experiencing symptoms may relieve anxiety and help them to plan and gather resources. I find myself providing information to family and friends who call with questions. Nurses are trusted and approachable sources of knowledge for the public. There is so much information on the internet, and we can help to refer people to the most reliable sources. Listening and providing support to others can be helpful as well as caring for self through those activities that work for you such a meditation, exercise, watching a funny movie, journaling, etc.
  4. Noise – In this section, Nightingale calls attention to the sound environment and its potential effect on promoting rest and well-being. With most of us sheltered at home we can cultivate greater awareness of how sounds affect us. For example, it may be tempting to have the television or internet news on; however, the constant information about the pandemic may cause us to become more tense and anxious. Turning on music that is comforting, relaxing, joyful or inspirational, or tuning into sounds from nature from apps, or actually being outdoors are ways to promote serenity.
  5. Variety – We may be at home for another 1-2 months, so Nightingale’s advice on creating variety in the environment is especially relevant. She said, “…the nerves of the sick suffer from seeing the same walls, the same ceiling, the same surroundings during a long confinement to one or two rooms” (p. 58). She suggested bringing beauty, color and interesting objects into a confined space. How can we bring variety into our lives when our space is limited? One way is intentionally creating a daily schedule that includes new and interesting activities. It might be creating art, journaling, working on a home project, learning a new skill like a language, touring museums using online apps, reading books, or binging on a Netflix series. Some are caring for and home schooling children, working from home, or continuing their essential work in the community. Variety is already built-in to their lives.
  6. Food – Nightingale focuses on providing food that is nutritious and supportive for healing. The science of nutrition has come a long way since Nightingale. During this pandemic we want to eat food that supports our immune systems, lots of fruits and vegetables if possible. Take a multi-vitamin with minerals or supplements with Vitamin C, D (especially if you are not exposed to much sunlight), A, E, selenium, magnesium and zinc. Shopping and getting groceries or prepared food delivered can be challenging and anxiety-producing. Some may have a tendency to overeat for comfort, boredom, or just having constant access. With the loss of jobs, food insecurity is a concern. We need to support food banks more than ever in this crisis.
  7. Bed and bedding – The message here from Nightingale is to keep bedding fresh and aired out, changing the sheets frequently and airing out the bed with a window open if possible before making it. While she is referring to caring for people bedridden, this is still a useful message to consider.
  8. Light – Nightingale asserts that the need for sunlight is second only to the need for fresh air. (p. 84). She stated that sunlight not only lifts the spirit, but “has real and tangible effects upon the human body…a purifying effect” (p. 85). She suggested either letting the sunlight into the room or better yet, getting out into the sunlight. We know that sunlight is indeed important for health, that ultraviolet light has antiviral properties, and that viral infections tend to decrease when days are longer. When there is sunlight take an opportunity to get some exposure to it.
  9. Cleanliness – Here we go again! In this section, Nightingale is focused on actually scrubbing walls, floors, dusting and cleaning carpets or anything else harboring dirt. I guess this is another activity to keep us busy. In her section on personal cleanliness she emphasizes how vitality is restored by washing the skin and clothes. “Poisoning by the skin is no less certain than poisoning by the mouth—only it is slower in its operation” (p. 93). People feel better after a bath or shower, and she even suggests skin brushing (she calls it “rubbing” the skin). Washing ourselves and our clothes more frequently especially if there are chances of exposure to the virus is important.
  10. Chattering hopes and advices – In this section Nightingale warns against offering unsubstantiated hopeful predictions and giving advice without any foundation to it. She says to “leave off the practice of attempting to ‘cheer’…by making light of danger”…(p. 96). I believe she is telling us that during times of human suffering authentic presence through being with, listening, and following the persons’ lead is essential. Many are suffering during this time. Nurses can be with others by listening and being present with them during this suffering without simplistic platitudes.

Nightingale, F. (1860/1969). Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not. New York: Dover Publications.

Dunphy, L.M.H. (2020). Florence Nightingale’s conceptualizations of nursing. In Nursing Theories and Nursing Practice (5th edition). M. Smith (Ed.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis, (pp. 35-54).