Nursology think tanks, anyone?

Notice in ANS 1:3 (April 1979) of 2nd NTTT gathering

What if we had a host of small nursology think tanks happening all over the world?  Sound impossible?  No, it is not impossible, and we have an historial model from which to build!  As Jacqueline Fawcett observes in her reflections below, this Nursology blog can be viewed as a think tank of sorts.  And, we can also envision ways for face-to-face nursology think tanks to happen! If you are inspired by this idea, don’t wait for someone else to do it – invite a few friends and colleagues, and do it!   Here is the model as Jacqui and I experienced it:

Dr. Margaret Newman

In 1978, Margaret Newman initiated a very simple idea with great influence – she called for a few of her colleagues around the country to gather at a designated airport hotel and spend a couple of days in deep discussion about the development of nursing theory.  She called the gathering a “Nursing Theory Think Tank (NTTT)”   There was no agenda, no note-taking, and no expectation for outcomes.  Everyone who was invited to participate each year made their own hotel reservation at a designated hotel near an airport hub, and Margaret arranged with the hotel to provide a small conference room for two days free of charge.  There were about a dozen people invited each year – often a handful of people who had attended in the past, and typically 2 or 3 who had not attended before and were doing significant work in the realm of nursing theory or philosophy (now of course known as nursology!). Margaret’s own book Health as Expanding Consciousness was in production at the time of the first gathering, and published early in 1979.

I attended about 2 or 3 of the gatherings – and the photo shown below is my only record of anything that happened one of the years I attended!  I know Margaret was there (she always was!), and since she is not in the photograph I am guessing that she might have taken the photo!  As you can see from the photo, this event happened in an era when nurses generally “dressed up” for such an occasion, but the fact is that the gatherings were very informal, and often peppered with humor, story-telling and sharing of life experiences.  There was always someone quick to remind the group that we were under no obligation to be “productive” – but of course, significant “productive” things happened as a result of these gatherings. Since we were all as busy as we could be with our very productive careers, we more than welcomed the opportunity to have this kind of discussion with no pressure – not even the pressure of taking notes!

My experience of these discussions had a lasting influence, affirming some of the ideas I was working on, challenging me to think at a deeper level about specific aspects of my work, and prompting me to take my ideas to a deeper level of understanding, But equally important, I had the opportunity to hear from other nursologists, learn about their perspectives, and come to appreciate not only who they were as individuals, but the importance of their ideas. So I have always carried with me the importance of this kind of free-flowing opportunity to just talk, challenge one another and deepen our understandings of our ideas and of one another as individuals.

It was at the NTTT that Jacqueline Fawcett and I first met in person – probably in about 1981 or 2.  When I founded Advances in Nursing Science  in  1978, someone suggested that Jacqui was a young scholar who would be a wonderful addition to the review panel – and she has served faithfully in this capacity ever since! While we have known one another all these years, serving together on the management team for is our first opportunity to work closely together.  Here are Jacqui’s reflections of the NTTT:

My notes indicate that that the Nursing Theory Think Tank (NTTT) began in
1978 and ended in 1988. My recall of the decade of existence of the NTTT
are as follows.

The NTTT was begun by Dr. Margaret A. Newman. The first meeting, in 1978,
was at State College, PA, when Margaret was on the faculty at Pennsylvania
State University. I was exceptionally honored to be invited to join the NTTT in 1978. The members, including those who were invited and those who joined later,
included Margaret, of course, as well as Ellen Egan (Margaret’s former NYU
classmate), Ardis Swanson (Margaret’s former NYU faculty colleague), June
Brodie and me (former students in Margaret’s NYU theory development course),
Beverly Hall, Lorraine Walker, Kay Avant, Elizabeth See, Peggy Chinn, Afaf
Meleis, and Barbara Carper. We met approximately once each year, typically
for a weekend in the fall season, at a hotel near an airport.

The NTTT discussions focused on the current and desired future state of
nursing knowledge. Most discussions were informal and wide-ranging; others
were more formal discussions, based on papers presented by NTTT members. I
presented a paper for discussion at the NTTT meeting in Dallas, TX, in
September 1982, which was published along with a critique by June Brody in
1984: Fawcett, J. (1984). The metaparadigm of nursing: Present status and
future refinements. *Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 16*,
84‑87; Brodie, J. N. (1984). A response to Dr. J. Fawcett’s paper: “The
metaparadigm of nursing: Present status and future refinements. Image: *The
Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 16,* 87-89.

I presented another paper for discussion at the NTTT meeting in Austin, TX,
in October 1986, which was published in 1989: Fawcett, J. (1989). Spouses’
experiences during pregnancy and the postpartum: A program of research and
theory develop­ment. *Image. The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 21,*

Although the NTTT ended in 1988, many of the members have continued to
contribute to the development of nursology. To the extent that the blog
posts on might be considered a contemporary NTTT, all
nursologists are invited to submit blogs and publish their ideas about all
matters nursology in journal articles, book chapters, and books.

Addendum – added to this post on December 2, 2018 – I discovered a notice published in ANS 1:3 (April, 1979) describing the first NTTT in October, 1978, announcing the second think tank planned for March 1979, and inviting interested nursologists to contact Margaret Newman.

“Seated, L to R, Peggy Chinn, Beverly Hall, Jacqueline Fawcett, Elizabeth See
Standing, L to R, Afaf Meleis, Kay Avant, Lorraine Walker, Ellen Egan, Ardis Swanson”