First Words: Selected Addresses from the National League tor Nursing 1894-1933. Birnbach N, Lewenson S, New York, National League for Nursing Press, 1 991 , 375 pages, softcover.
In preparation of the National League for Nursing's centennial, this book presents a rare opportunity to view the growth and transition of the nursing profession through addresses presented by nursing leaders during the League's first 4 decades. The book focuses on events and ideas specific to the Superintendents' Society, which later became the National League of Nursing Education in 1912 and the National League for Nursing in 1952. Intended for use by nursing educators, the book is appropriate to augment nursing history content in both undergraduate and graduate settings, and it is an excellent reference for those planning workshops, seminars, or discussion groups.
Six major thematic divisions link the past with the present: education, control of practice, recruitment, ethics, image, and power - all of which are just as problematic today as they were at the turn of the century. Numerous addresses are presented within each section, along with pertinent commentary by the authors.
Exemplary of the depth and scope of First Words' content are the sections on education, control of practice, and ethics, which, although they cover reform during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, are just as pertinent today. The need to develop a uniform curriculum specific to the profession's educational needs, to lengthen training periods, and to standardize admission requirements were paramount. The dichotomies of theory versus practice and apprenticeship / vocational training versus a professional education were common concerns. Control of private duty registries, enactment of registration laws, and the development of new practice settings for nurses were familiar problems discussed in many addresses. The issues of overcoming negatives and enhancing both ethical practice and the nursing image were topics of worry.
Sadly, the book reveals an intimate look at a profession that appears to have experienced little growth other than that of a clinical nature due to the shove for increased technology. As George Santayana, an American philosopher and poet, said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Perhaps First Words will help us to remember.