1. Curry, Kim PhD, APRN, FAANP
  2. Editor in Chief

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On May 31, the United States celebrated Memorial Day. The holiday is an important time for all of us to pause and think about the history of our country and those who fought and died defending our freedoms, including many nurses. The national celebration of Memorial Day has its own history. Holding a day of remembrance emerged after the Civil War. In the late 19th century, it was known as Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. This year in 2021, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Memorial Day becoming a designated federal holiday (Onion et al, 2009; Library of Congress, n.d.).


As clinicians, we understand that it all starts with the history. As the old saying goes, a physical examination is conducted only to confirm or deny information obtained through the history. Diagnosis is often said to be 70% history and 30% everything else, including the physical examination and diagnostic studies. The question "How did it start?" is fundamental to understanding health problems and conditions. Likewise, in scholarly writing, the first full section of the manuscript is the background (history) of the subject of the investigation. The history comes first because without it we will be unable to place further information within a context that leads to a thorough understanding of the subject matter.


Those with an interest in nursing history have many resources at their disposal, including nursing history centers, archives, and historic sites both in the United States and abroad. I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the Ellis Island hospital off the southern tip of Manhattan. There I learned about the health care delivered to the immigrants who sought the freedoms and opportunities available in the United States during the years that Ellis Island was in service, 1892-1954.


I toured an extensive series of buildings that had fallen into great disrepair. In fact, those on the tour were required to wear hard hats inside all buildings we entered. Many of the nurses who worked in these hospitals lived on site. On the tour, we entered the administration building and passed the stairwell that led to the nurses' dormitory. Standing there, it was easy to imagine the many nurses who climbed those stairs after a long day or night of caring for patients with medical or psychiatric problems deemed too serious to allow them to enter the country after a long journey of hope and anticipation. These nurses were faced every day with both serious illness and heartbreak.


The availability of resources such as the Ellis Island hospital tour is a great help to those seeking to investigate and chronicle the stories of our unique and esteemed profession. Historical research is an important type of scholarly writing. In JAANP, these investigations are classified as "other research," denoting a study with a methodology other than simply quantitative or qualitative in design. Historical inquiry requires a rigorous methodology to ensure accuracy. Such manuscripts are encouraged. We need more of them to document key points in our narrative at the state, national, and international levels.


It is fortunate that AANP now has a history committee committed to preserving the progress of the nurse practitioner movement since its inception. Preserving our history is an important way of honoring our profession and the nurse practitioner role within nursing.




Onion A., Sullivan M., Mullen M.(Eds.) (2009, October 27). Memorial day.


Library of Congress Research Guides. (n.d.). Memorial day: Topics in chronicling America.