1. Schoonover-Shoffner, Kathy

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JCN is delighted to welcome renown nurse author and speaker, Barbara Montgomery Dossey, PhD, HNC, FAAN, RN, and distinguished philosopher and writer, Dallas Willard, PhD, to this special resource section, Revisiting Nightingale: Differing Perspectives. Dr. Dossey is an internationally recognized expert on Nightingale, and a pioneer in holistic nursing. Dr. Willard has written extensively on the Christian life and is an expert in metaphysics, the philosophy of religion. They write in response to a two-part series written by nurse-historian Sonya Grypma, PhD, RN, entitled "Florence Nightingale's Changing Image?" published in the summer and fall 2005 issues of JCN Dr. Dossey critiques Dr. Grypma's ideas and clarifies her views of Nightingale, spirituality and mysticism discussed in the series. Dr. Willard asks if mysticism is generic or if there truly is a Christian mysticism.


Why visit Nightingale again? The reasons are significant. Good scholarship requires the critique and exchange of ideas-even, and especially, different ideas. When disagreement occurs, as it does in these articles, it provides an opportunity to dig deeper and learn more. We must remember that disagreement does not mean we dishonor one another. On the contrary, we can disagree and continue to maintain great personal respect. Furthermore, the challenging of ideas makes us search for what we think and why we think it. We have to ask ourselves, do we believe our ideas?


Having said that disagreement can be good, I encourage you to dig in to this discussion. Read the original JCN articles and then read these responses from Dossey, Grypma and Willard. Dr. Grypma's original articles can be found online at and Read the articles and these responses in their entirety; not doing so renders interpretation useless. As you question the positions and ideas presented, check out the statements for yourself. Adequate references are provided to get you started.


At the center of this discussion are foundational questions about who or what is the "Absolute All." Is the "Absolute" some thing or some one? In Christian dialog we ask, "Who is God?" A second question is, "How do we find or relate to this 'All'?" or "How do we have a relationship with God?" And a third question, "Does it matter how we relate to God?"


These are critical questions being asked in nursing today. With an increasing focus on holistic spiritual care and a search for meaningful spirituality, nurses are looking for answers. Florence Nightingale investigated such questions and is thought to have experienced significant mystical development. She is considered a Christian mystic who went through spiritual stages of awakening, purgation, illumination, surrender and, eventually, union with the Absolute. Dossey's, Grypma's and Willard's responses explore the concept of mysticism, revealing two very different perspectives.


A few caveats as you dig in. You may find it uncomfortable when you come to understand the different ideas being set forth in these commentaries. I hope and pray this leads you to ask, does it matter what we believe? Does belief impact nursing? How? And since Christianity relies on the Bible as the basis for knowing God, is the Bible true? If true, how does one interpret the Bible? Resources on the history and development, authenticity, reliability, consistency, accuracy and interpretation of the Bible are readily available to interested searchers.


I encourage you to enter into this discourse, ask your own questions and search for satisfactory answers. Certainly this special section offers a fitting portal of entry for you to do so.