A historical marker in the development of critical and creative thinking in psychiatric-mental health nursing education and practice

Christine M. Silverstein


Background: This investigation focuses on traumatic events of World War II and postwar reconstruction in US society in the 1940s, taking into account the development of psychiatric nursing as a specialty within the context of nursing education and practice trends. Scotomas of historic world figures, including Hildegard Peplau, renowned educator and psychiatric nurse, are examined. These blind spots profoundly affected their reactions and behaviors, for the betterment of society or the destruction of it.

Method: Psychohistory looks at the “why” of historical events and is concerned with the motivation in human behavior and with the underlying meaning lurking beneath the surface of logic. In this psychohistorical exploration, figurative snapshots highlight a historical marker that commemorates a fire that blazed out of control in 1948 at Highland Hospital, a mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, where Peplau held directorship. This fire served as a springboard for the evolution of the nurse-patient relationship within the nursing profession, as influenced by Peplau. Relevant questions explored are: What nurses were implicated in the fire? What did the characters at the scene believe and perceive? What were the motivations of key players? Who qualified as nurses? What ramifications did the fire have for nursing education and practice in the development of analytical thought and theoretical concepts?

Significance: Some view the historic fire as a black mark against nursing. Nurses, however, with the assistance of Peplau’s teachings, can see it as a benchmark that began the process of eradication of resistances that prevent growth and the illumination of educational curricula that promote advancement of critical and creative thinking. Today, nurses can take advantage of their knowledge base learned from the past and can create expansive innovation in nursing education and practice that is supportive of global health and safety in the 21st century.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v3n7p36

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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