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The Art and History of Nursing

Module titleThe Art and History of Nursing
Module codeNUR3109
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Mrs Marie Clancy (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module explores literary and creative arts and their relationship to medicine, nursing and health. The module will use existing mediums such as historical artefacts, literature, poetry and visual arts. You will be taken through each of these liberal art mediums with examples and aspects to reflect upon such as nursing leaders of the past, creative works developed by patients, family members and health care professionals. Further to this you will be asked to create your own works when reflecting on and learning from others’ creative works. For example, you may choose a poem to reflect upon and may then wish to create your own poetry or you may explore a historic nursing leader and then create an image of them in paint or collage to be included in an end of module exhibition. During this module you will be encouraged to develop new skills in observation, analysis and understanding of others perspectives with the aim of improving insight and empathy and in order to provide truly holistic nursing care.

This module is suitable for nursing students in their third or fourth year of the undergraduate MSci Nursing programme.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module draws on a range of literature, historical information and artistic mediums to help you understand more about nursing history and the perspectives of lived experience of health, illness and caring for others. The module explores how the creative arts may offer an outlet for others to express emotions and experiences which may be otherwise hard to understand or verbalise. This module will provide many examples but also encourage you to undertake their own research on individual areas of interest surrounding health, illness and nursing leadership. The module aims to provide you with an understanding of the theory of artistic interpretation and creation including practical demonstrations and opportunities for you to produce your own creative works.

You will develop the skills to:

• Think creatively about health, illness, end of life care and its representation historically
• Reflect on ways to understand and see others perspectives and experiences
• Develop emotional intelligence by increasing awareness and responsiveness to the needs of others
• Become more adept at observation and interpretation
• Interpret creative mediums and see their practical applications
• Explore how the past may help shape the future and enhance nursing care today with a focus upon the moral landscape and the history of nursing ethics, stigma, diversity and professionalism
• Understand how the creative arts may provide cathartic outlets for patients, family members and health care professionals

Within this module you will continue to work across the seven pillars of nursing; patient and public involvement, fundamental essentials of nursing care, evidence for practice; no health without mental health, leadership and management of healthcare, global health and ethics and professionalism. Further to this you will meet NMC standards of proficiency required for the future nurse throughout the 7 platforms (

Patient and public involvement: as an Exeter nurse you apply the principle of “nothing about us without us”. You will explore creative works designed by people with lived experience of ill health, their carers and the health care professionals who care for them. You will develop theoretical knowledge to underpin your developing skills in providing holistic health care (PPI)

Fundamental essentials of nursing care: as an Exeter nurse you will develop a clear understanding of the core components in nursing from a variety of perspectives. Within this module you will have choice to focus upon areas of interest but these may include medications and compliance, concepts of law, ethics and accountability, or patient safety. This module will bring together theory and the practical application of compassionate communication, empathy building and therapeutic relationships (F)

Evidence for practice: as an Exeter nurse you will evaluate the evidence base for creative arts interpretations and creative art work creation (E)

No health without mental health: as an Exeter nurse you will understand the importance of according equal importance to mental and physical health, including the interplay between long-term physical health conditions and mental health. In essence, you will now think in terms of ‘no mental health without physical health’. You will explore through creative medium inequalities in health and their impact upon physical and mental health (MH)

Leadership and Management in Healthcare: as an Exeter nurse you will explore and understand approaches to leadership within mental healthcare. You will begin to apply knowledge in leading care for an individual and small groups of service users. You will understand how to apply effective team leadership skills, to begin to understand and contribute to clinical supervision, identify risk and manage it. You will begin to develop your leadership skills enabling you to lead by example, highlighting opportunities for quality improvement and empowering people to contribute to change (L&M)

Global Health: within the overall principles of the recovery movement, as an Exeter nurse you will examine the influence of culture and diversity on health (G)

Ethics and Professionalism: The Exeter Nurse will demonstrate commitment to professional values - including social justice - and to the flourishing of individuals, families and communities. The Exeter Nurse aspires always to do the right thing and to be of good character (E & P)


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Analyse and evaluate the social, historical and cultural aspects of care through close reading and critical interpretation of creative works medium, including representations, arguments, metaphors, and images (PPI, F, MH, E, E&P) (NMC proficiencies 1:1, 1:3, 1:14, 2:3, 2:7)
  • 2. Demonstrate preparation for humane and ethical health and social care through an understanding of (and empathy for) impairment, illness, suffering, healing, aging and dying as human experiences (PPI, F, MH, E&P) (NMC proficiencies 1:1, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:9, 1:11, 1:12 1:14, 1:17)
  • 3. Reflect upon the rationale for past treatments and care using relevant literature and give examples of learning from nursing history to improve current practice (E, E&P, G) (NMC proficiencies 1:1, 1:2 2:3, 2:7)
  • 4. Compare and contrast historical perspectives of ethics, professionalism, diversity and stigma in the promotion of inclusive, caring, and holistic nursing care today (E, E&P, F, MH, G) (NMC proficiencies 1:1, 1:2 2:3, 2:7)

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Critically appraise and evaluate relevant literature and evidence base (E.) (NMC proficiencies 1:7, 1:8, 1:10)
  • 6. Demonstrate understanding of the mechanisms that have been used historically, socially and politically to influence and change policy, treatments, and attitudes both locally and globally (E, G) (NMC proficiencies 1:2, 1:3, 5:7, 7:13)

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Learn independently, develop professionally, share in peer learning and respond and provide constructive feedback (E, E&P, L&M) (NMC proficiencies 1:1, 1:3, 1:5, 1:17)
  • 8. Demonstrate creative problem solving, inquiry and critical contemplation (E, F, E&P, L&M) (NMC proficiencies 1:2, 1:3, 1:7, 1:8, 1:10, 6:11)
  • 9. Demonstrate emotional intelligence, insight, self-awareness and enhanced observational skills (PPI, F, MH, E&P) (NMC proficiencies 1:1, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:9, 1:11, 1:12 1:14, 1:17)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows:

  • Exploring creative work mediums (poetry, literature and art). Discussions around each medium; how it may be used, interpretations from the literature, the building of personal interpretation and observational skills using experiential learning theory and Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)
  • Exploration of topics through creative work mediums. Topics may include; the early origins of nursing, the history of nursing ethics, historical nursing leaders, the impact of war on the role and position of nurses, gender issues, professional issues and international perspectives.
  • In addition, experiences of health, illness and end of life care will be discussed in terms of condition specific perspectives, treatment changes over time, environmental, contextual and societal factors, historical nursing care and treatments, stigma, diversity and spirituality
  • Use of creative work mediums and the development of resilience and coping strategies for nurses
  • Demonstrations of creative work mediums and student led creativity

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning & teaching activities96Lectures, seminars and practical workshops (48 x 2hours)
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities4Formative workshops (2 x 2 hours)
Guided independent study50Additional research, reading and preparation
*To accommodate Covid 19 teaching and learning activities may be modified to include online, blended, asynchronous and synchronous activities


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop for you to present ideas and get feedback from tutors and peers2 sessions, each 2 hoursAllVerbal staff and peer feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflective essay702000 words1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9Written
Exhibition piece and commentary30Creative work and 500 word commentary2,5, 7, 8, 9Written and oral


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflective essay (70%)Essay 2000 words1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9Up to 4 weeks after results
Exhibition piece and commentary (30%)Creative work and 500 word commentary2, 5, 7, 8, 9Up to 4 weeks after results

Re-assessment notes

Student must pass all items of assessment and demonstrate professionalism and fitness to practise, to progress.

Please refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

• Borsay, A. and Hunter, B. (2012) Nursing and midwifery in Britain since 1700.Palgrave Macmillan
• Castelli, C. (2021) "Missing in Action" in Psychiatric Nursing History: The Role of Chief Nurse Adele S. Poston and Her Band of Nurses During World War I. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services 59(6): 37-47. (p11)
• Collins, A. et al (2021) A Retrospective Thematic Analysis of Patient, Family, and Staff Creative Art Tiles Developed on a Tertiary Palliative Care Unit. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine Vol. 38(3) p266-275
• Darivemula, S. et al (2021) The white coat public art project: using the white coat as a canvas for reflection for women in medicine, Public Health, Vol 194, p260-262, ISSN 0033-3506,
• Dingwall, R. Rafferty, A. and Webster, C. (1988) An introduction to the social history of nursing
• Dunn, N. (2002) Cancer tales, Amber Lane Press Ltd.
• Ettun, R., Schultz, M., & Bar-Sela, G. (2014). Transforming pain into beauty: on art, healing, and care for the spirit. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2014, 789852.
• Fancourt, D. (2017) Chapter – a history of the use of arts in health in Fancourt, D. (eds) Arts in Health: Designing and researching interventions. ISBN-13: 9780198792079. Oxford Scholarship Online: DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198792079.001.0001
• Fealy, G. M. Hallet, C. E. and Dietz, S. M. (2015) Histories of nursing practice. Manchester University Press
• Griffith, F. J. et al (2021) #MentalHealthArt: How Instagram artists promote mental health awareness online, Public Health, Vol 194, p67-74, ISSN 0033-3506,
• Hogan, S. (2013) Your body is a battleground: art therapy with women. The Arts in psychotherapy 40, p41-419.
• Kirkham, J. A. and Smith, J. A (2015) Painting Pain: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Representations of Living With Chronic Pain. Health Psychology Vol. 34, No. 4, p398–406
• Kwong, M. Tin-Hung Ho, R. Huang, Y. (2019) A creative pathway to a meaningful life: An existential expressive arts group therapy for people living with HIV in Hong Kong. The Arts in Psychotherapy Vol 63, April 2019, p9-17
• McDonald, L. (2008) Florence Nightingale's Suggestions for Thought: collected works of Florence Nightingale. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, volume 11: Waterloo.
• Mourtimer, B. and McGann, S. (2005) New Directions in the history of nursing: international perspectives, Routledge
• Nelson, S. (2021) Nursing infectious disease: a history with three lessons. Editorial
• Nightingale, F. (1989) Notes on nursing. Edited D. Appleton and Company, New York
• Oliver, M. (1994) A poetry handbook – a prose guide to understanding and writing poetry, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston
• Padfield, D. and Zakrzewska (2021) Encountering Pain: Hearing, Seeing, Speaking. UCL Press, 2021.
• Salcman, M. (2015) Poetry in Medicine, an anthology of poems about doctors, patients illness and healing. Persea books, New York
• Silverman, Y. Smith, F. and Burns, M. (2013) Coming together in pain and joy: A multicultural and arts-based suicide awareness project. The Arts in Psychotherapy 40, p216-223
• Stickley, T. Wright, N. Slade, M. (2018) The art of recovery: outcomes from participatory arts activities for people using mental health services. Journal of Mental Health, Aug2018; 27(4): p367-373.
• Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. American journal of public health, 100(2), 254–263.
• Tannenbaum, R, J. (2019) The Healer’s Calling: Women and Medicine in Early New England, Cornell University Press
• Wagner, C. and Brown, A. (2016) A Body of Work, an anthology of poetry and medicine, Bloomsbury Academic, London.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

• ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages
Creative works and topic areas;
• Palliative care – series of documentaries (performance and film) community interest group of artists and professionals dedicated to creating a society that talks more openly about death;
• AIDS and activist artworks;
• Oncology;
• Exhibiting Pain, a PhD research project looking at how creativity may help people to communicate the experience of living with long-term physical pain;
• Caring words website a healthcare community devoted to learning about and sharing poetry;
• Spirituality; The Gallery of Spiritualities - a new exhibition in a care home:
• Who cares? RCN art exhibition:
• Art UK features over 275,000 art works;
• Using drawing to express invisible disease experiences;
• Art in medicine online:

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

• International History of Nursing Journal (E-resource Library)
• Royal College of Nursing History of Nursing Forum; library: and articles:
• Key figures in the history of nursing:

Key words search

Creative arts, poetry, literature, nursing history

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

NUR2000, NUR2100

Module co-requisites

NUR3000, NUR3100, NUR3200 (single adult nursing pathway)

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date