By Shawn Kennedy, AJN interim editor-in-chief
As some of you may have seen by my tweets over the last week or so, I was in Australia attending a meeting, the International Academy of Nurse Editors gathering in Coolum (August 11 to 14). We discussed editorial and publishing matters—interesting if you’re “in the biz,” but I imagine most nurses would roll their eyes if I discussed it here.
(Side note, to those interested: there was much discussion about the use and misuse of journal rankings and impact factors and the sustainability of society and clinical practice journals if journal rankings are to be the primary factor in deciding where one should publish one’s work. As long as faculty tenure and promotion are tied to publishing in higher-ranked research and “scholarly” academic journals—and for a thought-provoking discussion on how one defines “scholarly,” see this 2006 editorial (click through to the PDF version) by AJN’s editor-in-chief emeritus, Diana Mason—researchers and scholars will seek to publish in those places, as opposed to in clinical journals that are more widely read by practicing nurses. You’ll hear more from us soon on that discussion.)
Sydney: a proving ground for nurses. So, as long as I was halfway around the world, I took some vacation time and traveled from Coolum to Melbourne and then to Sydney before coming home. In Sydney, we stayed in “the Rocks,” the older part of town. I was surprised to find a portrait of nurse Lucy Osburn hanging in the hotel’s elegant drawing room (yes, my hotel had a drawing room and afternoon tea!), in a gallery of portraits of famous Australians. I was impressed—I’ve never seen a portrait of Clara Barton in an American hotel.
Osburn led a team of six nurses sent from England by Florence Nightingale in 1868 at the request of Henry Parkes, an Australian government official, to clean up the terrible conditions at the Sydney Infirmary. Today it still operates as Sydney Hospital and there’s a Nightingale Wing at the hospital, built in 1869 to house the nursing school. Osburn was a graduate of Nightingale’s training school at St. Thomas’ and is credited for bringing the Nightingale principles to Australia, but not without some controversy—she clashed with physicians and even her own nurses, dressed like a nun, and asked to be addressed as Lady Superior (ok, maybe a bit much). Reportedly, even Nightingale was concerned about the controversies her protege engendered. Eventually she went back to England and continued to work as a nurse until her retirement. She died from complications from diabetes at the age of 56.
There’s also a plaque of Osburn on Nurses Walk, a narrow lane off Harrington Street in the Rocks section, named because it was the connecting lane to the early hospital. There’s not much to see—just a small alley among the buildings now transformed into shops. But with the harbor just down the street, one can imagine the sick patients being carried off the ships and up the street to the hospital. Named in honor of those hearty nurses, it made me like Sydney even more than I already did.