Not an end in itself


The champagne flowed freely on the night of 18 February 1976 in the Cowdray Hall at the Royal College of Nursing headquarters in London when the Journal of Advanced Nursing (JAN) was launched. The launch was attended by friends and colleagues of the Editorial Board and included representatives of the United Kingdom (UK) health departments, professional organizations and the media. The Editorial Board heaved a collective sigh of relief for the launch marked the end of a long period of planning, which started off almost by accident.

Planning the launch

Some two years earlier, one of Blackwell's commissioning editors, Robert Lomax, paid me an informal visit and enquired about any ‘gaps in the literature’. I then shared with him a dream of mine about a scholarly nursing journal that would publish scientific, theoretical and philosophical information for the benefit of nursing practitioners, teachers, managers and researchers. He promptly asked me to send him an outline written proposal. Later, we met again and the seeds were sown. The proposal was subsequently endorsed enthusiastically by the then managing director of Blackwell, the late Per Saugman.

Early in 1974, a group of eminent British nurses were invited to join the first Editorial Board and a number of outstanding international nurses accepted the invitation to join a panel of overseas advisors. Together they provided invaluable sources of advice and support. The Editorial Board agreed to meet twice a year in London and they worked energetically and enthusiastically to make the proposed journal a reality.

It was agreed that the journal would be published in six issues (one volume) a year. Each issue was to contain about six 3000-words papers, together with an editorial and sections for news and book reviews. Papers were to be solicited for the first issue only. At the time of the launch, issues two and three were already being processed but, to be honest, I was a little anxious about the lack of contents for issue four! Thankfully, papers arrived at ever-increasing rates after the launch and by the end of the first year, 41 papers had been published. The List of Contents for this first year of JAN are reprinted in this special 30th Anniversary Issue. As you will see, this first volume of JAN covered a wide range of topics and fields, and with contributions from many well-recognized experts, thus quickly establishing JAN as the scholarly, generic journal that had been envisaged from the start.

Subsequent innovations

As the years progressed, the number of papers published each year was increased to ensure publication within 1 year of acceptance. Further, as a result of pressure from authors, the number of words per paper was eventually increased to ‘up to 5000’.

To assist aspiring authors, Hazel Allen, associate director at the King's Fund Centre, London, agreed to organize some writers’ workshops for nurses. I agreed to act as one of the facilitators at her very successful series of annual workshops.

The JAN Forum series was also introduced to provide an open forum for debate and discussion in the pages of Journal of Advanced Nursing.

An occasional section for Conference Reports was added, not least because I had begun to receive a number of invitations, as JAN's Editor, to participate in, promote, or help to plan both national and international nursing conferences. In 1979, for example, I was invited by the College of Nursing, Australia, to be the Patricia Chomley Orator for that year. The title of my oration, delivered in Launceston, Tasmania, was ‘Nursing needs a professional renaissance’. During the 1982 World Fair, held in Knoxville, United States of America (USA), the local University of Tennessee College of Nursing organized an international conference at which I gave the concluding keynote address. On that occasion, I spoke about ‘The concept of nursing literacy: an energizing force in healthcare’. These conference invitations, and many others, were readily accepted whenever possible as they proved an excellent way of fostering my visibility as JAN's Editor, and for advertising the journal.

JAN was quickly establishing its reputation as a scholarly journal of international repute. It was reassuring to note that it was increasingly cited in other publications. As well as proving to be a professional success, the journal also became an unprecedented commercial success. It was therefore with particular pleasure that I accepted election as a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing (FRCN) in 1978 ‘in recognition of an exceptional contribution to the science and art of nursing’ by virtue of my creation and editorship of JAN.

The 10th anniversary and the rest of the 1980s

The 10th anniversary of the journal's launch was celebrated by holding a symposium on the theme ‘Scholarship and the growth of nursing knowledge’ at the King's Fund Centre on 18 February 1986. This was followed by another splendid reception in the Cowdray Hall.

By 1989, the number of papers being accepted for publication in JAN was so great that it was decided that the journal should become a monthly publication, initially containing 10 papers per issue. Indeed, such was the volume of writing now going on in nursing and midwifery and the other allied health professions that, around the same time as expanding JAN, Blackwell also launched a new series of specialist journals: Health & Social Care in the Community and Journal of Nursing Management being the first. Since then the Blackwell stable of specialist journals has proliferated, I am happy to note.

And, for me, the 1980s ended on a particularly happy note when, in 1989, I was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen for my work in journalism.

Two volumes a year

As the increase in the number of papers accepted for publication continued unabated, the size of each issue expanded. So, from 1993, it became necessary to produce the journal in two volumes each year to ensure that they were a manageable size. By now, the journal had subscribers in over 60 countries around the world and there also was a steadily increasing range of international authorship within the pages of JAN. This was one of the points highlighted in a review of the contents of JAN's first 4 years compared with a later period (1989–1992) when, notably, input from North America was becoming particularly strong, and likewise from Scandinavia (Lorentzon 1993.

The standing of JAN as an international journal was growing apace. In 1994, I was invited to share my thoughts on ‘The role of nursing journals in the advancement of professional knowledge’ at the first international conference organized by the Bolkiah College of Nursing in Brunei. That keynote presentation was later published in the journal [1996, 23(12), 12–16]. In 1995, I spoke at the annual conference of the International Academy of Nursing Editors, held in London. My topic was ‘The value of nursing journals’ and I enjoyed playing the devil's advocate. Subsequently, I was asked to write a series of editorials for an American journal.

The 20th anniversary and future plans

JAN's international standing was overwhelmingly portrayed in the tributes that were paid to the journal in the JAN Forum published in volume 23 in 1996 as a ‘Celebration of 20 years of scholarship’ to mark the journal's 20th anniversary (1996, 23, 3–10). Distinguished members of the nursing profession from countries around the world variously commended JAN in terms of its role as ‘a much appreciated forum for exploring, debating and addressing issues facing nursing worldwide’, and for showing ‘outstanding growth, scholarly strength, (and) intellectual depth and breadth since its inception’.

Before the 20th anniversary had come round, however, I already had met with the publishers in 1995 to make plans for necessary organizational changes prior to my planned retirement in 1999. Up to that time I had been JAN's sole editor, ably supported by a secretary and a part-time production editor.

The changes we agreed began to be introduced during 1996, first with the appointment of Lynda Law Harrison as North American editor with a commission to establish an office in North America, reflecting the steadily growing interest from that region, as mentioned earlier. Then, in 1997, Jane J. A. Robinson was appointed as European editor, and Roger Watson and G. Hussein Rassool became editors for book reviews and news respectively. From then on I assumed the role of Editor-in-Chief.

During the ICN Centenary Conference held in London, in 1999, the publishers generously sponsored a plenary session in honour of my pending retirement from JAN. At a reception Blackwell presented me with a beautiful engraved silver platter; and Dame Yvonne Moores, the then Chief Nursing Officer in England, kindly referred to me as ‘an international ambassador for nursing’.

Prior to my retirement in December 1999, the publishers invited me to accept the designation ‘Founding Editor’ of JAN. They also asked me to become chairman of the Editorial Board for a period. I accepted the designation with pleasure but declined the chairmanship. The right time to move on is when people still want you to stay!

The impact of JAN

In my very first editorial, in the first issue of Journal of Advanced Nursing, I argued that the journal must not become an end in itself. Over time, and in my periodic reflections on the role of the journal – for example, in my paper on ‘The role of nursing journals in the advancement of professional nursing’ (1996, 23, 12–16) – I have pondered the question of the impact of JAN. It is very difficult to demonstrate that JAN– and nursing journals in general – make a direct impact on nursing care. However, there certainly have been many indirect benefits, including a contribution to the development of nursing as a profession and to the individual development of professional nurses; and, without doubt, JAN has made a significant contribution to the documentation of nursing knowledge.

That is still my firm view in 2006. The challenge remains to demonstrate that scholarly journalism has an impact on the practice of nursing.

I have never claimed to be either a scholar or an academic. But I thoroughly enjoyed facilitating the documentation of international nursing knowledge in the first 30 volumes of JAN. I also enjoyed making my own personal contribution to the body of nursing knowledge through my own varied writings in papers, editorials, reviews and textbooks.

Scribarum ordo honestum

Clearly in this, the journal's 30th anniversary year, everyone who has been associated with the extraordinary development of the Journal of Advanced Nursing in any way can now bask in its reflected glory with great pride and satisfaction.

The journal could, with justification, borrow the motto inscribed in the coat of arms of the late Professor Gordon Donaldson, a prolific writer and a Scottish scholar of international renown. The motto is ‘Scribarum ordo honestum’ which may be translated ‘the profession of writers is an honourable one’ (Kirk 1996, p. 207).