The construction of a profession: a study of the history of nursing in Iceland


Department of Nursing University of Iceland, Eiriksgoto 34, 101 Reykjavik.


This paper aims to provide insights into nursing's place in today's health care through a study of its historical development b Iceland. It is part of recent attempts by feminist scholars to shed light on the history of women in public life. Based on an analysis of the different discourses on nursing, the role of the nurse, die material conditions mat have shaped the life of nurses and structural influences upon health care, conflicting and contrasting understandings of nursing have emerged. Whereas physicians tended to define the nurse as a lowly assistant with the status of a servant, the nurses themselves understood nursing as an independent occupation charged with die responsibility of meeting the needs of die public for assistance and education in matters related to health and well-being. Late in the 19th century this clearly articulated mission became somewhat blurred and their work was reduced to a rather narrow understanding of performing routine tasks and following orders. A number of interrelated factors contributed to this development