History of Nursing: Early Years. 2008. Insight Media/History of Nursing: The Development of a Profession. 2008. Insight Media

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History of Nursing: Early Years. 2008. Insight Media. Producer: Jessica Tannenbaum, Director: Ken Lam. Insight Media. 2162 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10024. DVD, 35 minutes. ($199.00) www.insight-media.com

History of Nursing: The Development of a Profession. 2008. Insight Media. Producer: Jessica Tannenbaum, Director: Ken Lam. Insight Media. 2162 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10024. DVD, 36 minutes. ($199.00) www.insightmedia.com

After a flurry of black and white films on the history of nursing appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, the use of this powerful medium to illustrate nursing's role in history ceased. It is therefore with pleasure that one welcomes the arrival of this attractive well-illustrated film production of the history of nursing. Developed by Insight Media and packaged as two DVDs, History of Nursing is an ambitious project that covers the history of the profession from antiquity to the present. Although primarily designed as an educational film for nursing students and those interested in health history, the DVDs will also appeal to audiences who simply want to learn the story of how nurses have cared for the sick over time.

The first segment, The History of Nursing: Early Years, explores the original appearance of nurses and nursing in society. Using a variety of colored images from ancient paintings, sculptures, maps, and more contemporary black and white photographs, the story opens in ancient Mesopotamia around the fifth century b.c. Drawing from evidence extracted from artifacts and writings from ancient civilizations, the struggle of mankind is revealed as men try to understand why humans suffer and die and how certain people in every society became healers, sometimes as priests, physicians, medicine men, and nurses. The two videos wisely use two expert nurse historians, Jean Whelan and Barbra Mann Wall, to clarify facts and add a sense of vitality to the presentation. Their comments aid viewers in recognizing the contributions to medical knowledge and the development of Western medicine made by the ancient medical traditions of the Egyptian, Indian, and Islamic cultures. I was pleased to see highlighted the role Islamic medicine took in shaping Western medicine as other nursing histories too often slight Islamic contributions. After discussing the origins of nursing, an important dimension of the story of the profession, the film considers the creation of religious and then secular nurses and explores the powerful function gender exerted in fashioning the roles and interactions of physicians and nurses.

Moving quickly in time the video captures the dramatic development of biological sciences that occurred in the nineteenth century and how information gained from these sciences spurred the rise of Western medicine. Armed with new knowledge about the human body and diseases, physicians were able to heal many of the sick, helping to transform hospitals into therapeutic healing institutions. Equally important to the scientific advancement of medicine was the appearance of knowledgeable and skilled trained nurses to care for the sick and work alongside physicians.

A discussion of the pre- and post-Nightingale periods introduces the emergence of formal nursing education. The early training programs, most notably the one at London's St. Thomas Hospital Training School, established by Florence Nightingale in 1860, laid the foundation for today's professional nurses' education. Both hospitals and physicians realized that an inexpensive work force of intelligent, hard-working student nurses radically improved patient care services and the efficiency of hospitals leading to the rapid expansion and spread of Nightingale-modeled nursing schools in countries around the world, assuring the development of professional nursing.

As an educational guide, the film identifies various salient themes that shaped the nursing profession, which helps the audience focus on major changes and issues important in the profession's evolution. …