FIFTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, the existing nursing organizations culminated two years of discussion and negotiation to forge two organizations: the American Nurses Association and the National League for Nursing. Key words were selected to delineate the respective province of each organization. For the American Nurses Association, the key words were "Nursing practice, the responsibility of the individual nurse in practice." * For the NLN, the framework was institutional. The title originally proposed for our organization was "Nursing League of America," and our function was the "determination of community and institutional patterns and standards for nursing service and nursing education." From this conceptualization, consumers and others interested in nursing found a place at the table in nursing.
Considerable time and effort were spent in spelling out the structures of the partner organizations and how they would interface with their respective constituents and one another. While the published accounts of this undertaking emphasize the work involved in creating the new structures, I suspect that the whole process was complex and difficult, straining the good will of all involved. But the undertaking seems clear in its intent, with three overall goals: First, the resultant structures would have as their common purpose "to further the development of the best possible nursing service for the people of the United States of America." Second, organized nursing wanted to ensure that nonnurses, and other health professions as stakeholders in health care, had a strong role in an appropriate structure. Third, ways were needed for the whole community of nurses in the United States to join a group that met their needs for engagement, while limiting the degree to which fragmentation of resources would occur.
Articles written during this period that describe this accomplishment reflect a time in American history, and the history of American nursing, when solidarity was a key word and concern for the future of the planet was apparent. (See Notes.) The threat of nuclear weapons, the onset of the Korean War, and the strains brought about by the Cold War, so soon after World War II, were international developments that laid bare our national vulnerability. What a familiar ring that has!
I wonder how our predecessors would react to the extraordinary array of nursing organizations that exist today. All of the current organizations voice their commitment to providing outstanding services to citizens and residents of the United States and far beyond. …