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History of the RCN Research Society

Notes on the History of the Research Society and Research at the RCN 1959-1976

The Research Discussion Group was established in 1959 to enable members of the RCN to meet and exchange ideas and help each other with regards research projects. The group was headed by an elected Honorary Secretary (Gertrude A Ramsden, Research Officer of the Dan Mason Research Committee). who had regular meetings and correspondence directly with the General Secretary (Catherine Hall).

But this wasn’t the only research based activity of the College at this time. At the beginning of 1960, RCN Council announced its decision to set up a nursing research body within the College to advise on research matters. This was intended to be a committee or research board. It was to be known as the Countess Mountbatten Memorial Council for Nursing Research. A Research Officer (Miss H M Simpson[1]) was appointed. During her time as Research Officer, Miss Simpson founded and acted as Secretary to a Research Discussion Group.

In October 1960, Mrs Winifred Raphael agreed to work with the College (alongside her own research work). It was decided that reports on research and study projects should be prepared by the College and published as a special series entitled Studies in Nursing. The Research Discussion Group held 12 meetings during 1960-1, and an annual weekend meeting conducted by Prof R G Evans.

The research ‘department’ was increasingly well-used by the College and outside bodies in 1961-2. The Research Discussion Group held monthly meetings, and one open meeting with Dr Brian Abel-Smith as speaker (Writing a History of the Nursing Profession). The annual weekend meeting was devoted to a study of methods of setting up nursing experiments and problems of evaluation under Miss Joan Woodward.

In October 1961 Miss Simpson was given leave to present a paper at the WHO seminar in Madrid on training and the use of auxiliary personnel and in May 1962 to act as consultant to the ICN in a study of Basic Nursing Education.

Miss Simpson resigned in 1962 and Winifred Raphael agreed to be the College’s new Research Officer on a part-time basis. She was finally appointed as the RCN’s Research Consultant in 1964/5.

The monthly meetings of the Research Discussion Group continued, but not enough nurses knew about it. So the College decided to have a research appreciation conference for senior members of the nursing profession in Bournemouth in March 1965. The introductory talk was given by Dr Marie Jahoda PhD followed by Dr Anne Cartwright BSc PhD, Dr Jillian MacGuire BA PhD and Miss Elaine E Wilkie BA SRN talking about their research projects. The closing speech was given by Under Secretary for Health Mr Raymond Gedling and the conference was closed by Miss Mary F Carpenter, RCN Director of Education drawing attention to the resources available within the RCN. In the light of this conference and the feedback given, the RCN set up a panel to advise Council on research matters and how to provide services for research workers. The panel consisted of 6 to 10 members of the group.

In October 1967 the first six research assistants to take part in ‘The Study of Nursing Care’ Project sponsored by the Ministry of Health started at the RCN. The students were instructed in research methods and given topics for investigation and some went on to do Masters Degrees.

In 1966/7 there was a new Honorary Secretary: Miss Muriel Skeet, close colleague of Miss Ramsden at the Dan Mason Research Committee of the Florence Nightingale International Committee.

The Research Discussion Group elected a working party to discuss future aims and policy in November 1967. The working party was chaired by Elaine E Wilkie, Chief Professional Adviser, Council for the Training of Health Visitors and members included Miss Felicity Bowker (Research Asst MoH), Miss Vivien Jenkinson (Tutor, William Rathbone Staff College and Nurses Research Fellow , University of Manchester), Miss J McFarlane (Tutor-in-charge, RCN Research Project[2]), Mrs Ruth Pomeranz (Nursing Research Officer, St George’s Hospital), Miss Winifred Raphael, Miss H M Simpson and Mr J P Smith (former tutor at St George’s Hospital and then final year student for BSc (Soc)). The Honorary Secretary was Miss Muriel Skeet, Research Organiser of the Dan Mason Research Committee.

By 1968 membership of the Research Discussion Group had grown to almost a hundred and included non-RCN members, who could attend one or two of the monthly meetings per year plus the residential annual weekend conference. In 1968 the conference was in Edinburgh, attended by 40 members. Members of the group who worked at the Edinburgh University Dept of Nursing Studies gave talks on recent research projects.

The working party reported back to the group and to Council. Subsequently, the group limited non-RCN members to honorary membership. The post of Honorary Secretary of the group was replaced by a committee of 12 members, including 3 Honorary Officers, all elected. The group also decided to widen their remit from a discussion forum to an active promoter of research skills across the profession by working more closely with RCN HQ. The Research Consultant was a member of the group, but the role had not been used fully as a liaison before. The group intended to work with the RCN Librarian[3] and allow the Section and Departmental Officers to access members of the group as experts. They also asked RCN Council for a paid RCN Research Officer part-time since the full-time post had fallen into abeyance on the resignation of Miss Simpson.

In 1970 the policy of monthly meetings was reviewed and four per year were officially opened and advertised in the nursing press. Four annual seminars were also started as an open forum. The business of the group was regulated by the Executive Committee which now consisted of 9 elected nurse-researcher members and 2 co-opted non-nurses who are researchers. The two honorary members were Chair Miss A Lancaster and Secretary/Treasurer Mrs Ursula Inman, project leader in the Education Division.

During the early 1970s members of the group attempted to keep up to date with current research projects, summarising them in a research outline produced as a publication (Research Summaries).

The Research Discussion Group became the Research Society in November 1975: the same year the RCN restructured internally to remove the Sections and Departments and replace them with a unified Professional Nursing Department. A Nurse Adviser was appointed for the Research Society within PND in June 1976 (Miss June Buttermore).

The group were careful to maintain their independence from the main body of specialist interest groups being amalgamated under PND. The special function of the research advisory panel to Council, the close working relationship between members and staff, the publications and the advice service provided to non-researcher nurses made the group unique.

List of founding members Oct 1959-Sept 1960 and their research interests.

  • *Miss A Amsden, NPHT. Present sterilising practice in six hospitals.
  • *Miss E Barnes, World Federation for Mental Health, ICN, International Hospital Federation. International study of psychological problems in hospital.
  • Miss F S Beck, ICN Investigation concerning auxiliary nursing personnel.
  • Miss C Biddulph, MoH Problems arising from new hospital buildings.
  • Miss A M Botha, S Africa. Student Nursing Administration Course, RCN. Interested in reseach methods.
  • Miss C Collier, N Terrides/1963 Nursing Adviser to Crothall
  • *Miss J B Craig, Nuffield Foundation Div of Architectural Studies. The child in hospital.
  • Miss M Dyke, Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Leader of hospital work study team.
  • Miss G Ellis
  • *Miss E Hayes, St Thomas’ Hospital. Nurse member of work study team of three.
  • *Mrs J Heywood, Nuffield Foundation Div of Architectural Studies. Studying ward design.
  • Miss V Jenkinson St George’s Hospital. Nurses’ mistakes in a cardiac ward. Different methods of providing nursing care: job/case/team assignement.
  • Miss G E Ludbrook
  • *Miss D Norton, National Corporation for the Care of Old People. 2 year programme of research at the Whittington Hospital into geriatric nursing problems.
  • Miss P Nuttall, N Terries. Rendering research techniques and findings intelligible to nurse readers.
  • *Miss G Ramsden, Dan Mason Research Committee. Investigating the work of the Staff Nurse.
  • Miss P W redman, Deputy Matron St James’ Hospital, Balham. Previous work study. Interested observer.
  • Miss C E Roberst, Consumer Research on surgical dressings.
  • *Miss H M Simpson, Rsearch Officer RCN. Study of Salary Structure. Post grad student LSE. Nursing as a profession.
  • *Miss M Staton, Royal Berkshire Hospital. Work study team, mainly non-nursing but also use of pre-packed dressings on wards.
  • Miss D F Walker, Consumer research on food products.
  • Miss E West, MoH. Regional Nursing Officer for London.
  • *Mrs M M Williams, RCN. Occupational Health Section Scholarship. Research into dressing techniques in industrial medical dept.

Interested, but not members:

  • Miss A John, Research Fellow, Nursing Studies Unit, University of Edinburgh. Investigating the work of the mental nurse.
  • Miss M Scott-Wright, Boots Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh. Investigation of the social and educational characteristics of student nurses in relation to success or failure in training.

* at first meeting.