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The oral history collection is a significant collection of interviews from across the nursing profession. The interviews are an insight into nursing education and clinical skills.

Their voices tell us how nursing practice has changed over time and how the individual lives of nursing staff and patients were affected by the great social, political, economic and health changes that took place.

These nursing voices reflect the diversity of our membership, each has a unique story, reflections that are both funny and sad.

There are interviews with inspirational nursing leaders, such as Annie Altschul, Baroness Jean McFarlane, Catherine Hall and Mona Grey and nurses such as Neslyn Watson-Druée, recognised for promoting equality in nursing.

RCN Members continue to add to the collection, via regular interviews with the RCN History of Nursing Forum. Digital recordings and transcripts are available for the majority of the collection which can be accessed by appointment either at RCN Archives in Edinburgh or at the Library and Heritage Centre in London.

Have a listen to some examples from our selection of oral histories, they offer an insight into the work and relationships of those interviewed. For more information on the collection search the Archive catalogue.

Royal College of Nursing · T360 Arthur Brompton extract


Arthur Brompton was born in 1917 in Leicestershire. After serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) during the Second World War, he went on to become a district nurse with the Queens Institute. He was one of the first male Queens Nurses, in this clip he talks about some of the challenges he faced while working in deprived areas of Nottingham.

Royal College of Nursing · T253 Esta Lefton extract


Esta Lefton was born in Poland in 1920. Her family was Jewish and judged it safest to move to Palestine in 1936. She entered nursing training in Jerusalem where she was injured during a bombing raid. She joined the British forces during the Second World War and talks about her experiences treating injured soldiers in a tent hospital in Egypt and the emotional side of nursing traumatised patients.