South Asian Nurses Oral History Project (2023)

We are currently in the process of conducting interviews of South Asian nurses who worked in BC. We have a team of 6 interviewers. More news to come!


The purpose of this UBC Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry project is to explore the histories and experiences of retired South Asian nurses who practiced in BC prior to 2020. For much of the twentieth century, nursing histories written by nurses focused on the stories and experiences of white nursing leaders. When social historian Kathryn McPherson wrote her seminal book Bedside Matters (1996) on Canadian nursing history in the 1990s, she argued that whiteness was central to the definition of nursing professionalism in Canada. This led other scholars to employ the analytical categories of race, gender, and class in new analyses of nursing in Canada. In the 2000s, historians began to focus on the histories of Black and Indigenous nurses in Canada (Flynn, 2011; McCallum, 2014). Despite more recent attempts to tell the stories of Black and Brown nurses, there remains little work done on the history of South Asian nurses in Canada. This study will contribute to this gap in the literature by focusing on the stories of South Asian nurses who lived and worked in British Columbia from the early twentieth century to 2020. A key component of the project is to conduct oral history interviews with retired South Asian nurses who have practiced in BC


Teaching Nursing History with Photographs

The video recording of “Teaching Nursing History with Photographs” presented at the 2021 ICN Congress, is now available in UBC’s library Open Collection at the following link: 



Presented by nursing history scholars Helen Vandenberg, Sandra Harrisson, Maria Eugenia Galiana-Sanchez, Cecilia Sironi, Lydia Wytenbroek, Anna La Torre, and Geertje Boschma, representing the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing and the European Association for the History of Nursing at the International Council of Nursing Congress, November 2, 2021


Teaching nursing history through photographs: between realities, cultural constructions and social idealisations. Countless images of nurses have been captured on camera, but what do they tell us about nursing’s past? This symposium examines historic photographs of nurses at various periods in history and from a range of social and national contexts in Europe and Canada. The purpose is to show how the analysis and interpretation of an image may form a way to gain a deeper understanding of nurses’ critical role in maintaining people’s health. Secondly, we demonstrate how photographs can be used as an intriguing educational strategy to teach nursing history. In a panel presentation with a brief discussion period, we will present and explain a series of historical photographs, either as slides or within a short video, and applying multiple analytic lenses, including gender, race, religion, nation and place. What determines an adequate and critical representation of nursing’s past?