Nursing pioneer remembered

03 Dec 2012

The life of Britain’s first female Professor of Nursing is being celebrated at a special ceremony at The University of Manchester today (Monday).

Jean, Baroness McFarlane of Llandaff, came to Manchester, as a Senior Lecturer, in 1971 to be Head of Nursing in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the Victoria University of Manchester.

The youngest of five children, Jean was born in Cardiff in 1926 and was educated at Howells School. She went to Bedford College for Women, in London, to study Chemistry but it was not for her and she left after the first year. However, during her year studying chemistry Jean worked at a Mission for homeless people. Here she became fascinated with people rather than test tubes and, as a result, decided to study nursing, entering the Nursing School at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1947.

Because of her experience of working with homeless people Jean believed that it was in the community where the greatest differences could be made to people’s lives. She undertook further training in midwifery and health visiting and worked as a specialist TB health visitor in Cardiff and West Wales. Jean returned to London to work in the public health section of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). She trained as a nurse tutor and in 1960 was appointed health visitor tutor at the RCN. She directed the first programme preparing students for practice in both hospital and the community. This programme was run in collaboration with Kings College Hospital, and students graduated as registered general nurses, district nurses and health visitors.

In 1966 Jean was invited by the Department of Health to lead a series of research studies focused on the quality of Nnursing care at a time when there was little or no nursing research. Jean became Director of Education at the RCN in 1970 and, after a year, was invited to come to Manchester to lead developments in Nursing. Professor Alwyn Smith, Head of the Department of Social and Preventative Medicine, was involved in expanding the nursing programme that became, in 1969, the Bachelor of Nursing degree. This was the first degree in the UK that had nursing as its primary focus and students graduated with general nursing, district nursing and health visiting qualifications. Under Jean’s leadership the Department of Nursing was created in 1973 and Jean became the first Professor of Nursing in England.

Jean was an inspiring leader and teacher and clinicians and educators beat a path to Manchester to study. In the 1970s very few nurses or midwives had degrees, so Jean started the Diploma in Advanced Nursing Studies (DANS), which was essentially a bridging course to bring diploma-educated nurses up to degree level. Successful students could continue and study the innovative Masters in Nursing programme. This programme appealed to nurses from many countries in the world enriching the learning environment.

Because of her experience and wealth of knowledge Jean was invited to be a member of the Royal Commission on the National Health Service. For her work on this, and her services to the nursing profession, Jean was awarded a life peerage in 1979, going back to her roots and taking the title Baroness McFarlane of LLandaff. She sat on the cross benches, often speaking in debates on health matters.

“Jean had a wonderful sense of humour and she could laugh at herself. Her caring humanity, gentle humour and sharp mind won her many friends from all walks of life,” said Professor Ann Thomson, from the University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.

“Jean saw her career in nursing as a calling, which was firmly rooted in her Christian faith. She was very active in the church and was a member of the General Synod of the Church of England.

“Jean was a very family-centreed person and we are delighted that so many members of her family are attending today to celebrate her life and achievements.”

The ceremony will take place in the University’s Whitworth Hall on Oxford Road, today at 2.30pm. Speaking at the event will be Professor Rod Coombs, the University’s Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Christine Hallett, Professor of Nursing History, Dame Betty Kershaw, Past President of the Royal College of Nursing, The Baroness Emerton of Tunbridge Wells, Revd Canon David Hughes, and Professor Karen Luker, Head of School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.


Notes for editors

For further information contact:

Aeron Haworth
Media Relations
Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences
The University of Manchester

Tel: 0161 275 8383
Mob: 07717 881563