Faye Glenn Abdellah (born 1919) dedicated her life to nursing and, as a researcher and educator, helped change the profession's focus from a disease-centered approach to a patient-centered approach. She served as a public health nurse for 40 years, helping to educate Americans about the needs of the elderly and the dangers posed by AIDS, addiction, smoking, and violence. As a nursing professor, she developed teaching methods based on scientific research. Abdellah continued to work as a leader in the nursing profession into her eighties. Abdellah was born on March 13, 1919, in New York City. Years later, on May 6, 1937, the German hydrogen-fueled airship Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst, New Jersey, where 18-year-old Abdellah and her family then lived, and Abdellah and her brother ran to the scene to help. In an interview with a writer for Advance for Nurses, Abdellah recalled: "I could see people jumping from the zeppelin and I didn't know how to take care of them, so it was then that I vowed that I would learn nursing." Abdellah earned a nursing diploma from Fitkin Memorial Hospital's School of Nursing (now Ann May School of Nursing). In the 1940s, this was sufficient for practicing nursing, but Abdellah believed that nursing care should be based on research, not hours of care. She went on to earn three degrees from Columbia University: a bachelor of science degree in nursing in 1945, a master of arts degree in physiology in 1947 and a doctor of education degree in 1955. With her advanced education, Abdellah could have chosen to become a doctor. However, as she explained in her Advance for Nurses interview, "I never wanted to be an M.D. because I could do all I wanted to do in nursing, which is a caring profession." As a practicing nurse, Abdellah managed a primary care clinic at the Child Education Foundation in New York City and managed the obstetrics gynecology floor at Columbia University's Presbyterian Medical Center. Transformed Nursing Profession
Abdellah went on to become a nursing instructor and researcher and helped transform the focus of the profession from disease centered to patient centered. She expanded the role of nurses to include care of families and the elderly. She researched nursing practices and taught research methods and theory at several universities, including schools in Washington, Colorado, Minnesota, and South Carolina. She also held several administrative positions in medical facilities. In 1993 she founded and served as the first dean of the Graduate School of Nursing at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Abdellah's first teaching job was at Yale University School of Nursing, where she worked when she was in her early twenties. At that time she was required to teach a class called "120 Principles of Nursing Practice," using a standard nursing textbook published by the National League for Nursing. The book included guidelines that had no scientific basis and, as Abdellah told Maura S. McAuliffe in an interview for Image: "Those Yale students were just brilliant and challenged me to explain why they were required to follow procedures without questioning the science behind them." After a year Abdellah became so frustrated that she gathered her colleagues in the Yale courtyard and burned the textbooks. The next morning the school's dean told her she would have to pay for the destroyed texts. It took a year for Abdellah to settle the debt, but she never regretted her actions. As she told Image: "Of the 120 principles I was required to teach, I really spent the rest of my life undoing that teaching, because it started me on the long road in pursuit of the scientific basis of our practice." Abdellah was an advocate of degree programs for nursing. Diploma programs, she believes, were never meant to prepare nurses at the professional level. Nursing education, she argued, should be based on research; she herself became among the first in her...
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