Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Honour Society of Nursing meet in Hull

The Faculty of Health and Social Care recently hosted a meeting of the English chapter of the Honour Society of Nursing.  Honour societies exist to recognize and celebrate excellence in scholarship.  In the United States, the home of honour societies, membership is seen as a badge of academic and professional excellence to be granted only to the most able graduates and gives a career advantage.  Honour societies are less well known in the UK and I suspect that many people will be puzzled by the Greek names they carry.  The nursing honour society is known as Sigma Theta Tau, and the English chapter is Phi Mu.  Another cultural difference is that North American midwives seem quite content to come under the professional umbrella of nursing.  Their UKcounterparts may take a different view!  The English chapter, based at Bournemouth University, is still quite a small organization, though it has several eminent members including Dame Betty Kershaw former president of the Royal College of Nursing and former Dean and Professor of Nursing at Sheffield University.

The highlight of the day came with scholarly presentations by Professor Roger Watson and Professor Kate Galvin.  Roger’s paper ‘Nursing Leadership Style or Substance’ was a robust and trenchant critique of the national leadership of nursing (or lack of it) in the UK profession and explored the roles of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Royal College of Nursing, and the Council of Deans of Health.  Kate’s paper discussed the question ‘What does humanising care mean’?  Her answers to this question reflected many years of empirically and philosophically grounded research into ways of preventing the de-humanisation of older people and others who are dependent on healthcare.  The presentations stimulated a passionate debate between the presenters, faculty staff and visiting colleagues, who recognised that both leadership and strategies to humanise care are essential as the profession responds to the challenge of the Francis Report.

The day had begun with a closed business meeting of Phi Mu, chaired by Professor Elizabeth Rosser.  As a recent recruit to the organisation I was interested to learn that it is seeking to extend its influence in the UK nursing scene.  A conference is to be held in June at which new members will be inducted, and scholarly papers read.  As I reflected on the day I was encouraged to have spent the day with a group of people who clearly value excellence in scholarship, and seek to promote these values in the next generation of professionals.  Another very valuable aspect of the Honour Society’s work is that it is an international organisation with a growing European presence.

If you would like to find out more about Phi Mu, the English chapter of the Honour Society of Nursing, go to, or speak to myself, Roger Watson, Kate Galvin or Steve Ersser, all of whom are members.

Peter Draper

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