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Pioneering Nurse Luther Christman Dies at 96

Friday June 10, 2011
Luther Christman, RN
Luther Christman, RN
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The nursing profession lost a trailblazer June 7 when Luther Christman, RN, PhD, FAAN, died at 96 in Nashville, Tenn.

Known as an advocate for nurses and nursing, Christman constantly pushed to improve the practice of nursing and educational standards for nurses. As the first male dean of a school of nursing, at Vanderbilt University starting in 1967, his innovations included the practitioner-teacher role and science-based academic models spanning the baccalaureate through doctorate levels.

Christman left Vanderbilt in 1972 for Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago, where he was vice president for nursing affairs and implemented what became widely known as the Rush Model for Nursing. He developed the position of clinical nurse specialist and emphasized a system of patient-centered nursing care driven by educated nurses, many of whom also taught at the university’s nursing school.

One issue that mattered greatly to Christman was equality, especially for men in nursing. He supported the recruitment of male nurses and helped establish the National Male Nurse Association, now the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, in 1974. He noted the discrimination he and other men faced in nursing and frequently spoke of the value of encouraging men to pursue nursing as a career. At Vanderbilt, he became the first dean to hire African-American women as faculty members.

“There never has been and never will be somebody like Luther,” said Peter Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN, Valere Potter Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University and Christman's friend.

“I knew him first as an incredible human being who happened to have made some extraordinary contributions that helped to advance the profession. He insisted on a higher level of education and preparation for clinicians. He just had a very optimistic view of the future.”

Christman was a Living Legend of the American Academy of Nursing, the organization’s highest honor. The award, which he received in 1995, commemorates the lifetime achievements, influence and professional contributions of nursing’s most accomplished individuals.

“He was always ahead of his time and his recommendations for leadership, primary nursing and future models of nursing education have proven to be spot on," AAN Board of Directors Treasurer Patricia S. Yoder-Wise, RN, EdD, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, said in a news release.

"He is an icon in nursing and leaves a lasting legacy. He will be truly missed."

For his contributions, Christman became the first man to be inducted into the American Nursing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2004. In recognition of his outstanding career, the ANA in 2007 created an award named for Christman to honor significant contributions by men in nursing.

A biography on Christman was written in 2006: www.trafford.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000145325.


Nick Hut is news editor for Nurse.com. Send comments to editorNTL@gannetthg.com or post a comment below.