Reflections on the Centenary of Sir William Osler: Science and Humanity are One, for Nursing and Medicine

Terence J. Ryan1, Steven J. Ersser2, *, Kathleen Galvin3, Mary Malone4, Sally Markwell4, Theresa Shaw5
1 Green-Templeton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX2 6PS, UK
2 Department of Nursing Science, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, BH8 8GP, UK
3 School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton,, Brighton, BN1 9PH, UK
4 Oxford School of Nursing & Midwifery (OSNM), Oxford Brookes University, Marston, Oxford, OX3 0FL, UK
5 Foundation of Nursing Studies, 11-13 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, London W1G 0AN, UK

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© 2022 Ryan et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Nursing Science, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth Gateway Building, St Paul’s Lane, Bournemouth, BH8 8GP, UK; Tel:+44 (0)1202 967292; E-mail: erssers@bournemouth.ac.uk


Sir William Osler (1849-1991) was Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford in the UK and a founding professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The centenary of Osler’s death is a time for recognition in nursing, as well as medicine, of a pioneering and highly influential Oxford physician on both sides of the Atlantic, an influence that extended to nursing from the UK to the USA.

This letter captures reflections and discussion on contemporary nursing issues from an Osler Seminar Series, held at the University of Oxford in 2019 to mark the Centenary of Sir William Osler’s death, focusing on his thinking and influence related to nursing.

This extended letter illuminates issues on themes of science and humanity within a clinical and educational context, exploring a range of key contemporary nursing issues. These include the significance of interpersonal relations as they relate to care attitude and care technology; the therapeutic influence of the nurse; nursing education and clinical-academic development; the value of a life world perspective on nursing and wellbeing; and practice development within the context of person-centred workplace cultures. These issues are contextualised with examples from practice and include some from nursing developments and those illustrated in part by the clinical speciality of dermatological care.

The letter concludes by considering the significance of the nursing service to promoting access to quality health care in the twenty-first century and its relevance to recognising the nursing contribution to universal health care through the WHO International Year(s) of the Nurse and Midwife in 2020-21.

Keywords: Nursing development, Interpersonal relations, Therapeutic care, Nursing education, Clinical academic, Lifeworld, Science, Humanity.