New book tracks nursing care in the Soviet Union

LJMU’s Dr Susan Grant has spent the last decade researching and tracing the history of nursing care in the Soviet Union

Susan Grant book web banner 835 x 500

LJMU’s Dr Susan Grant has spent the last decade researching and tracing the history of nursing care in the Soviet Union, with her discoveries now documented in a new publication Soviet Nightingales: Care under Communism.

“The book began as an Irish Research Council and Marie Curie co-funded postdoctoral project in 2011 and I submitted the final manuscript in 2021, so it took ten years in total,” she said, reflecting on the origins of the book.

Dr Susan Grant is a Reader in Modern European History within the School of Humanities and Social Science. Her new book draws on rich archival research from Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and Britain to describe how ideology reinvented the role of the nurse and shaped the profession.

“During the Soviet period from 1917-1991 there was no association for nurses - only a union for medical workers - and so locating information required research in different archives, cities, and countries. My findings come from various archives in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tambov, and Sochi in Russia, Kyiv in Ukraine, New York and Philadelphia in the United States, and London. This broad approach allowed me to piece together a holistic picture of Soviet nursing.”

Dr Grant says that there were lots of interesting insights and discoveries along the way but that the Quaker interest in Russian and Soviet nursing in the 1920s was particularly surprising because it was quite an unexpected discovery.

Touching upon her hopes for the book and its place in the field of medical history, she said: “I hope the book will draw attention to the important role of nurses and other medical workers in the history of medicine. I also hope that it will highlight how tightly politics, society and culture are bound to healthcare, as the Soviet example of nursing shows.”

The book has already received praise from fellow academics. Christopher Burton, University of Lethbridge and co-editor of Soviet Medicine, said: “Sure to appeal to historians of nursing and anyone interested in Soviet history, Soviet Nightingales follows the trajectories of junior- as well as mid-level Soviet medical personnel, a wholly original scope supported by impressive research and abundant insights.”

Tricia Starks, University of Arkansas and author of Smoking under the Tsars, said: “The first book to examine the long developmental arc of nursing during the entire Soviet period, Soviet Nightingales is well-crafted, important, and utterly unique.”

Susan Grant web banner 835 x 500

LJMU colleagues also joined Dr Grant for a special book launch event this week in which Dr James Ryan from the University of Cardiff joined a discussion on the book’s important new contribution to the field of medical history.

Soviet Nightingales: Care under Communism is published by Cornell University Press.

The book is available through Open Access thanks to the LJMU Library.

For online orders at there is a 30% discount code: CSFS2022.    


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