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M. M. Styles, global nursing visionary, leader and scholar

Margretta Madden StylesDecember 18, 2005 -- Today the New York Times published a fairly good obituary for Margretta Madden Styles. Dr. Styles was a renowned nursing leader and scholar who was instrumental in establishing nursing certification standards, and who also served as president of the International Council of Nurses and the American Nurses Association. Jeremy Pearce's short piece about Styles, who died from cancer at her Florida home in November, was headlined: "M. M. Styles, 75; Helped to Define Nursing Standards." The piece does not quite convey the full global significance of Styles' work, but it's pretty good considering how nursing usually fares on obituary pages.

The piece states that Styles was a "nursing educator who conceived and helped establish precise national standards for certifying nurses in pediatrics, cardiology and other medical specialties." The piece says that she earned an undergraduate degree from Juniata College, a master's from Yale, and a doctorate in education from the University of Florida. She worked initially as a hospital staff nurse, and later became a nursing professor at Duke, and then dean of nursing at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Wayne State University, and finally the University of California, San Francisco. The obituary explains that in the 1970's, Styles was among those pressing for "stricter certification" and better regulatory systems for nurses. She published articles in nursing journals on advanced practices and credentialing methods. In the 1980's, Styles helped found the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the "credentialing arm" of the American Nurses Association (ANA) which now certifies nurses in more than 20 specialties. The piece quotes Duke nursing dean Catherine L. Gilliss as saying that Styles' work "helped to standardize across the nation just what to expect from your nurse." Styles also reportedly served as president of the ANA from 1986-88. Current ANA president Barbara Blakeney is quoted praising Styles for her work in helping edit "On Nursing: A Literary Celebration," a popular anthology that Blakeney says "framed the art of healing, the pain of suffering, and was received as a gift to the profession." The piece also notes that Styles served as president of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in 1993, and that she "studied the emerging importance of trained nurses in developing countries."

The piece provides a good look at some of the basic elements of Styles' career, with a focus on her substantive achievements. There is really only one sentence that could be perceived as using the sentimental language of touchy-feely imagery. In line with this serious focus, the piece commendably refers to its subject as "Dr. Styles." It might have done the same for Dr. Gilliss, who has a doctorate in nursing science. The piece might also have specified the field in which Styles' received her undergraduate and master's degrees--we never actually read that they were in nursing. The piece also explains, albeit briefly, why Styles' credentialing work was so important. Of course, her academic and professional achievements probably merit more than the piece's reference to her as a "nurse educator." She was a globally renowned nursing leader and scholar, a pioneer who helped to change the way health care works. And the obituary might have included more about her international work. In May 2005, Styles received the Christiane Reimann Prize, arguably nursing's most prestigious international award, at the ICN's quadrennial congress in Taiwan. According to a press release about the Prize on the Yale web site, Styles "spearheaded ICN's definitive work on nursing regulation."

We commend Mr. Pearce and the Times for this fairly good obituary of a major nursing leader.

See the obituary by Jeremy Pearce "M. M. Styles, 75; Helped to Define Nursing Standards" in the December 18, 2005 edition of the New York Times. Check both of these links (link 1, link 2) for the one that works the best.


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