In Memoriam: James P. Smith

James Patrick Smith OBE, DLitt (Honoris Causa), FRCN

The world of publishing in academic nursing has lost one of its great pioneers. My great friend and mentor and an inspiration to many, James P Smith – always known as ‘Jim Smith’ – died peacefully aged 84 on 15 June 2018. Jim was the Founding Editor of the Journal of Advanced Nursing (JAN) and a significant influence on the development of scholarship in nursing in the 20th Century.

Born in 1934, Jim qualified as a nurse in 1955 and as a nurse tutor in 1961 gaining experience in clinical practice, nursing education, clinical management and senior nursing in England. He was the first male appointed to the nursing staff at St George’s Hospital, London. He gained a degree in Sociology in the late 1960s.

In 1973 he obtained a scholarship to visit the United Sates to see nursing education in action there. He realised that the UK lagged far behind. Nursing was taught in leading universities in the US. The teachers were scholars, conducting their own research and publishing in their own and other academic journals. They also complained about the length of time it took to get published. This planted the seed in Jim’s mind which, in 1976, became the JAN. The journal celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2016 (Watson 2016).

One of Jim’s great talents was spotting talent in others. His standards were always the highest, but he was neither flattered by ‘big names’ nor ignored those trying to break into scholarly publishing. Jim liked good writing and never flinched from publishing what needed to be said. In practice Jim implemented many significant changes in the hospitals where he worked: the proper use of Clinical Nurse Specialists; the role of the Nursing Officer; enabling patients to die at home; and facilitating home births.

Jim chaired the Editorial Board meetings of JAN with flair. Firm, hilarious and tangential – but always gentle and at pains to help everyone contribute. All copy passed before Jim and always in hard copy. With a thick HB pencil Jim scored through, underlined, circled, made right-hand marginal comments and with thick arrows in the left-hand margin, indicated where a paragraph ought to go. He had an eye for what should come first and what should be deleted. He also had an eye for accuracy and completeness. A mention of someone by name had to be accompanied by their place of work, city and country; accuracy and completeness, always.

Jim stepped down from being Editor-in-Chief of JAN in 1999 and I had the honour to present him for the degree of Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa at the University of Hull in 2001. Jim came to the RCN International Research Conference in Edinburgh in 2016 where I interviewed him and recorded it. The quality of the recording was too poor to put out under the auspices of JAN, but a podcast is available. Jim’s funeral was held at St Mary’s Fochabers, UK on 21 June 2018. He is survived by John Forde, his partner of 54 years.

Roger Watson
Editor-in-Chief, JAN

Reference
Watson,  R. (2016). JAN 40 years on. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 72, 3-5.

2 thoughts on “In Memoriam: James P. Smith

  1. Roger, thank you for sharing this heartfelt and constructive memoriam of James Smith. He will be an illustrous example for the younger generations of writers and editors of scientific journals.
    With great esteem and friendship.

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