Remembering Donna Diers, PhD, RN, FAAN

In this month of May when we pause to honor nurses everywhere, I realized that we had failed to commemorate, at the time of her death, one of our most notable former nursing editors – Donna Diers.  Part of the reason I noticed this now is related to the Nursing Editors History Project  that Leslie Nicoll and I launched last month. I decided that it is never too late to honor and remember this notable leader of our profession, especially during the month of her birth, which was May 11, 1938.  Donna died on February 24,

Donna Diers

Donna Diers

2013. It is interesting to note that the U.S. national Nurses Week is celebrated annually the week in which Florence Nightingale’s birthdate occurs – May 12th.  This was also Martha Rogers’ birthdate – a fact that Martha frequently noted as significant.  To me, these three figures – Donna Diers, Martha Rogers and Florence Nightingale shared many traits of creative vision and great leadership – not the least of which was sparking lively controversy that led to great leaps forward in our profession.

Donna Diers aspired to be a journalist before she decided on nursing as a career, then came to realize both as Editor of Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship from 1985 to 1993.  She assumed her editorship the year after her tenure as Dean of the Yale School of nursing ended (1972-1984).  During her deanship, she developed the first Graduate Entry Program for people without an undergraduate degree in nursing, a program that continues to this day leading to entry into speciality practice as an advanced practice nurse.

Donna was a prolific writer – she wrote one of the first nursing research methods texts, and her writing appears in almost all major nursing journals and in many texts.  Her talent as a journalist came through vividly in her editorials published in Image – editorials that I anticipated and read eagerly as each issue arrived in my mail.

There is no better tribute to Donna Diers than the 2010 “Living Legend” ceremony when the American Academy of Nursing bestowed this honor on her.  Her own remarks at this ceremony bring to life the amazing spark that she brought to the world and reveal the ways in which nursing and journalism came together in her career. She also shares a moving tribute to many others whom she names as significant in her own life.  I urge you to take a few moments to dwell with the memory of this remarkable nurse – Donna Diers.