Juanita Rule: Innovator in nurse education

Juanita Rule was a nurse who became internationally respected for her innovatory work in nurse education. From 1971 to 1976 she was Director of the Institute of Advanced Nursing at the Royal College of Nursing. An honours graduate from Edinburgh University, she was one of the first nurses to take a university degree.

Rule remarked that she was born in Broadstairs but conceived in Mexico. Her father was managing the family tin mines, although he had qualified as a medical doctor. Juanita had hoped to follow him as a medical student at Edinburgh but St Margaret's School, Burnham-on-Sea, where she was a boarder, did not teach science. Instead Juanita became a nurse – although she did eventually study at Edinburgh, taking a degree in Moral Philosophy in 1954.

She enjoyed her nursing training at Bristol General Hospital, 1935-38, but "was sent to matron for various misdemeanours – some ridiculous". Rule was fundamentally nonconformist, and when she first joined the staff of the Royal College of Nursing, in 1948, she found it a bit old-fashioned – "dignified and relentlessly female".

She took a teaching course because she felt it would make her a better ward sister. She then applied for an administrative course because she was unhappy that administrators had too much influence over education – and passed with distinction.

On a World Health Organisation scholarship in 1959 Rule visited nursing schools in the United States and Canada to see how they were developing degree courses. She felt the Ministry of Health let British nurses down over degrees, entirely for financial reasons, not recognising the importance of training beyond the basic apprenticeship level.

Appointed Director of the RCN's Institute of Advance Nursing Education in 1971, Rule pursued the objective of professional education continuing throughout a nurse's career. In 1974 she gave an outspoken RCN Annual Nursing Lecture, entitled "A Crisis of Identity". Rule's "law" was that nursing should put the patient first and develop its own governance. She was appointed OBE in 1976 for her services to post-registration nurse education.

Throughout her life Rule suffered from having broken her ankle at school. It never set properly and she described herself as "an arthritic ward sister".

Laurence Dopson

Juanita Bennett Rule, nurse educationist: born Broadstairs, Kent 20 November 1914; Deputy Director, Institute of Advanced Nursing Education, Royal College of Nursing 1960-71, Director 1971-1976; Honorary Fellow, RCN 1976, Deputy President 1976-78; OBE 1976; died Warminster, Wiltshire 23 March 2008.

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