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Primary Nursing is 40 years old!! June 9, 2009

Posted by mariemanthey in Announcements, Creative Health Care Management, History, Leadership, Manthey Life Mosaic, Professional Practice.
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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first development of  Primary Nursing – on a medical unit (station 32) at the University of Minnesota Hospital.

The really exciting part of this anniversary is an effort underway to gather the pioneers of that first unit, from the CEO, John Westerman to the other administrators including Dave Preston ( co-director of the project), Peter Sammond, Stan Williams, and nurse leaders  Pat Robertson (Clinical Nursing Director), Diane Bartels, (Head Nurse, now a PhD ethicist), Karen Ciske, (Nurse Clinician) Colleen Person (unit educator),  and as many of the unit staff as we can locate.

There is a reason it started at that place and at that time. Societal changes combined with an energetic surge of  internal hospital reform from the executive suite coupled with deep frustration and dissatisfaction within nursing set the stage for this change. The presence of several thought-leaders who were also involved gave us a system-focused, principle-based understanding of the meaning of the nursing practice changes that evolved. This understanding resulted in language to describe the innovation in a way that facilitated adaption to every setting where there are clinicians and patients.

That paragraph represents my understanding today about why it has had such an impact on practice and patient care. I am thrilled we are celebrating it’s 40th year.

The gathering we are planning is pretty unstructured at this time. So far, we are talking about getting together for lunch at Coffman Union at the U of Minnesota sometime in August. I’m thinking this is a golden opportunity for us to capture the insights and learnings of some key figures in what became a massive change process.  I’m interested in any suggestions readers have about what we should capture and how to do it. What would you like to know about the experience of the execs, nurse leaders and staff involved in the risk that led to Primary Nursing?

The RBC Symposium sponsored by Creative Healthcare Managemenet is the latest manifestation of the current resurgence of Primary Nursing.  This resurgence  has also led me to offer a 5 day practicum in August. Info about both of these is available on chcm.com


1. Chris Bjork - June 9, 2009

Hi Marie,
I think it would be great to record the session on audio for posterity. It could also be transcribed for a great article in Creative Nursing. The health care world so badly needs Primary Nursing as part of the cure for what ails health care. I am glad you are taking the time to do this.

mariemanthey - June 21, 2009

Thanks Chris. I am taking some first steps to capture some of this…..maybe from an anthropological perspective, since the culture at the time….and the culture today have such a major impact on practice. How do we use the current reality of society and the health care system to improve the health of society….from within the profession of nursing?? Much to explore

2. Lilia Raposo - August 22, 2009

Dear Marie,

I could not attend your PN Classes but I was taking CARE of myself here in Brazil!
I will be writing an email to you and Jayne Felgen telling you the news I have and some kind of decisions I am taking and so on…
I am doing fine and I really want to give you a big hugh, face to face in a short time.
Congratulations for this wonderful HOPE during the last 40 years that we named so sweetly as “PRIMARY NURSING”.
Warm regards and Tchau!
Lilia Raposo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

mariemanthey - August 25, 2009

Lilia….thanks for the note. I enjoyed being with Joanna and Fatima at the Symposium. Primary Nursing continues to be ‘the right way’ to deliver care….as it has been since the beginning of time. Looking forward….

3. Heidi Orstad - February 27, 2015


I had a lovely visit with one of my awesome nurses today, She was thanking me for one of my “Happy Friday” email messages that describe some of my past patient relationships and called to say that it made her cry (in a good way she assured me). In the course of our conversation, she asked me how I can remember so many patients week after week from so long ago, how I developed such rich relationships? I explained that the stories that flood me on Fridays all come from my work as a Primary Nurse.

I grew up at your school (U of MN) never having met you. I worked at the Variety Club Children’s Hospital serving pediatric cancer patients as a secretary and then aide never having met you. I volunteered countless hours at the Ronald McDonald House down the block never having met you. Yet everything I learned at school about how to honor patients, every day I practiced at the U of MN from my first was based in your model.

I can remember countless pediatric cancer primary patients and their families by names and even their favorite rooms and toys and movies because primary nursing afforded rich relationships.

I grew to serve families in pediatric hospice, geriatric case management, neonatal home care, and special needs case management and hospice to mention a few, all with your model. Why? Because it is the only one that works.for me.

I have since found leadership (or it found me) I think because I did my homework in nursing. My relationships with patients readied me to serve the nurses who do such great work. Not surprisingly, I now serve case managers who practice primary care nursing.

So is it serendipity that lead me to your Nursing Salon one day in November 2014? I think not.

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