Patricia D’Antonio, PhD, RN, FAAN
The history of health care looks very different through the eyes of nurses.
Dr. Patricia D’Antonio is an internationally recognized historian of nursing whose research demonstrates nurses’ strong influence on health, social mobility, diversity and the development of cultural and health care norms. Her most recent work on early 20th century health demonstration projects in the United States, for example, shows that nurses were central in promoting the current norms of primary care: regular physical examinations, prenatal and dental care, and hearing and eye checkups. She also argues that nurses slowly changed prevailing health beliefs, in ways that not only set the stage for our current health care system but also reflected and refracted political, gendered, racialized, and social norms.
Dr. D’Antonio directs Penn Nursing’s Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, a resource for scholars worldwide. The Center works with historians of nursing and healthcare to place the history of nursing at the center of debates about health policy, practice, and the education of a new generation of clinicians.
For Dr. D’Antonio, writing the history of nursing means evaluating both successes and failures. In another book, American Nursing, she drew on firsthand accounts by white and African-American men and women nurses to discover how these groups historically viewed themselves and each other. She found that a strong nursing identity bridged some historical divides within systems of care and education that reinforced strong gender and racial hierarchies.
- PhD, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 1992
- MSN, Catholic University of America, 1982
- BS, Boston College School of Nursing, 1977
Dr. D’Antonio’s program of historical research demonstrates nurses’ strong influence on health, social mobility, diversity and the development of cultural and health care norms. Her most recent work, Nursing with a Message: Public Health Demonstration Projects in New York City, argues that nurses were central in promoting the current norms of primary care within a health care system that reflected and refracted political, gendered, racialized norms, and highlighting how nurses supported economically and racially marginalized families equitable access to services available to white, middle-class families. In her earlier book, American Nursing: A History of Knowledge, Power and the Meaning of Work, Dr. D’Antonio also drew on firsthand accounts by White and African-American men and women nurses to discover how strong gender and racial hierarchies reinforced how these groups historically viewed themselves and each other, and underscored the importance of forging a strong nursing identity to bridge some of the historical divides within systems of care and education.
Dr. D’Antonio enjoys nurturing a new generation of scholars in the history of nursing and healthcare. She lectures worldwide on nursing education, professionalism and research, nursing career paths, and leadership. She also credits the intellectual curiosity of her Penn Nursing students with helping shape her own research. As a teacher and mentor, Dr. D’Antonio aims to provide structure for students’ intellectual curiosity, to enable them to ask – and answer – important questions about the development of the American healthcare system.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
A member of Penn Nursing’s first class of PhD students, Dr. D’Antonio is also a clinical specialist in psychiatric nursing. She appreciates the intellectual vibrancy of Penn and the willingness of its faculty and students to take risks and try new approaches in every field of study. Her current interest is in exploring the nature of nursing knowledge, which she views as inherently interdisciplinary. Her teaching focuses on using history to analyze contemporary issues in health care practice, health policy, and public health.
Selected Career Highlights
- 2018 International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau International
- Fellow, College of Physicians of Philadelphia
- Fellow, American Academy of Nursing
- Consultant, World Health Organization, on history and strategic directions for nursing and WHO
- Nursing Outlook Excellence in Policy Award, “History Counts: How History Can Shape our Understanding of Health Policy”
- President’s Award, American Association for the History of Nursing
Patricia D’Antonio, American Nursing: A History of Knowledge, Authority, and the Meaning of Work (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010)
D’Antonio, P., Fairman, J., Lewenson, S. (2016). An Historical Perspective on Policy, Politics, and Nursing. In D. Mason and Frieda Outlaw (Eds.), Policy and Politics in Nursing and Health Care. (8th Ed.)Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.
Patricia D’Antonio, “Cultivating Constituencies: The Story of the East Harlem Nursing and Health Service, 1928-1941,” American Journal of Public Health, 2013: 103 (6): 988-996
Patricia D’Antonio, “Lessons Learned: Nursing and Health Demonstration Projects in New York City, 1920-1935,” Policy, Politics, and Nursing Practice, 2014, 14 (3-4): 133-141, DOI: 10.1177/1527154413520389.
Patricia D’Antonio, Nursing with a Message: Public Health in New York City, 1920-1940 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2017)
Patricia D’Antonio, Julie Fairman, and Jean Whelan (eds), Routledge Handbook on the Global History of Nursing (London: Routledge Press, 2013)
“The Great Flu and After: Why the Nurses,” Invited Editorial, American Journal of Public Health, 2019, 109 (6): 832-833.