The Museum of Nursing History in Madrid: a pending appointment with our professional past

Section: Editorial


Rubén Mirón González


Profesor Ayudante Doctor de Enfermería. Universidad de Alcalá. Madrid

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For decades, History of Nursing has been a subject in our early university training, already present in the study plans for Technical Sanitary Assistant. This is a basic subject, which not only brings students closer to the historic background of our profession, but also provides the cognitive tools required to generate a critical and reflexive thinking about the direction towards which we want our discipline to evolve. Unfortunately, since Grades were implemented, we have noticed that History of Nursing has been gradually losing its strength within the university study plans.

The research challenge is added on to the teaching difficulties. Even though we have reached the long-desired Doctorate Degree in Nursing, we see that research in History of the Nursing Sciences has lost value due to the current quantitative model and to the evaluation systems for research quality.

Faced with educational and research adversities, University Professors have been forced to search for tools in order to motivate their students in the teaching-learning process, and to make visible the research in History of Nursing to the eyes of the scientific, professional and social groups. Among the tools for change we can find: teaching innovation, training in historiography for post-graduate students, participation in congresses, or publication in scientific journals that will keep active this research in History of Nursing. Based on this preamble, it is necessary to place into value the existence of history museums or temporary exhibitions that will help us to keep alive our more recent past.

At a 10-minute walk from the Atocha Train Station in Madrid, we find the Museum of Nursing History, a cultural space with the largest permanent collection in Spain. This museum is placed in the Colegio Oficial de Enfermería de Madrid (National College of Nursing), and it is managed by María Teresa Miralles Sangro, Ph.D., an acknowledged researcher, and promoter of the Fundación María Teresa Miralles Sangro for the study of the evolution of care and development of Nursing. The Museum of Nursing History first opened in 2012, and since then it has focused on the recovery and preservation of part of the equipment used for domestic and professional Nursing care between the 17th and the 20th centuries. A large part of the objects exhibited belong to Dr. Miralles, who has been collecting them for decades.

One of the main characteristics of the Museum of Nursing History is its perfect symbiosis with the activity of the Nursing College of Madrid where it is placed. As you enter the College building, which is an emblematic 20th century building which belonged to the American Singer Sewing Machines Company, we are met by a majestic staircase with a small philatelic exhibition about the Spanish nurse. The permanent collection consists of five spaces and 16 thematic display cases distributed into two large rooms. Each object, document and photograph has been carefully selected by Dr. Miralles in order to tell us a story in every display case. Therefore, we can see the story of nurse training, woman and newborn care, the use of equipment for patient care, drug preparation and administration, care in war settings, or the invisibility of nurses throughout history. And, of course, these stories are told following the rigorous historiographical method and, as Dr. Miralles would point out, according to the basic care that Nursing has always conducted and identified throughout the ages.

As we can see, the Museum of Nursing History of Madrid represents a major opportunity for learning, visibility and reflection for all academic and social levels. Their large collection has no reason to envy other foreign museums, which would require a long travel to visit. Anyone who has scheduled a trip to Madrid should visit this Museum of Nursing History.


1.    Miralles Sangro MT. Catálogo exposición permanente. Museo de Historia de la Enfermería. 2ª ed. Madrid: Colegio Oficial de Enfermería de Madrid; 2017.
2.    Rodríguez A. María Teresa Miralles. La sociedad aún no reconoce el papel de la enfermera. El Mundo. 2008 oct 18.