Sociology in UK nurse education curricula: a review of the literature from 1919 to 2019

Mark Molesworth*, Moira Lewitt

*Corresponding author for this work

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Student nurses are required to learn about sociology during pre-registration nurse education within the United Kingdom. This literature review explores the key developments which led to the introduction and gradually increasing presence of sociological theory and concepts within nurse education. Historically, there was an early desire to increase nurses’ social awareness as nurse education was further professionalised following the passing of the Nurses Registration Act, 1919. It was not until the radical changes of the 1970s that these early ambitions were realised, culminating in sociology becoming part of the nurse education curriculum in 1977. The landscape changed as nurse education moved into universities and, more recently, as nursing became an all graduate profession. The increasing presence of sociology has been accompanied by an impassioned debate regarding its relevance to nursing and the extent to which it should feature within curricula. These issues have parallels with the education of other professional groups, and it is incumbent upon educators to draw upon the experiences of the past to think deeply about how sociology can be meaningfully embedded within future curricula.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-442
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Theory & Health
Issue number4
Early online date6 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • pre-registration nursing
  • sociology
  • education


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