Dr. Sonya Grypma's Research about the History of Faith-based & Missionary Nursing

Sonya Grypma is an internationally recognized nurse historian with an interest in Canadian missionary nursing in China. Her award-winning research has resulted in a book (Healing Henan, UBC Press, 2008), several publications and presentations, a documentary DVD and participation in the development of the Huimin Hospital museum the former Canadian mission site at Weihui, Henan, PR China.

Scholars working within this hub will critically examine ways in which identity (gender, religion, race), events (war, epidemics) or persons shaped nursing in the 20th century, and how historical resonances continue to play out in contemporary nursing.  

See Dr. Grypma’s faculty profile for more information. 


The history of nursing is a research focus at Trinity Western University School of Nursing. Three recently funded projects will add to the growing interest in nursing history and its relevance for contemporary nurses. The underlying goals of the history of nursing research projects are to make history more visible within nursing education and practice, and to make nursing more visible to historians and historical resources – that is, to bring history to nursing, and nursing to history.

Nurses in the 21st century need more than information; they need a greater sensitivity to contextual variables and ambiguity in order to critically evaluate the information they receive (AAHN Position paper on nursing in the curriculum http://www.aahn.org/position.html). For example, contemporary nurses who grapple with questions of spiritual care, ethics or social justice may learn from asking historical questions like, when did the concept of spiritual care enter nursing textbooks? How did lessons learned through Tuskegee shape understandings of ethical nursing care? What can we learn from missionary nurses who helped develop the “social gospel”? Conducted in collaboration with historians from other disciplines, universities and countries, TWU’s history of nursing research projects help us to better understand why nurses respond to contemporary social needs in a particular way – from the earthquake in Haiti, the H1N1 pandemic, or political attempts at health care reform.

For more information about history of nursing courses available at TWU, read here.

Research Projects

CONTACT ZONE: THE INTERPLAY OF RELIGION, RACE AND GENDER AT THE CANADIAN MISSION HOSPITAL AT WEIHUI, CHINA, 1896 TO 1949 (PHASE I)

  • Sonya Grypma (Principal Investigator)
  • Una Wu (Research Associate)
    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

WORTHY OF THE NAME: THE PHILADELPHIA ROOTS OF ELIZABETH MCKECHNIE FIRST MISSIONARY NURSE TO CHINA, 1884.

  • Sonya Grypma (Principal Investigator)
    • Lillian Sholtis Brunner Fellowship for Historical Research in Nursing. University of Pennsylvania, Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing

CANADIAN NURSING HISTORY: THE CULTURES OF COLONIALISM AND NATIONALISM

  • Meryn Stuart (Principal Investigator – University of Ottawa)
  • Cynthia Toman (University of Ottawa)
  • Myra Rutherdale (York University)
  • Kathryn McPherson (York University)
  • Laurie Meijer Drees (Vancouver Island University)
  • Johanne Daigle (Laval University)
  • Sonya Grypma (Trinity Western University)
  • Marion McKay (University of Manitoba)
    • Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada

HISTORY OF NURSING WEBSITES

A group of Canadian Missionaries in Weihui, China in 1937