Dr. Sonya Grypma's Historical Research  

Sonya Grypma is an internationally recognized nurse historian whose research interests include transnational nursing history, particularly the intersection of Canadian, American and Chinese nursing networks developed through philanthropic, missionary and nursing organizations prior to the 1948 development of the World Health Organization.  Her award-winning research has resulted in numerous articles, chapters, and three scholarly books:  Healing Henan:  Canadian Nurses at the North China Mission, 1888-1947 (UBC Press, 2008); China Interrupted: Japanese Internment and the Reshaping of a Canadian Missionary Community (Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2012) and, most recently, The Rockefeller Effect:  Canadian Missions and the Unsettling of Modern Nursing in Wartime China (UBC Press, in press).    

Scholars and students working within this hub will critically examine ways in which key persons, social movements, geopolitical events and disasters collectively 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. 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. Dr. Grypma has served as thesis supervisor, committee member, or external examiner for masters and PhD students completing historical studies at TWU, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Victoria, and University of Sydney, Australia.    

Nursing history matters.  In an article entitled Historically-informed Nursing: The Untapped Potential of History in Nursing Education, Dr. Grypma argues that, in an effort to prepare nurses for a rapidly evolving health care system, nursing educators emphasize the value of new, evidence-informed knowledge – specifically in the form of literature published within the previous five years.  Our focus on the “cutting edge” has effectively severed nursing from its roots (Grypma, 2017, 1). Tracing current issues back to their roots provides context and helps understand the present.  Tracking the trends of issues across decades can help us to map out a trajectory towards a likely future. More importantly, knowing how nurses have successfully responded to professional and practice concerns in the past can provide nurses with strategies and confidence to try new (old) clinical interventions or to interrupt concerning social or political trajectories (Grypma, 2017, 9).  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 natural and other catastrophes, the COVID-19 pandemic, or political attempts at health care reform.

Students interested in historical research projects or related directed studies with Dr. Grypma may contact the School of Nursing Graduate Director for more information.