Nursing and Child’s Play

With the holiday season upon us, a time associated in many traditions with gift giving, particularly gifts to children, we recall the role of children’s toys and books in forming the childhood inclinations and interests that sometimes grow into our adult vocations and careers.

Golden Books Nurse Nancy
Golden Books Nurse Nancy (Photo: Barbara Slater)

The Dolan Collection houses a variety of dolls, toys, games, and children’s books related to nursing. Although some nurse researchers and faculty may cringe at what they perceive to be the trivializing or juvenilizing of a skilled health profession, childhood toys do have a powerful influence on who we become as adults. (See Metzler-Brennan, Lewis, & Gerrard [1985]; Bond [2002].)

Among the many childhood nursing toys in the collection, perhaps the best know is the Golden Book Nurse Nancy. Shown here with a Miss Curity nurse doll, Nurse Nancy was published in the early 1950s, becoming a staple of the early Baby Boomer generation. (Golden Books also published an analogous book for boys, Doctor Dan the Bandage Man.) Nurse Nancy also included what’s now called “product placement,” with Band-Aid brand bandages included (comparable to Miss Curity’s marketing of Curity brand products).

Nancy Nurse Simulates a Patient
Nancy Nurse Simulates a Patient (Photo: Barbara Slater)

The Nurse Nancy character had a comparable figure in the Nancy Nurse doll, shown here in a retail display fixture. The manufacturers of Nurse Nancy promised children a battery operated doll that sneezed, coughed, and talked, providing them also with a nursing cap and sickroom supplies. Nancy Nurse offered a virtual simulation of a child patient on whom the toy’s young owner could practice.

Nancy Nurse doll and furnishings
Nancy Nurse doll and furnishings (Photo: Barbara Slater)










These and other toys in the Dolan Collection remind us that our serious adult lives with their work and career begin with childhood play, the simulation of adult roles of healing and professionalism.




Bond, E. (2002). Remembering Nurse Nancy: A nursing educator reflects upon a powerful childhood role model. Reflections on Nursing Leadership, 28(4), 8-37.

Metzler-Brennan, E., Lewis, R. J., & Gerrard, M. (1985). Childhood antecedents of adult women’s masculinity, femininity, and career role choices. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9(3), 371-382.