Dr. Alison O'Donnell

Lecturer in Nursing


School of Nursing & Midwifery
Fife Campus,
5 Forth Avenue,

Phone Number:

+(44) 01382 386606

Email Address:



Alison O’Donnell is currently a Lecturer in Nursing with the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK.

Alison qualified as nurse in 1980 and had various posts working in the NHS, before undertaking a clinical teaching course at Queen Margaret University College in 1985. She undertook a BA in Education at the University of Stirling after this and also completed a diploma in nurse education in 1992 at Stirling. 

Alison gained her PhD in April 2010 from the University of Dundee.  Her background interest in PhD studies originated from an initial MSc in Nursing dissertation completed in August 2001 at Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, Scotland.   This dissertation considered the role that some nurses adopted during the euthanasia programmes in National Socialist Germany.   In undertaking this study, her interest was stimulated further to investigate the wider arena of nursing in the Holocaust.   

The purpose of Alison’s recently completed PhD studies is to explore and expand this original thesis in more depth, but from a different stance.  Whilst internationally, there are a small number of nurse historians who are examining this period of time, the issue, of the influence of the power of a nurse and their relationship to those in their care in Germany during this era has not been explored in great detail.  Furthermore, none of the current published authors consider, in depth, a genealogical stance and the work of the French philosopher, Michel Foucault.

In 1999, Alison was successful in being awarded The Monica Baly Bursary given from The Royal College of Nursing History Society, London.  This allowed her to extend her scholarship of the Holocaust and nursing by consulting archival sources in the USA.

In August 2002, Alison was awarded a Carnegie Trust Travel Award; this travel award enabled her to travel to Germany in May 2004 to visit the Hilde Steppe Archive, Frankfurt, the Hadamar Asylum, Hadamar & the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp & Museum, Berlin.   This fact-finding trip added resonance and background when analysing the nurse trial transcripts of the Hadamar Asylum and the Ravensbrück camp – these sources were found whilst working in the National Archives at Kew, London.

Alison also supports LTA students who are undertaking wider University modules, for their post graduate teaching and learning certificate.  Alison has had a range of External Examiner appointments since 1996, and is currently an External Examiner for Oxford Brookes University, for their BSc in Nursing and Masters in Nursing programme which is based in Hong Kong.

In September 2011, Alison was elected to the steering group of the RCN History of Nursing Society.

Alison also has a remit for CPD within the SNM and is a member of the College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing Board.


As a novice researcher Alison is looking to build this capacity and expertise in the future.   

Wider professional activities

Alison is a critical reader/reviewer for Harcourt Publications.  She is also a member of the Scottish Women’s History Network and the Higher Education Academy. 


Alison teaches into a range of pre-registration, post registration and post graduate nursing courses.  She supervises Masters students and recently has begun to be involved in the process of supervising PhD students through the Thesis Monitoring Committees within the SNM. 


BENEDICT, S., SHIELDS, L., &  O'DONNELL, A., (2009). Children's "Euthanasia" in Nazi Germany. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2008.07.012

BLACK, S., & O’DONNELL, A., (2001). Lest we forget.  Nursing Standard: 15(25) pp. 22 – 23.

MATHIESON, A., & O’DONNELL, A., (2000). Did nurses aid the Nazis? Nursing Times: 96(48) pp. 26 – 27.

O’DONNELL, A., BENEDICT, S., KUHLA, J., & SHIELDS, L., (2009). Nursing during National Socialism: Complicity in terror and heroism. In B. CLUCAS., J. WARD (Ed.), Torture: Moral Absolutes and Ambiguities  (pp. 147-162). Berlin: Nomos.


‘The Role of Nurses in the Euthanasia Programme in Germany 1933 – 1945’,RCN History of Nursing Millennium Conference, 2000, April 2001

1st International Nursing & Midwifery Conference on Nursing in the Third Reich University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, 10-11 June 2004 – Invited Keynote Presentation ~  ‘Conscience & Conflict : The Caring Perspective of Hadamar’

10th European Conference for the History of Neurosciences, St Andrews, Scotland, 6-8 July 2005 – Invited Presentation ~ ‘Conscience & Conflict: The Caring Perspective of Hadamar’

‘From the Cradle to the Grave’ Post Graduate Student Conference, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow 11-12 January 2006 – Keynote Presentation ~ ‘Foucault and Fascism, An emergence of the modern nurse in National Socialist Germany’

Invited; Nursing Education Today; Learning Disabilities Conference; Dublin, Republic of Ireland; 23 June 2006 ~ Keynote Speech ~ ‘Ravensbrück; Care and Conflict’                                 

Invited; Autumn Seminar Series, Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland,  14 November 2006 ~ ‘Caring for Life : Nurses in the Third Reich – The Possibilities and Impossibilities’

Women and War Conference, Centre for the Study of the Two World Wars, University of Edinburgh and the UK Centre for the History of Nursing, 29 March 2007, Invited Presentation  ~ ‘Conscience & Conflict: The Caring Perspective of Hadamar’

Wilberforce Institute for Study and Emancipation of Slavery (WISE), University of Hull, Hull, 17 May 2007, Invited presentation  ~ ‘Nurses in the Third Reich ; the unfinished business of slavery’  

Dundee Women’s International Festival; 4 March 2010 ~ Invited presentation ~ ‘Caring in a hostile setting’

Invited Keynote; Yorkshire Coalition of Nurse Educators, Huddersfield, Yorkshire; 27 January 2011; ‘A New Order of Duty – Nursing Resilience in the Face of Fascism

RCN Congress, Harrogate, Yorkshire; 5 May 2012; ‘The Challenge of the Image of Nursing’, Joint Symposium invited speaker