Elizabeth Ann Robinson, PhD, RN, CNS

please also visit www.ElizabethAnnRobinson.com

The Soul of the Nurse

Elizabeth approaches her research in a cultural and archetypal manner, exploring the nurse images found in pre-historical archeology, mythology, folklore, literature, art, and popular culture. While considering the history of nursing, as well as depth and archetypal psychology, her research reveals the complexity of the nurse image and what has influenced the nurses’s psyche and public’s psyche about the nurse. This 16 minute film (above) includes short excerpts from Elizabeth’s oral dissertation defense. Her book, The Soul of the Nurse, is available at Amazon. Please contact us with questions. Thanks and enjoy the film! 

Mythology and Nursing

The nurse is central to healthcare and has always been the most prominent figure in times of vulnerability throughout the life cycle. Elizabeth, as mythologist and nurse, attempts to recover the complexity and wholeness of the nurse by tracing her origins as far back as Neolithic times. Ancient mythology, folklore, literature, art, and popular culture are explored to reveal the multifaceted characteristics of the nurse and specific images are expanded to deepen the understanding of the nurse archetype. The nurse image holds longing, ambivalence, fear, desire, and vulnerability. Mythology, metaphor, and symbol help to recover the soul of the nurse, revealing new insights, forgotten memories, and devalued capacities. Idealizing or demonizing the nurse is an attempt to break free of her power. The nurse is often portrayed as dangerous and mysterious because she is so close to the archetypal energies of death and eros. The nurse’s body cares for the bodies of others. Nurses are drawn to work that is messy, peculiar, and unpredictable, thus the work of the nurse is soul work. The soul longs for complexity. The nurse craves intensity, merging, and collaboration. Like Baubo, she affirms life while maintaining an understanding of the brutal frankness and wonder of the life cycle. Her true body consciousness is Dionysian. Over time the image of the nurse has been split into one-dimensional disguises ranging from the angelic heroine to the sex object. Without moralizing or dividing the good from the bad, Elizabeth investigates the dynamic energy of the nurse archetype and uncovers some of what has been lost through splits, repressions, and distortions. Her research reveals why the nurse captivates culture and maintains the status as the most trusted professional in society, questioning what it would take to re-member her comprehensive wholeness.

Elizabeth’s Brief Biography

A fourth generation Californian, Elizabeth was born in Merced, to a cattle rancher father and school principal mother, with many brothers and no sisters. A swimmer, springboard diver, water polo player, and gymnast, she kept busy with physical activities including helping out on the ranch - riding horseback to gather cattle or in the corral. Good at science, yet searching for the feminine, she found her sisters in nursing school, fast became enamored with the nurse, and has been dedicated to her ever since. 

Formal Education

  • Baccalaureate in Nursing: Samuel Merritt and St. Mary’s College (Oakland and Moraga)

  • Master of Science: University of California, San Francisco - Department of Physiological Nursing

  • Master of Arts: Pacifica Graduate Institute - Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology

  • Doctor of Philosophy: Pacifica Graduate Institute - Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology

Selected Licensure and Certifications

  • RN, California Board of Registered Nursing

  • CNS, Clinical Nurse Specialist, California Board of Registered Nursing

  • Integral Yoga Institute Basic Hatha Yoga Teacher, San Francisco

  • Therapeutic Yoga Teacher, Santa Barbara

  • Amherst Writers & Artists Certified Writing Instructor

  • Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing


  • Staff Nurse IV: Stanford University Medical Center, in the Oncology, Cardiac Surveillance, and Coronary Care Units and served as Interim Clinical Nurse Educator CCU/CSU

  • Administrator: Duke University Medical Center, Heart Center Patient Support Program; Speaker at two of Duke’s Integrating Mind, Body, and Spirit in Medical Practice Conferences; Chair, Duke Heart Center Annual Multidisciplinary Conference and Board Member. Led retreats for patients and staff.

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist, Cardiology and Critical Care: Sequoia Hospital, Redwood City - interventional cardiology and electrophysiology, wrote all cardiology patient education materials and educated patients, staff, and the community, Sutter Medical Center, Santa Rosa - laid groundwork for interventional and cardiovascular surgery programs. Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento - implemented new CV Interventional Unit, smoking cessation program, served on city wide stroke team, established the Healing Garden and the large-sold-out annual Cardiovascular Nursing Symposium. Led multidisciplinary rounds in cardiac/medical ICU daily.

  • Clinical Policy Writer, Nursing: Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital