Obituary: Cynthia Stevenson, nurse

Cynthia Stevenson, who has died at 87 in Harrogate, pioneered the first Bachelor of Science programme in nursing at Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University) in 1974, at a time when only a few institutions offered an academic level qualification for the profession.

Cynthia Stevenson

She produced nurses who went on to become nationally and internationally recognised leaders. Among them were Louise Silverton, who spent 24 years at the Royal College of Midwives, Professor Dame Julie Moore and Professor Geraldine Walters, the current executive director of Professional Practice at The Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The former students on her first course never lost touch with each other or with her, reuniting most recently at the Marriott Hotel in Leeds in 2018.

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A profoundly private person, Ms Stevenson trained as a nurse at St George’s Hospital, London in 1956 – the year her first students were born. Whilst she shared stories about her life, she made it clear that none was for public consumption.

She was, however, genuinely interested in the people she met and taught, with a memory for names, faces and events which lasted a lifetime.

A visionary ahead of her time, she taught her students to question the status quo and to understand the science behind the care they were giving, long before nursing research and evidence-based practice became commonplace.

Lessons were to be learnt from history, she said, and she often talked in detail about the work of Florence Nightingale, urging others to strive for the same high ideals while keeping their feet firmly planted.

Her greatest love outside nursing was music. She played piano and enjoyed visits with her music appreciation class to concerts and festivals around the world.

She was also a member of the Harrogate Archaeological Society and the Claro Community Archaeology Group, keeping records and typing up survey reports.

With others, she was instrumental in setting up St Michael’s Hospice, and volunteered there in retirement.

She never married, and leaves an older cousin as her only surviving relative.