Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Lisboa –ESEL- (Lisbon School of Nursing) was set up by Decree Law no. 175/2004 of 21 July and stems from the merger of four public higher schools of nursing in Lisbon – Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Artur Ravara; Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Calouste Gulbenkian de Lisboa; Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Francisco Gentil and Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Maria Fernanda Resende. Its statutes were approved by Regulatory Order no. 16/2009 of 7 April (Government’s Official Gazette, 2nd Series – No. 68 - 7 April 2009), and its first management bodies – Governing Council, Pedagogical Council and School Assembly - took office on 24 September 2007.
The origin of this process dates back to 2001 with the publication of Decree Law no. 99/2001 of 28 March as a result of the need to address the necessity to articulate synergies essential to the development of nursing education and the profession itself. The decision to set up a single school was made freely and involved making a shared development plan and implementing several joint projects.
The School inherited a unique heritage from the four prestigious institutions that were behind its genesis, which underpins its references:
- Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Artur Ravara, formerly called Escola Profissional de Enfermeiros (1901) and Escola de Enfermagem de Artur Ravara (1930), was the first public school of nursing in Portugal. Its origin dates back to the 19th century, with the creation, in 1886, of the first course for the training of nurses at S. José Hospital. For over 120 years, it was an irrefutable reference in the history of Portuguese nursing.
- Escola Superior de Enfermagem Francisco Gentil was set up in 1940 and was then known as Escola Técnica de Enfermeiras do Instituto Português de Oncologia. It was directed by Doctor Francisco Gentil, who was committed to ensuring the training of qualified nurses in Portugal so as to contribute to the improvement of health care with their scientific and human skills. Sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, it was under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education.
- Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Calouste Gulbenkian, in Lisbon, originated in 1957 with the name Escola de Enfermagem do Hospital de Santa Maria and was established at the opening of the Teaching Hospital of Lisbon, currently Santa Maria Hospital. In 1968, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation funded the construction and the equipment of the buildings of the Calouste Gulbenkian School of Nursing of Lisbon and the Female Students Residence, which opened in 1972. It pioneered students associations in nursing and in its 50 years of existence, aiming at offering quality initial training, it graduated about 5,000 nurses.
- Escola Superior de Enfermagem Maria Fernanda Resende was the name adopted in 1986 by the then Escola Pós-Básica de Lisboa, in memory of nurse Maria Fernanda Resende (1923-1988), whose work greatly marked the teaching and development of nursing in Portugal. The Escola Pós-Básica de Lisboa came into operation in 1984 with the aim of optimizing postgraduate training resources that were dispersed among several institutions, and brought together three sections that corresponded to the former Psychiatric Nursing School of Lisbon, Teaching and Administration in Nursing, and Public Health Nursing, respectively.
With the integration of nursing teaching in Polytechnic Higher Education in 1989 (Decree Law no. 480/88, of 23 December), all the aforementioned schools began to teach the Degree in Nursing, which awarded the academic degree of Ordinary Bachelor, except ESE Maria Fernanda Resende, which offered specialised degree courses in nursing. In 1999, the Licenciatura degree in Nursing was created (Decree Law no. 353/99, of 3 September), and all schools started to award the academic degree of licenciado (Bachelor with Honours) and offer postgraduate training. With Decree Law no. 99/2001, of 28 March, these schools became the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and, subsequently, of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. The merging process started in 2004, and to that end, a monitoring committee was set up to lead the process of creating the statutes of ESEL and electing the first management board.