The Nursing School of Lisbon (ESEL) created by Decree Law nº175/2004 of the 21st of July, results from the merger of the four public nursing schools in Lisbon - Artur Ravara Nursing School; Calouste Gulbenkian Nursing School in Lisbon; Francisco Gentil Nursing School and Maria Fernanda Resende Nursing School. Its Statutes are approved by Legislative Order nº 16/2009 of the 7th of April (Diário da República, 2nd Series - Nº 68 - 7th of April 2009). The first management bodies - Directive Council, Pedagogical Council and School Assembly - took office on the 24th of September 2007.
The genesis of this process dates back to 2001 with the publication of Decree-Law No. 99/2001 of the 28th of March, and stems from the need to articulate indispensable synergies for the development of nursing teaching and the nursing profession. The decision to create a single school was a freely taken decision, which resulted in the elaboration of a common development plan and the implementation of several joint projects.

From the four prestigious institutions that gave rise to it, it inherits a unique heritage on which it bases its benchmarks:

- The Artur Ravara Higher Nursing School, formerly the Professional School of Nurses (1901) and the Artur Ravara School of Nursing (1930), was the first public nursing school in Portugal. Its origin dates back to the 19th century, with the creation of the first nursing training course at the Hospital de S.José in 1886. It has been, over 120 years, an undisputed benchmark in the history of Portuguese nursing.

- The Francisco Gentil Higher Nursing School was created in 1940, known then as the Technical School of Nurses of the Portuguese Institute of Oncology, under the aegis of Doctor Francisco Gentil, concerned with ensuring the training of qualified nurses, capable of participating, for their scientific and human competence in improving health care in the country. Sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, its tutleage already belonged to the ministry of education.

- The Calouste Gulbenkian Nursing School in Lisbon, originated in 1957 under the name of Hospital de Santa Maria Nursing School, created at the same time as the opening of the Teaching Hospital of Lisbon, now known as the Hospital de Santa Maria. In 1968, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation financed the construction and equipment of the buildings of the Calouste Gulbenkian School of Nursing in Lisbon, and the Student Residence, which opened in 1972. A pioneer in Nursing student associations and in its 50 years of existence, dedicated to quality initial training, it has graduated around 5000 nurses.

- The Maria Fernanda Resende School of Nursing was the name adopted from 1986 onwards by the then School of Post-Basic Nursing of Lisbon, in memory of the nurse Maria Fernanda Resende (1923-1988), whose work strongly marked the teaching and development of Portuguese nursing. The School of Post-Basic Nursing of Lisbon came into operation in 1984, with the aim of making the most of postgraduate training resources dispersed over various institutions, integrating three campuses that corresponded respectively to the former schools of Psychiatric Nursing in Lisbon, Nursing Teaching and Administration and Public Health Nursing.

With the integration of nursing education in Polytechnic Higher Education in 1989 (Decree Law No. 480/88, of the 23rd of December), all the aforementioned schools started to deliver the Higher Nursing Course, which conferred the academic Bachelor degree, with the exception of Maria Fernanda Resende HEI, which taught specialised higher education in nursing courses. In 1999, the degree course in Nursing was created (Decree-Law No. 353/99, of 3rd of September), with all schools now conferring the academic bachelor degree and delivering postgraduate training.
With Decree-Law No. 99/2001, of the 28th of March, these schools came to be supervised by the Ministry of Education and, later, by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. From 2004 onwards, the merger process began, with the creation of a monitoring committee that led the process of constructing ESEL's statutes and the election of the first management bodies.