Membership figures for the UK Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Complementary Therapies Forum illustrate the surge of interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within the profession: 1,600 in 1997; rising to 11,400 in 2000 (House of Lords 2000) and the activities of similar representative bodies in other developed countries have confirmed this trend on the international stage (Fox-Young 1998; RCNA 1997). This is occurring at an interesting time in the development of nursing more broadly, given the ongoing attention to an enhanced nursing role, and continuing debate about the profession’s most appropriate form and content (Barton 1999). It is a debate in which the essence of nursing is contested and recourse to history frequently undertaken in an attempt to legitimise specific conceptions of nursing (Hall and Allan 1994; Hisama 1996; Rinker 2000; Salmore 1998; Snyder and Lindquist 2001; Watson 1998; Wilson 2000).