Nursing History

From Florence Nightingale to the 21st Century

When anyone talks about modern nursing, the name Florence Nightingale is among the first mentioned due to her impact on the profession. She was born in Florence, Italy. Along with a team of nurses, she works to improve the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital during the Crimean War. Since she made her rounds in the evening carrying a lamp, she earns the nickname “the Lady with the Lamp.” She funds the St Thomas Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1860. She died August 13, 1910, in London.

Florence Nightingale, also known as the Lady w...

Florence Nightingale, also known as the Lady with the Lamp, providing care to wounded and ill soldiers during the Crimean War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout history, sick care takes place in the home. It is the responsibility of family, friends and neighbors who care for one another. It was the traditional way care is provided until nineteenth century. Care provided by strangers was limited to cases of plagues and epidemics. Physicians would check in from time to time or when called and leave instructions. [The movie Gone with the Wind comes to mind.]

Nurses and nursing
Nurses and nursing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nursing education begins in 1873 with the following three nurse educational programs:the New York Training School at Bellevue Hospital, the Connecticut Training School at the State Hospital (later renamed New Haven Hospital) and the Boston Training School at Massachusetts General Hospital. These programs developed with the ideas advanced by Florence Nightingale. Many other schools open throughout the country, either owned or affiliated with a hospital allowing students to gain clinical experience considered necessary for the education of a nurse. The trained nurses emphasized cleanliness, orderliness and close observation of patients successfully transforming hospitals into scientific institutions of caring. In the 1890s, nurses come together and founded two major professional associations: the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses, later renamed the National League of Nursing Education, and the Associated Alumnae of the United States, later renamed the American Nurses Association. Many other organization such as  the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses and the National Organization for Public Health Nursing were founded soon after. The passage of nurse registration acts provides the nurses with their modern legal title: registered nurse.

Group of nurses, Base Hospital #45

Group of nurses, Base Hospital #45 (Photo credit: The Library of Virginia)

With industrialization and urbanization at the turn of the twentieth century, hospitals were build to provide care for those who did not have the support to provide own care, increasing the need for additional professional nurses. The popularity of nursing school due to high admission and graduation rates turns it into an attractive occupation in which an individual can build a successful career. Nursing field become diversified as nurses branch out from hospital care into home care and public health. During the World War I, about 23,000 American nurses deliver care to armed forces either at home or on war front. The number goes up for World War II: 78,000 nurses provide care to service members.

English: Army Nurses in Santo Tomas Internment...

English: Army Nurses in Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 1943. Left to right: Bertha Dworsky; Sallie P. Durrett; Earlene Black; Jean Kennedy; Louise Anchieks; Millei Dalton. Picture taken by Japanese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In mid-twentieth century, nursing education shifts from hospital based to institutions of higher learning with graduating nurses awarded Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. Associate Degree programs also start at community colleges, graduating a large number of numbers to address the nurse shortages. During that time, nursing drops systems of racial and gender segregation and opens up to equal educational, professional and employment opportunities to all nurses. From that era, two types of nurses emerge: the clinical nurse specialist such as intensive care nurse and the nurse practitioner, trained to deliver primary care services.

The American student nurse Miss Lydia Monroe o...

The American student nurse Miss Lydia Monroe of Ringold, Louisiana, in 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thee nurse of the twenty-first century works in various settings: hospitals, clinics, physician offices, home care, schools, government administration. Nursing can earn licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in nursing. An increasing number of men are entering the professional, balancing the gender gap.

The following video represents nursing today:

Information Sources: University of Pennsylvania School of NursingThe Biography Channel 

Dedicated to all nurses out there. Thank you for all you do. 

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