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Though Florence Nightingale is typically thought of as the founder of modern nursing, women had been employed for most of the 1800’s doing varied low-level tasks assigned by physicians(University of Pennsylvania Nursing School, n.d.). The mid-1800’s brought both the Crimean and the American Civil War, and it was during these wars that the military recognized the value of the nursing as an organized skill both to assist physicians in their work treating injuries and to further hygienic practices and maintain health(University of Pennsylvania Nursing School, n.d.). In both World Wars, nurses were called to perform more varied and skilled tasks. So, unfortunately, war with its increase in injury and human suffering did much to increase the field of nursing (University of Pennsylvania Nursing School, n.d.).
When nursing training programs were hospital-based, nurses were often pulled from their studies to supplement staffing to clean and do menial tasks. Later, when degrees were sought at universities, nursing students felt as if they could both focus on their studies and learn skills(University of Pennsylvania Nursing School, n.d.). Still, until the 1960’s, nurses were taught to give complete deference to physicians lending to the idea that nurses are task-driven and deserving of less respect (Arnott, Paliadelis, & Cruickshank, 2019) . According the Gallup polls, nursing has been, for the past two decades, regarded as the most honest and ethical profession. Unfortunately, being honest and ethical, does not always equate to what the public perceives as skilled (Brenan, 2018) .
The public view of nursing varies widely. Largely, throughout American history, those tasked to nursing duties have been women due to the pretense that nursing is feminine work characterized by kindness, caring, and self-sacrifice (Arnett et al., 2019) It has been suggested that this is both a curse and a blessing as it has swayed public perception toward positive sentiments regarding nurses while also suggesting that nurses are doing menial tasks devoid of critical thinking(Arnett et al., 2019) .
Nursing chat groups are filled with narratives about relatives sending photos of random rashes and insect bites while asking for a diagnosis, but, in contrast, popular television hosts are still referring to such every day nursing tools as stethoscopes as “doctor’s stethoscopes”. Historically and in present times, nurses have been regarded as self-sacrificing, honest, hardworking, and caring. Most people are aware of Florence Nightingale’s efforts on the battlefield to relieve the suffering of soldiers, but her efforts as a statistician, establishing and teaching hygienic and safer nursing practices and furthering soldier health are lesser known. Slowly however, the nursing career continues to change. More males are entering the profession, and modern nurses have been more assertive in addressing stereotypes in media and in their workplaces. Hopefully, public perception will continue to align with how nurses perceive themselves.
Arnott, N., Paliadelis, P., & Cruickshank, M. (2019). The Road to Nursing. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. (n.d). American nursing: An introduction to the past.Retrieved from https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/nhhc/american-nursing-an-introduction-to-the-past/
Brenan, M. (2018, December 20). Nurses again outpace other professions for honesty, ethics. Gallup.Retrieved from
Public image of nursing has changed significantly from the 1800’s. Nursing was not considered any value in society. Most of the churches, hospitals, and homes had care given by the nuns or monks. Women were also considered as the minority group and were given little to no opportunity to seek out education. After the start of the Crimean War, nursing had its greatest impact of change. Florence Nightingale made the most audacious act of pursuing nursing and making it a standard worldwide. She was a female that came from a wealthy family and her ideas were initially unsupported. After diligent pursing, she was able to receive the support from her family and she began her studies at Lutheran Hospital in Germany (Arielle Thiel, n.d.). She furthered her study to Egypt at the St. Vincent de Paul Institute. Florence then returned to England to supervise a hospital and train future nurses. During the war, she was asked to oversee a military hospital in Turkey and with a team of nurses, she improved the sanitary level. This significantly decreased the infection rate and therefore less soldiers were dying. She was also mathematically talented and proved so by implementing statistical data. Today, we know this a scientific evidence and nursing research. After Nightingale started her training hospital in London, the Royal Commission approved her reform(Arielle Thiel, n.d.). This became the standard for all hospitals to implement the sanitation policy.
In the latter years of the 1800s, Linda Richards was the first American trained nurse and received her degree at the New England Hospital. She also trained at Nightingale’s school where her insight grew into patient charting, records, and aseptic technique. She opened nursing schools in the United States and Japan. This was another female that took a chance to make a change for the better of our now nursing world. The first nursing hospital was U.S. Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 1872 (Arielle Thiel, n.d.). This was based on Nightingale’s policies and practices as well.
Another significant female in nursing history was Dorothea Dix as she cared for the mentally ill and assisted the soldiers during the Civil War. She managed supplies, set up field hospitals, first aid stations and recruited nurses for training camps. Later in her career, she helped establish mental hospitals. Ms. Dix laid the initial foundation for our mental institutions throughout the United States. As the in-patient institutions have decreased over the decades, the medical community is researching better practices to help the mentally incapacitated.
The first male nurses were introduced in 1965 (Arielle Thiel, n.d.) and is currently on the rise. The public image of nursing is now more accepting of the male gender within most of the medical community. Our history has made such an impact due to a few brave souls. These women have laid the ground structure for which our basis of clean and aseptic technique have started from. These women will be forever respected, and may their history remind us of why we were called as nurses in the first place. Nurses make a difference and give the utmost care in making sure our patients are living their best quality of life.
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