The History of Modern Nursing

Nursing wounds, injuries or infirmities has been practiced by humans for thousands of years. But modern nursing as we know it today can trace its roots back only several hundred years. At one time, nursing was only conducted by nuns, other religious women or the military. The evidence of this is still seen today in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, where they still refer to nurses as "sisters." But around the time of the 17th century, nursing became a job only held by the lower class and was looked down upon by society. Nurses were believed to be drunkards and ridden with diseases. This idea wasn’t challenged until the mid 19th century during the Crimean War, when Florence Nightingale made strides to improve the medical conditions of wounded soldiers.

Florence Nightingale was a well-educated, upper-class British woman who balked social norms after she believed she was called by God to become a nurse. She championed more sanitary living and medical conditions and saw the death rates of soldiers during both war and peacetime drop dramatically. She has been credited with advancing nursing as a profession, not merely a job for unskilled labor. Another great step in modern nursing came in 1836 when Theodore Fliedner opened a hospital only to be staffed by young ladies trained in theology and nursing. He also opened a deaconess, a training center for the hospital’s nurses. By his death in 1864, there were over 1600 deaconesses worldwide.

In the United States, Linda Richards became American’s first trained nurse. She enrolled in and later graduated from the inaugural nursing training program held at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children. She later spent her life opening and creating nursing programs throughout America and Japan. She also created the first system for maintaining individualized patient care charts, a practice that was later widely adopted throughout the United States and Europe.

Modern nursing has seen the development of nursing college degrees, specialized schools and training programs for nurses, and professional associations dedicated to the advancement of the field. Today, nurses may specialize in a variety of care fields, as well as choose the environment in which they work, like hospitals, nursing homes, or private practices. The nursing profession we recognize today is a far cry from where it once was. With more options and esteem available to nurses now, it’s no surprise the profession is growing by leaps and bounds each year.

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