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The History of Nursing

Nursing has always existed among humans, but its considerable evolution over time has changed how we care for our ill and injured. Today, nursing is one of the most trusted and most integral professions in the healthcare system. Nurses work often on the frontlines of healthcare crises and directly with patients, making them essential to medical caregiving. While nursing hasn’t always been considered a profession, it has always been viewed as fundamental for our collective well-being. In fact, the word nurse is derived from the Anglo-French word “nurice” and the Latin word “nutrica,” both meaning “nourish.” Today, healthcare is the fastest-growing sector in the American economy, employing about 18 million people.

Throughout history, humans have always seen a need to care for each other. The earliest known documents that mention nursing as a profession were written approximately 300 AD, when the Roman Empire was establishing local hospitals where a higher-level of medical care was performed. Religious groups began to make it their duty to care for the physical needs of people as well as their spiritual needs, and in the 10th and 11th centuries and domestic services, setting the framework for modern nursing duties today. The mid-1000s saw a rise in what are known as charitable houses, where nurses provided richer customers with alms and other medicines. Unfortunately, between the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, nursing was stagnated by the closing of Catholic monasteries and hospitals during the Protestant revolution. However, during the following 18th and 19th centuries, nursing saw a resurgence once again as America and Britian began to become innovators in the healthcare industry.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond opened Pennsylvania Hospital, America’s first hospital, where Philadelphia’s sick and homeless were cared for. When the Revolutionary war broke out in 1775, it became clear that nurses were needed; Congress recruited nurses to care for the sick and wounded, requesting one nurse for every 10 patients. During the European Crimean War from 1853 to 1856, Florence Nightingale made her greatest impact on nursing when she established scientifically-backed hygiene practices on the battlefield that reduced mortality rates in injured soldiers. Often called the mother of modern nursing, she went on to establish the Florence Nightingale School for Nurses in London. She advocated for sanitary patient care all her life, and the guidelines she established are used in modern nursing today. Around the same time, another catalyst for modern nursing was the American Civil War. Between 1861 and 1865, over 2000 nurses served in the war tending to the wounded and the sick, some even working on the front lines. Prior to the American Civil War, nurses received little to no formal training. That changed, however, when the nation saw so many injuries and casualties that more medical duties had to be delegated to nurses tending to patients.

The first formal training school was opened in Boston at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1872. In 1900 these early nursing schools became controlled by hospitals, allowing for more efficient training. Around this time, the New York Nurses Association laid the groundwork for the first nursing practices act, starting a movement to require nursing professionals to earn a medical degree to practice healthcare. In 1903 North Carolina was the first state to require nurses to graduate from nursing school and register with the state nursing board, and by 1921 all 48 of the United States required nurses to receive standardized training and earn their license. In the 20th century, training for nurses shifted from hospitals to accredited educational institutions. This shift helped standardize training and set patient-care framework.

Today, nursing has evolved from simple caregiving to a vital role in global healthcare. This evolution has improved patient outcomes and established nurses as indispensable to the industry. While nursing roles and practices have changed over the years, the heart of the individuals involved in healthcare has not. Care and compassion for others creates healthier communities, and nursing is at the core. If you feel inspired to investigate nursing as a healthcare career, call Kindcare! We offer CNA, QMA, LPN, and RN jobs for caregivers and nurses looking for flexible schedules and work locations. Call (866) 62-STAFF today!


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