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Nursing Excellence

The Online Newsletter for Children's Nurses
e-Edition, Issue 8 


Randy Guerrero

Nursing Through the Generations

By Lori Holder, RN, CPN

Who would have thought that we are serving in one of the oldest professions?  Anthropologists speculate that in most ancient civilizations women were responsible for nurturing, nourishing and providing care to children and ill family members and eventually entire tribes.1 By the 16th century, nurses were known as persons who wait upon or tend to the sick. Male nurses were first documented in practicing primitive nursing during the 17th century. It was during this time in history that men and women provided nursing care while serving punishment.2 It wasn’t until the 19th century that the definition of nursing was broadened to include those trained to tend to the sick and carry out duties under the direction of a physician.3 

Most people associate the beginning of nursing with Florence Nightengale in the 19th century. Ms. Nightengale is considered to be the founder of modern nursing. She was instrumental in establishing sanitary conditions and reducing mortality rates during the Crimean War. She wrote books on nursing; her most distinguished being “Notes on Hospitals” and “Notes on Nursing, What It Is and What It Is Not.” She opened the Nightengale Training School for nurses in London in 1860 and inspired the opening of three U.S. schools based on her model.4 

But nursing has had many turns over the centuries and existed long before Florence Nightengale. In the first century, Christianity had a large influence on nursing. Educated and wealthy women dedicated themselves to caring for the sick and poverty stricken. Phoebe, with the Order of the Deaconesses, became the first visiting nurse as she was ordained by a church official to meet the needs of women converts, and secondly, to visit the sick.5 Many early nurses had religious affiliations, such as the nuns who are honored with the wearing of traditional nursing caps.6 

In the Middle Ages came the Plague, and so did the construction of hospitals and the founding of many nursing orders. During this period monks and nuns provided patient care in the hospital setting traditionally run by the deaconesses.7 

Not until the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries did caring for the sick become socially acceptable and even praiseworthy. Nursing textbooks were written and schools of nursing developed during the period.8 By the turn of the 20th century nursing associations began establishing and operating private duty registries. Nurses were empowered to establish enterprises owned by nurses. This is proof of the power nurses hold over their professional careers.9 

War has also had a great influence on nursing, as the demand for care of the sick and wounded increased the need for nurses. Nurses were military personnel. During the Crusades nurses were knights employed in battle.10 Nurses returned from war trained in such specialties as anesthesia and psychiatric care. 

During the American Civil War, many early nursing leaders emerged and the value of prevention in healthcare began to be understood. Dorthea Dix formed the U.S. Sanitation Commission, which was a formal training service for nurses.  Her only requirements were that you were not too young, not too pretty, and of strict moral character.11 

Developments in healthcare such as intensive care units, emergency/trauma treatment, and recovery rooms during the Korean War and Vietnam War created the need for the advanced technical skills of nurses. Hospital staffing was constrained by nurses specializing in certain care aspects. The 1950’s were a time in which nurses autoclaved catheters and sharpened needles. Nursing experienced a professional awakening as the Nursing Diagnosis was introduced in the 1950’s. Nurses were able to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees. Nurse practitioners came on the scene in the 1960’s. Nurses now had increased opportunity for employment outside the hospital setting and were able to work semi-independent of physicians.12 

Wherever our roots are, we are still a necessary and proud profession. We represent the single largest component of the healthcare system and are projected to grow 23 percent by 2016.13 We have evolved over the centuries into sophisticated clinicians whose impact on patient care is profound. Current day nursing encompasses clinical skills, compassionate care and technological savvy. Many of our duties today were originally reserved solely for physicians. As a statement of our evolution and advancement, please take a moment to read the following nursing guidelines from “Duties of the Floor Nurse – 1887.” 

“In addition to caring for your 50 patients, each nurse will follow these regulations:

  • Daily sweep and mop the floors of your ward; dust the patients’ furniture and window sills.
  • Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day’s business.
  • Light is important to observe the patient’s condition; therefore, each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys, and trim wicks. Wash windows once a week.
  • The nurse’s notes are important in aiding the physician’s work. Make your pens carefully.
    You may whittle nibs to your individual taste.
  • Each nurse on day duty will report every day at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m., except on the Sabbath on which day you will be off from noon to 2 p.m.
  • Graduate nurses in good standing with the director of nurses will be given an evening off
    each week if you go regularly to church.
  • Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years, so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month, you should set aside $15.
  • Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop, or frequents dance halls will give the director of nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intentions, and integrity.
  • The nurse who performs her labors, serves her patients and doctors faithfully and without fault for a period of five years will be given an increase by the hospital administration of 5 cents a day, providing there are no hospital debts that are outstanding.”14 

Haven’t we come a long way? Imagine what the future will hold. Each one of us has a part in influencing the next generation of nursing.

 

References

  1. Harkreader, Helen, and Mary Ann Hogan. "Caring and Clinical Judgment."
    Fundamentals of Nursing. 2004.
  2. Harshey-Meade, Gingy. "Out of Devastating Carnage Our Profession Was Born." ONR May/June (2010): 4.
  3. Savage, Debbie. "The Evolution of Contemporary Nursing." Caring May (2009): 54-55.
  4. D'Antonio, Patricia, Cynthia Connolly, Barbra Mann Wall, Jean C. Whelan, and Julie Fairman.
    "Histories of Nursing: The Power and the Possibilities." Nursing Outlook 58 (2010): 207-13.
  5. "~*History of the Nurse*~." ~*NursingPower.net*~. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. http://www.nursingpower.net/nursing/origen.html.
  6. "Duties of the Floor Nurse- 1887." MCCC Faculty & Staff Web Pages. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. http://faculty.mc3.edu/rbenfiel/NUR109/NUR109NursingHistory/sld004.htm.
  7. "History of Nursing." New Articles | NurseGroups.com. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. http://i.nursegroups.com/nursing-article/history-nursing.html.
  8. "Nursing." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Feb. 2011.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nursing.
  9. D'Antonio, Patricia, Cynthia Connolly, Barbra Mann Wall, Jean C. Whelan, and Julie Fairman.
    "Histories of Nursing: The Power and the Possibilities." Nursing Outlook 58 (2010): 207-13.
  10. Harkreader, Helen, and Mary Ann Hogan. "Caring and Clinical Judgment."
    Fundamentals of Nursing. 2004.
      
  11. Harshey-Meade, Gingy. "Out of Devastating Carnage Our Profession Was Born."
    ONR May/June (2010): 4.
  12. Harkreader, Helen, and Mary Ann Hogan. "Caring and Clinical Judgment."
    Fundamentals of Nursing. 2004.
  13. Savage, Debbie. "The Evolution of Contemporary Nursing." Caring May (2009): 54-55.
  14. "Duties of the Floor Nurse- 1887." MCCC Faculty & Staff Web Pages. Web. 04 Feb. 2011.             

 

In This Issue

Nursing Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow - Making A Difference

Nursing Through The Generations

Family Footsteps: Generations of Influence

Family Footsteps: Born To Be…

Family Footsteps: Nursing, It's In The Family

It's Not Your Grandma's Student Program

Nurse of the Year 2011

Evaluation of the Humpty Dumpty Fall Risk Screening Tool

Enhancements to Nursing Professional Practice

Contributions to Practice

Leadership in Professional Nursing Organizations

 

 

 

 

 

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