Nursing profession has seen developments throughout the history. There has been changes from type of caregivers, practice, policy changes to roles. Nursing remains a profession of service and care to people in need. Various personalities have worked to revolutionize nursing career. The nurses of the earliest time did not attend nursing school. They were women that provided care for the homeless, poor and sick. The women worked as midwives during the delivery of babies and as wet nurses during breastfeeding. During war period, nurses provided care for the wounded soldiers. This was during 18th and 19th century. Florence Nightingale worked as a nurse during the Crimean war. She set the standards for cleanliness and cared for the injured. The implementation of the standards that Nightingale set reduced incidence of infection. She progressed and authored a book titled “Notes on Nursing”. She opened the first nursing school in 1860.
Many nurses worked in the American civil war. Their letters and stories remain documented in the historical books of nursing. Clara Barton is a nurse who developed a humanitarian program that aimed to meet the needs affected by the war. Barton had worked as a nurse during the civil war and she understood the importance of volunteer activities to meet the needs of clothing, shelter and food for the people in trouble. She pioneered Red Cross and served as its leader for more than 20 years.
During the 19th century, more nurses began working on changing the policies in education and leadership of nursing. They recognized their duty was more than that of a bedside caregiver. During this period, only women worked in the nursing profession. The implementation of the changes and changes in leadership saw nurses increase their scope of care. Nurses started reaching out for some groups of people. Nurses began reaching out for people who needed care outside the hospital setting. Public health was important during this period. In 1979, Breckinridge through Frontier Nursing Service started to help poor and destitute individual living in rural parts of America.
In the 20th century, many changes continued in the nursing career. Professional organizations and new programs started to develop. They addressed issues and challenges that faced the nursing profession. The American Nursing Association formed and established the American Journal of Nursing. This journal provided information, new developments and research about the new trends in nursing. The nursing programs began to offer new courses in the field of nursing. To become a registered nurse during this period required certification by professional bodies. The programs were licensed and certified (Egenes, 2009). Nursing schools changed from a traditional hospital based programs to new curricula that required nurses to attain degrees. Nurses started to further their education to advanced degrees. Columbia University was the first university to offer Master’s degree in nursing.
Nurses filled greater roles during the 20th century. They performed critical functions. The increase of intensive care units and specialty areas saw nurses increase their functions and expertise. Nurses started to work in specialty areas and more specialized care settings. They increased study of care for the patients in their nursing fields. Nursing schools offered courses that equipped nurses with skills as pediatric, trauma, orthopedics, neonatal nursing, flight nursing and psychiatric nursing. Nurses now offer roles as assistants to doctors and physicians. They are now very important and perform specialized procedures that involve lifesaving actions. The procedures were restricted to physicians and medical doctors in the past. Nursing diagnoses act as a guide to the care of patients. They ensure the care and supervision of the patient during the hospitalization period. In the community setting, nurses have a role in ensuring that there is minimum disease and they help in providing care for the elderly and that are in need. The advanced specialty nursing have elevated nurses to a level they can prescribe medication, follow a course of patient care, and perform procedures. Nurses have an essential role in the emotional care of patients. They have the skills to allow the patient accept their condition and have that courage to face a disease. Currently, the nurses perform management of social issues in the society and prevention of disease. They are able to perform these roles by educating the society on the best measures to live well and manage their health.
Nursing practice happens following concepts. Nursing concepts include care, community, ethics, health promotion, holism, human diversity, stewardship, communication, thinking and learning. Ethics refer to the beliefs about what is right and wrong, bad and good (Cutcliffe & McKenna, 2013). Ethics allow nurses to carry out their various roles and duties in a professional way. Care involves a way that focuses on the individual towards wellness. Care aims at promoting health in the community. Holism is a state that a harmony exists between the mind, body, emotions and spirit. Nurses work in a diverse society and they need to learn and have skills on dealing with patients from various races, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental abilities, age, economic and social status.
The changes in technology continues to advance scientific knowledge and changes in the delivery of care. The nursing profession has faced many challenges like shortage of nurses, ethical dilemmas and new categories of nursing.
Egenes, K. J. (2009). History of nursing. Issues and trends in nursing: Essential knowledge for today and tomorrow, 1-26.
Cutcliffe, J. R., & McKenna, H. P. (2013). The essential concepts of nursing: Building blocks for practice. Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.