History of nursing
Nursing comes in various forms in every culture, although the definition of the term and the practice of nursing has being known as a wet nurse and the latter being known as a dry nurse. In the 15th century, this developed into the idea of looking after or advising another, not necessarily meaning a woman looking after a child. Nursing has continued to develop in this latter sense, although the idea of nourishing in the broadest sense refers in modern nursing to promoting quality of life.
Nursing was viewed during the 17th century as a very low job in the social hierarchy. They had a reputation for being drunk and obnoxious, a view amplified by the doctors of the time to make themselves seem more important and able. It was not until Florence Nightingale, a well educated woman from a middle class family, became a nurse and improved it drastically that people began to accept nursing as a respectable profession. Other aspects also helped in the acceptance of nursing. In 1853 Theodore Fliedner set up a hospital where the nurses he employed had to be of good nature. Many people were impressed with this facility and because of it the British Institute of Nursing Sisters was set up.
Prior to the foundation of modern nursing, nuns and the military often provided nursing-like services. The religious and military roots of modern nursing remain in evidence today in many countries, for example in the United Kingdom, senior female nurses are known as ‘‘sisters’’. It was during time of war that a significant development in nursing history arose when English nurse Florence Nightingale, working to improve conditions of soldiers in the Crimean War, laid the foundation stone of professional nursing with the principles summarised in the book Notes on Nursing. Other important nurses in the development of the profession include: Mary Seacole, who also worked as a nurse in the Crimea; Agnes Elizabeth Jones and Linda Richards, who established quality nursing schools in the USA and Japan, and Linda Richards who was officially America's first trained nurse, graduating in 1873 from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston.
A U.S. Navy recruiting poster from World War II, showing a Naval nurse with a hospital ship.
New Zealand was the first country to regulate nurses nationally, with adoption of the Nurses Registration Act on the 12th of September, 1901. Ellen Dougherty was the first registered nurse. North Carolina was the first state in the United States to pass a nursing licensure law in 1903.
Nurses have experienced difficulty with the hierarchy in medicine that has resulted in an impression that nurses primary purpose is to follow the direction of medics. This tendency is certainly not observed in Nightingale's Notes on Nursing, where the doctors are mentioned relatively infrequently and often in critical tones, particularly relating to bedside manner.
The modern era has seen the development of nursing degrees and nursing has numerous journals to broaden the knowledge base of the profession. Nurses are often in key management roles within health services and hold research posts at universities.