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History of Nursing

Nursing is an essential part of the American health care system. Nearly 3.1 million nurses work in diverse settings across the country. People can find nurses in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, sporting facilities, and clinics. The nursing field has been a valuable service to the American public since the 1800s.

The Beginning with Florence Nightingale
The history of professional nursing began with Florence Nightingale. Nightingale came from an affluent background, but she defied social conventions and became a nurse. At that time, taking care of the sick and elderly was not a respectable career. Women were only supposed to care for members of their own family. Nightingale believed that well-educated women could use their knowledge to improve the care of sick people. She viewed nursing as a way to use intellect and to be free of social rules.

In 1854, the British government asked Nightingale to take a small group of nurses to a military hospital to care for the sick and wounded. It only took a few days for Nightingale to reorganize the hospital based on 19th-century science. She scrubbed the walls, opened the windows for ventilation, and had nourishing food prepared. Within a few short weeks, the death rate of soldiers plummeted. They were no longer dying from poor sanitary conditions. At the end of the 19th century, the Western world adopted Nightingale’s beliefs about the need for educated nurses.

When the Profession Began to Organize
Nursing began to take on the characteristics of a profession in the late 19th century. In the 1890s, two different nursing associations formed. The first organization was known as the Associated Alumnae of the United States, and the second was known as the National League of Nursing Education. Once the 20th century arrived, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses also formed.

State nurse associations started to form, which were instrumental in passing state registration acts. These registration acts provided a licensing system for the nursing profession. At that time, getting the registration acts passed was a significant accomplishment because women had no political power. The registration acts provided nurses with a legal title; it was the first time people called them registered professional nurses.

Diversifying the Nursing Field
Early in the 20th century, people started viewing nursing as an essential healthcare service. As a result, nurses fanned out into different fields. They started working in places other than just hospitals. In 1893, Lillian Wald discovered the Henry Street Settlement House, which assisted poor people in New York City. All across the country, Wald’s work was replicated. In fact, her work was what caused the public health nursing field to expand. People suddenly had a variety of new employment opportunities. Wald’s work is the main reason that nurses now offer a variety of services.

Become a Nurse
Those who wish to become a licensed practical nurse should visit Practical Nursing Online at for more information. This site provides great resources for those who want to join the nursing field. In addition, it’s a valuable site to use to find accredited online programs.

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