While many people believe that nursing is a modern invention, the truth is that it goes back to Biblical times. For example, in Exodus, the second book in the Old Testament, nurse midwives decided to disobey the Pharaoh’s orders and not harm the Israelite’s babies as they were delivering them. In fact, as long as women have been around, they have been the caregivers for the sick and very young.
However, it wasn’t until Florence Nightingale that the act of caring for the sick began to achieve some status and organization. During the Crimean War, she established herself as a caring professional who worked tirelessly to improve the care and treatment of injured soldiers. She eventually wrote a book about her methods that taught the things she’d learned in the field. Then, in 1860 Nightingale opened a nurse’s training school in England – the first of its kind – where she taught other would-be nurses how to care for patients. The graduates were high in demand from doctors and hospitals, and the stage was set for nursing schools to be opened all over the world.
Clara Barton acted as a nurse during the Civil war, and like Nightingale, worked vigorously to treat wounded soldiers and help them to recover. She also established the Red Cross – the organization that would be instrumental in supplying nurses needed at the military hospitals during the World War I.
In 1901, New Zealand began to regulate nurses, followed shortly by North Carolina – the first in the United States. Since then, the rest of the world has caught up, and today the nursing industry is a highly organized and regulated field.
Who knows what direction nursing will go in next? While its organized form started out as only a means to insure that soldiers received the best treatment, it has expanded to include almost every area of modern life. Not only do nurses help with the cure and management of diseases and injuries, but they also work to prevent a lot of diseases and infirmities by educating and guiding the public.