Nursing began as a helping profession, often undertaken by nuns and
military personnel during wartime. Until recent history, nursing was
considered a woman's profession. In some areas, men still receive
criticism for pursuing careers in nursing. However, modern nursing
is a very different field than it was before the world wars, and
even before the Crimean War.
Major changes began to take place in the field of nursing with the
work of Florence Nightingale. The observations she made of the conditions
of military hospitals led her to develop the Environment Theory, which
addressed sanitation for patients, and detailed in her book Notes on
Nursing. Her theory became the norm for nursing practice, and resulted
in a great improvement in sanitary conditions for patients. The improvement
in sanitary conditions led to a higher recovery rate in patients and
decrease in complications.
In 1860, Nightingale also opened the first nursing school, called the
Nightingale School for Nurses, which began to regulate how nurses learned
and practiced. Not only did this ensure nurses had an educational foundation
of knowledge and techniques, but it helped ensure a standard of care for
patients, as well. Because of the work Nightingale did for modern nursing,
the oath taken by nurses when they graduate is called the "Nightingale Pledge."
Today, nursing is a much more diverse field of health care practice. Nurses
are found in nearly every health care facility, and their responsibilities
range from assisting patients with basic hygiene needs to giving medications
and teaching them to care for themselves. In fact, some nurses become
midwives and assume all the responsibilities for the care of pregnant
women and delivery of their babies.
The field of health care is also more diversified, so nurses can choose
what area they would like to practice, and tailor their education to
that field. A nurse may choose pediatrics, emergency, hospice, cardiology,
or a number of other areas, and focus his or her efforts on the care of
patients in that area. Each area requires a different skill set, and nurses
may take continuing education courses to strengthen that skill set.
In the modern nursing field, nurses have a higher reputation, as well. They
are no longer seen as simply assistants to physicians who do the things
physicians won't do. Instead, nursing is a strong field of its own, and
nurses have a wide range of duties and responsibilities. Nurses earn respect
for themselves among health care professionals because of the education and
experience required to be a nurse.
The field of nursing continues to change as quickly as medicine and health
care changes. As researchers develop new technology, treatments, techniques,
and medications to help patients get healthy, the field of nursing adapts to
the changes to improve health care for patients. New nurses learn the new techniques
and information in nursing classes, and practicing nurses learn about the changes
and advancements in their continuing education courses when they renew their licenses.
This helps keep health care on the front edge of medicine.
In fact, in 2010 the Institute for the Future of Nursing released recommendations
that would lead to change and improved health care for patients. This shows
that the nursing field is continuing to try and improve care for patients
and nursing practice so when people think about modern nursing, they think
of the best and most advanced care possible for all patients.