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.