Nursing as a profession has taken a long and hard journey throughout time. Nurses were once comparable to slaves and worked for nothing. They were under the rule of religious organizations and sent to care for the sick and/or dying. As the years passed, so too did the description of “nurse.” As the profession moved into the 19th century, we say the introduction of sanitation standards, particularly during the Crimean War when Florence Nightingale became a key figure in nursing. Nurses have since advanced from basic hands-on training from physicians, to possessing diplomas, and different levels of degrees. The career has also seen the introduction of Magnet status hospitals which only hire Baccalaureate level nurses or greater and operate on a level of autonomy never before seen in the profession.
The nursing profession has come very far since it was first recognized in the 1st century AD. Nurses have gone from being viewed as indentured servants to some of the most respected health care professionals in the world. Their studies and opinions have contributed to many of the medical advances that we currently benefit from. Nursing began as a practice reserved for men. The first nursing school was established in India in about 250 B.C., and only men were permitted to attend because men were viewed to be more pure than women. It wasn’t until the 1800's that nursing became an organized practice. During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale and 38 volunteer nurses were sent to the main British camp in Turkey. Nightingale and her staff immediately began to clean the hospital and equipment and reorganized patient care. Nightingale pushed for reform of hospital sanitation methods and invented methods of graphing statistical data. When she returned to Britain, Nightingale aided in the establishment of the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. As a woman, Nightingale could not be appointed to the Royal Commission, but she composed the Commission’s report. Completed, the report was over 1,000 pages in length and included detailed statistical information. Nightingale’s work led to drastic changes in army medical care, the establishment of an Army Medical School and medical records, and ignited the growth of nursing as an organized profession. For these contributions, Nightingale is widely accepted as the founder of nursing. In the early 1900's, nursing education was received primarily from hospitals rather than colleges or universities. New nursing students were responsible for tasks similar to that of maids – dusting, scrubbing and doing dishes. These students typically worked 10 to 12 hour shifts, seven days a week, for a period of two to three years. Later responsibilities included sterilization of equipment such as needles and bandages and cleaning operating rooms. After graduating, most worked in patient homes as private-duty nurses and were paid amounts comparable to today’s minimum wage. Their duties included bathing, administration of medications and enemas, and tending to wounds and sores. During this time period, hospitals evolved from facilities for the extremely poor and death-bound to institutions for general health treatment and childbirth. At the dawn of World War II, nurses were removed from their familiar hospital environment and placed at the bedsides of wounded soldiers, responsible for treatment decisions for the first time. “To ensure adequate nursing staff for the duration of the war, the Cadet Nurse Corps program was initiated in 1943 to subsidize education for nursing students who agreed to work in the understaffed areas until the war’s end. Well over 100,000 nurses received training through this program over the next three years (Vicky, 2012).” The nursing profession gained much recognition and support from civilians during this time, at long last realized as the tremendous asset to medical care that nurses truly are. Nurses returned from duty with public support as well as new skills from