Nursing Through the Years

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Nurses play such an important part in our lives that it is hard to believe that nursing as a profession has been around for less than two hundred years. Medical care was once the domain of religious orders that felt a responsibility to look after the poor and injured as part of their devotions. There were women called nurses, but they were mostly involved in the care of young children and mothers. It was only in the 1800s that nursing as we know it today was created.

War is a horrible thing from which wonderful things can come. The Crimean War gave us professional nursing in the form of Florence Nightingale. Nightingale gave up a comfortable upper-class life to care for the sick and poor. The condition of soldiers shipped home from Crimea inspired her to travel there with a small group of nurses she had trained. Her experiences there taught her a lot about the importance of diet and sanitation in the care of the sick. She returned to England, and in 1860 founded the first school dedicated to nursing. It was one of her students that developed the distinctive nursing uniform. Since nursing had once been done mostly by nuns, the uniform was a variation of the nun’s habit and consisted of a white dress, pinafore apron, and a white cap.

In the 20th century, nursing became a popular profession and regulation began. Laws were passed requiring nurses to be certified. As more became known about health and disease, medicine became more specialized. Some nurses worked with private physicians. Some worked for services that provided in-home care. More hospitals were built, and nurses became the primary caregivers for the ill and took care of a lot of hospital administration. Sick people could take confidence from the professional women in their crisp white outfits and sensible shoes. How envious those women would be of today’s comfortable nursing clog shoes which do not require daily polishing.

There are a lot of specialized nurses today who work in only one or two fields, but most nurses still work in general practice. They have the same passion for people and desire to provide the best care for their patients that earlier nurses had, but they look a lot different. While most nurses around the world still wear a variation of the old style uniform, nurses in the United States have realized how impractical that outfit is. White clothing is hard to keep clean and creates eye strain under the bright lights of an operating room. Scrubs were developed as a cheap, easy to clean option for operating rooms. These qualities made scrubs the perfect clothing for every day wear. Today’s nurses will probably be dressed in colorful scrub jackets that allow them to express themselves while still being professional. Nurses can focus solely on their patients and not have to worry so much about the state of their clothing.


write by Halcyon

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