It’s no secret that life as a nurse is often stressful, frustrating and, occasionally, disheartening. Familiarizing yourself with the history of nursing is one of the best ways to put your profession in perspective. If you’re on the verge of burning out and you’re wondering what could have possibly motivated you to pursue nursing as a career, studying the lives and stories of nurses who came before you can be a great way to rekindle your dedication to medicine.
Many people who become nurses do so without becoming familiar with the history of their chosen profession. As a result, many people don’t realize that nursing is one of the oldest professions in the world. The nursing profession has existed, in one form or another, for thousands of years. The history of our profession is filled with strong, dedicated men and women who were willing to put everything they had on the line to help heal other people. Here are some of history’s greatest nurses:
1) Dorothea Dix—
A champion of the indigent insane, Dorothea Dix created the first mental asylums in the United States by way of lobbying Congress and state legislatures for improved care for mentally ill patients.
During the Civil War Dorothea Dix was appointed Superintendent of Army Nurses, but her strict rules and independent nature kept her at odds with many of the associations she had to work with. After the war Dix continued to work on behalf of the indigent insane, and put into effect reforms on the legislative level as well as in practical terms.
2) Florence Nightingale—
Often known as “the Lady with the Lamp”, Florence Nightingale is one of the most famous names in the history of nursing. What many people don’t know is that Nightingale was more than just a nurse—she was also a social reformer, a talented statistician, a political activist, a teacher, a theologian, an author, a feminist and a war hero.
During her life, Nightingale fought for hunger relief in India, established the world’s first secular nursing school, pressured the British government to improve its healthcare system and lobbied against anti-prostitution laws that imposed strict penalties on women. Her book, “Notes on Nursing” is by no means a comprehensive guide to nursing, but it did create a firm foundation for nursing as we know it.
3) Clara Barton—
Like Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton was more than just a nurse. She was also a teacher, a humanitarian and a social reformer. Like Nightingale, Clara Barton was a feminist, and a prominent leader of the women’s suffrage movement in America.
Clara Barton’s most famous accomplishment was the establishment of the American Red Cross, one of the most successful relief organizations in the world. Founded after the civil war, the original purpose of the Red Cross was twofold—to provide medical aid during times of war and respond to natural disasters.
Today, the American Red Cross is more successful than ever. In addition to the aforementioned emergency services, the American Red Cross also processes and distributes blood, offers educational programs that focus on health and safety and spearheads development programs overseas.
So, next time you’re covered in someone else’s bodily fluids or you’re forced to deal with an impossible patient, just remember—we are part of a long tradition of healers, set apart from other medical professionals by our commitment to selflessness. When it comes to medicine, nurses are the ones in the trenches. We’re the ones who do the jobs that are too dangerous or dirty for other people to deal with. Without us, medicine as we know it would not exist.
Linda Bright is a staff writer and a public relations coordinator for MyNursingDegree.com. Given her experience as a former hospital administrator, she writes primarily about healthcare reform, patient rights and other issues related to the healthcare industry. In her free time, she enjoys Sudoku, spending time with her family, and playing with her poodle, Max.