The Evolution of Nursing
People have always needed nursing. Nursing began as either a religious calling, a part of family duties for many women, or a role reserved for servants. It carried only a passing resemblance to what is taught in a nursing school today, and was mostly about seeing to the care and comfort of patients, without much emphasis on cure. It wasn’t until the mid-Victorian period, almost two centuries ago, that nursing gained legitimacy as a respected profession.
The most well-known nursing pioneer was Florence Nightingale, who led a push for improvements in health and technology and formal education. Coming at a time when hospitals were a dismal place, providing limited and unsanitary care for people who could not afford home nursing, her reforms focused on making hospital stays healthier for the patient and increasing the use of what was then cutting edge technology. Though dumb waiters and sanitation may not seem much, they were ground breaking for their era. She also helped normalize the idea of a nursing school.
Following this period, there was an explosion of schools all around the world. Initially classes were based around the nurturing and manual labour side of nursing. This included feeding patients and changing bandages, and similar essential but lower skill tasks that were reflected in short program lengths. As medicine got more sophisticated, ongoing changes in health and technology worked its way into nursing schools, and nurses began to do more. The role of a nurse became increasingly respected, as they would be at the front line of making diagnoses, administering injections, giving basic medical care and providing oversight for doctors’ work. This included second guessing dosage levels of drugs and making sure that surgical procedures were followed perfectly and requires a modern nursing school to essentially produce a mini-doctor. Multiple levels of certification were introduced and nursing became something you could study in a university as well as at a vocational school. Parallel to this, instructors increasingly had masters and doctorates, and nursing became a regular part of medical research, complete with their own peer reviewed journals.
Another thing that changed is an ever increasing push to integrate male nurses into the profession. Though they are still a minority, it is widely recognized that the career can be done equally well by both genders, and some patients are more comfortable with a nurse of their own gender.
Continuing education became more normal too. Modern nurses expect to keep abreast of the latest advances in medical science for the entirety of their career. And today, their role has gotten so specialized that some of the original duties of nursing have been picked up by nursing assistants. Since nursing school can take up to five years, including a lengthy clinical placement, nursing assistants bridge the gap, with less initial educational commitment but no less commitment to their patients.