Registered Nurse (RN): A Brief History
While history has long been filled with women providing care to injured soldiers and loved ones, the actual profession of nursing did not develop until the 19th century. The development of the profession was largely influenced by Florence Nightengale, who felt a strong conviction that God had called to her be a nurse.
Nightengale, who was the daughter of wealthy British family, devoted her early years as a nurse improving the hospital conditions during the Crimean war. She focused on improving sanitation and nutrition. In 1859, she wrote Notes on Nursing, a 136-page book that served as an important part of the curriculum at the Nightingale School and other nursing schools established at that time. Her ideas and devotion to nursing quickly spread to other countries, including the United States.
The first school of nursing in the United States was founded in Boston in 1873. By the year 1938, New York State passed the first state law to require that practical nurses be licensed. Since then, there has been a large growth in the number of nursing schools, nursing regulatory boards, and active nurses.
Florence Nightengale influenced nursing so much, that even today most nursing schools require students to stand and recite the “Nightengale Pledge,” which is similar to the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors.
The Florence Nightengale Pledge: Composed by Lystra Gretter
I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his or her work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.