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Posted 12 months ago
Many of those who have walked the hallowed halls of hospitals before you have forged unique paths in nursing history.
What lessons can you take from their journeys and their experiences?
Here are five lessons from five greats.
1. Strive for change when change is warranted. (Florence Nightingale)
The military wasn’t pleased with her “criticism” of their procedures and basically ignored her at first. Using a contact at the The Times in London, Nightingale got an editor on board her cause, and when her concerns were publicized and subsequently received some attention from the government, she was permitted to make changes to improve sanitation in the army hospital.
This reduced the death rate of soldiers. For her entire nursing career, Nightingale continued to focus on hospital reform that improved conditions for patients. Rocking the boat when it’s in the best interest of your patients is a good thing.
NEXT: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE
2. It’s never too late to do something great. (Clara Barton)
A remarkable woman, Barton devoted many years to nursing on American battlefields and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” Retirement wasn’t a concept that Barton ever embraced. In 1881, when she was 60 years old, she founded the American Red Cross and led the organization for 23 years, until she was 83. Even then, she wasn’t ready to stop. She went on to found the National First Aid Association of America and remained its honorary president for five years. She died a few years later at the age of 91.
Here was someone who continued to do amazing things for literally as long as she could. Her drive may have been a big factor in her longevity, and that should make all of us rethink retirement and what it will be for us.
NEXT: LOOK BEYOND THE HOSPITAL WALLS
3. There’s a whole world—beyond those hospital walls—that needs nursing care. (Mary Breckinridge)
In 1925, she founded the Frontier Nursing Service to provide care to the isolated mountainous region of eastern Kentucky. Over the next several decades, this outreach model of nursing was adopted by the rest of the country and the rest of world, leading to the development of in-home nursing services, district nursing service centers and district hospitals, all geared to providing nursing services to people residing far from major cities and towns. Breckinridge was also a leader in bringing midwifery services to women who couldn’t feasibly travel to major centers for maternity care and delivery care.
A major influence behind bringing the concept of “public health nursing” into the limelight, Breckinridge changed the lives of many and opened up whole new nursing career avenues for nurses everywhere. If you’re looking for a career shift, explore the world beyond the facility or institution you’re currently working in.
NEXT: NURSING AND PASSION
4. Nothing should stop you from doing what you’re passionate about. (Mary Seacole)
For Jamaican-born Mary Seacole, who lived in the 1800s, it was racial discrimination that threatened to hold her back. Even Florence Nightingale herself passed Seacole over and refused to include her in the group of nurses she took to the Crimea to care for soldiers injured in the Crimean War. But Seacole borrowed money and went there on her own anyway. She spent most of her life living on the edge of poverty; fundraising efforts were what helped her travel to various parts of the world throughout her life, providing nursing care to the sick.
NEXT: THE BEST KIND OF NURSE
5. Provide care for the whole person, not just the disease or illness. (Virginia Avenel Henderson)
Her oft-quoted axiom was “The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge. And to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible.”
Rather than concentrating on nursing techniques or procedures, she focused on the fundamental role of the nurse in relationship to patients and felt that psychiatric nursing was a critical component of nursing training. She was one of the earliest proponents of the idea that nursing should care for all aspects of the individual—a concept that permeates modern healthcare.