All professions evolve with time, but with nursing, the need to evolve could not be more important, and few changes to any industry have been more significant. Nursing now consists of varying roles and duties for those choosing to work in the field, but getting to this point was far from inevitable. Today, the evolution of the nursing profession has transported nurses from households to outpatient clinics, hospitals, and even schools.
Nursing is one of the oldest occupations to exist and has seen a lot of change as one might expect. The most remarkable professionals revolutionized the profession and the general state of healthcare. In this article, we are going to delve into how nursing has changed over the years.
The origins of nursing
Early nursing was limited to homes. Family members would look after the sick before hospitals even existed. Some of the first hospitals are said to have emerged circa 300 AD. Furthermore, the first recorded documents related to nursing were documented around this era.
The popularity of hospitals grew during the Middle Ages, and as the Catholic Church gained prevalence across Europe, it erected monasteries. Many of these particular buildings comprised hospitals where nurses played an important role.
Modern nursing is believed to have originated around 1845. Historians owe credit to Florence Nightingale as the founder of modern nursing, and she remains one of the most famous nurses in history. Thanks to pioneers such as Nightingale, nurses aiming to advance their careers can apply for online DNP programs from institutions such as Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing.
Nightingale defied social norms – her wealthy parents included – by becoming a nurse. At the time, people objected to the concept of women caring for strangers. However, Nightingale considered nursing an excellent opportunity for women. She believed that women could utilize their scientific knowledge to improve patient care while gaining personal independence.
During the Crimean War in 1854, the British government sought Nightingale’s aid at a military hospital in Turkey. Within weeks of her team arriving, the mortality rate of soldiers decreased. Nightingale’s services impressed the masses and helped change the Western world’s views on the value of educated nurses.
The evolution of nursing sped up during the American Civil War a decade or so later. As the war escalated in the North and South, women, primarily soldiers’ wives or mistresses, began assisting the armies. They mainly looked after sick troops with typhoid, pneumonia, dysentery or diarrhea, and malaria – some of the most common illnesses of the time.
Joseph Warrington penned a book for nurses and midwives, which became the first example of a regulated nursing text across the Atlantic.
The next advancement in nursing was in education. Women began receiving training to become aspiring nurses in small and middle-sized hospital systems. Their education was observation-oriented, and they took around two to three years to be considered qualified. Following their education, the hospital owning the education center would hire them as full-time nurses.
With time, hospitals expanded, and so did education. Aspiring nurses from all racial backgrounds and different walks of life were accepted into programs, becoming part of the workforce.
Technology had also assumed a more significant role in nursing. Advanced healthcare tools such as blood pressure devices and stethoscopes, along with patient beds, became the norm.
Fast forward to the 1960s and specialization in nursing began to gain popularity. Aspiring nurses could then receive training for intensive care and other disciplines. Such nurses helped hospitals provide more efficient care to their patients.
Technological advances and medicine further perpetuated the need for more education, prompting nursing education to move from hospitals to classrooms. Certification programs became popular, letting nurses perform particular duties. Degree courses permitted access to tend to patients in healthcare institutions.
Technology and formal education set apart the nursing of the past and present. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that no less than 80% of nurses must hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020. The IOM also demanded a doubling in the number of nurses with doctorate degrees.
At this point, education involves a few years in classrooms, with virtual and face-to-face labs stimulating the working environment. Trainee nurses must work alongside registered nurses to gain experience before they graduate.
After graduating, nurses are required to continue their education. Advancements in medicine, modern technology, and other factors keep nurses studying even after college, as continued education is obligatory. Without that, nurses might find themselves limited and unprepared in the types of nursing they can practice.
Today, nurses in the field can use state-of-the-art technology to monitor patients’ vital signs, measure their weight, and provide them with medicine. Clipboards have been replaced with secure computer systems to record patient notes.
Modern nurses have many career opportunities to look forward to, whether in a clinic, hospital or private practice. Today’s nurses have also swapped white uniforms with multicolored scrubs and silicone shoes. Often, the color of a nurse’s scrubs represents the unit in which they serve.
These days, 57% of practicing nurses hold at least a Bachelor of Science degree, and 18% have completed a graduate program.
The foreseeable future
In the future, practicing nurses may be asked to aid in leading hospitals in a new direction by assuming high-ranking leadership roles. Such roles will require nurses to introduce new care ideas and possibly recognize problems within hospitals.
The nursing shortage may continue, and the deficit could reach 808,000 practitioners by 2025. Gerontological healthcare professionals will be in demand to tend to geriatrics. By 2050, it has been estimated that there will be approximately 84 million US citizens over the age of 65.
Nurse recruitment agencies will be in great demand due to this nursing shortage. Healthcare-oriented industries may request more assistance to tend to the influx of patients.
Hospitals, more particularly, may require help shortlisting nurses to staff. They may appeal to medical staffing agencies to assist in finding qualified professionals.
Conclusion Few careers have displayed such a profound change over the years as nursing. Extensive training has allowed nurses to take on greater responsibilities in more healthcare fields. Aspiring nurses today can take advantage of this evolution and its highly lucrative opportunities.