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Nurses: Then and Now

Nurses: Then and Now
Nurses: Then and Now
In celebration of Nurse’s Week (May 6-12), North Central Surgical Center wants to recognize all of our nurses who dedicate so much time and energy into providing the highest quality care for our patients. We are proud to call you our own.

In celebration of Nurse’s Week (May 6-12), North Central Surgical Center wants to recognize all of our nurses who dedicate so much time and energy into providing the highest quality care for our patients. We are proud to call you our own.

Nursing is not a new profession. In fact, nursing dates as far back as the early years of the Christian Church, when the first known nurse, Phoebe, cared for men and women in Rome. The first hospitals were constructed around 325 AD, and in these hospitals, doctors and nurses provided the first in-patient medical care as we know it today.

In the early years of our country, the home was the center of health care, and nurses who cared for the ill and injured did so in the homes of those individuals. In 1751, the nation’s first hospital began in Philadelphia, but even then, most health care took place in homes as the hospital was primarily considered an asylum or poorhouse—a place to care for the ill who had no family.

With the Civil War came the development of nursing as a profession in America, and most nurses during wartime were volunteers. Nurses during this time were also considered to be of a lower class, especially in the South, where “respectable” women couldn’t be seen in a military hospital.

It was in the North where women began making waves as nurses. The most well known of these women is Clara Barton, who actually only nursed for about six months during the entire four-year war. It was the nurses who cared for the soldiers in both the North and the South—Barton and other women including Mary Ann Bickerdyke, Sally Tompkins and Phoebe Pember—who are responsible for the movement of the nursing profession from the home to the hospital. The war led to a greater respect for nurses, and in 1892, Congress passed a bill providing pensions to Civil War nurses.

In the late nineteenth century, nursing as a profession exploded in the United States, and nurses, who attended schools closely associated with a hospital, lived and worked in the hospitals. Nurses of this time—often called “sisters”— lived lives similar to that of nuns. They were forbidden to marry and lived strictly disciplined lives.

The twentieth century brought many changes to the nursing profession, including opening it up to both men and women of all races, but care for patients remains a nurses’ top priority. Without nurses, past or present, hospitals would not exist and the ill and injured would surely not survive at the rate they do today. Nurses save lives.