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Visit our companion site American Nursing History

Dr. Valentine Seaman – 1798 - has the distinction of having made the first attempt to teach nurse attendants belongs to the New York Hospital and to Dr. Valentine Seaman, one of its medical chiefs, a remarkably broad minded man ,is due the honor of having conceived and initiated the first system of instruction to nurses on the American continent.”

. Dr. Joseph Warrington described as " a man of liberal opinions and high ideals" . On March 5, 1839  the Nurse Society was formed in Philadelphia which sought females with" good habits, a sense of responsibility, and patient dispositions" to go into the homes of patients. The nurses were taught by the physicians in the lying in department of the Philadelphia dispensary.  Read More

Why Study History?

One question that I've been asked is: why study nursing history? How is the history of nursing and nursing education relevant to current nursing practice? In 1907, Adelaide Nutting and Lavinia Dock wrote in the preface to their book on the history of nursing:

    ". . . the modern nurse, keenly interested as she is in the present and future of  her profession, knows little of its past. She loses both the inspiration which  arises from cherished tradition, and the perspective which shows the relation  of one progressive movement to others. Only in the light of history can she see how closely her own calling is linked with the general conditions of  education and liberty that obtain - as they rise, she rises, and as they sink, she  falls."

   The study of nursing history encourages critical reflection and assists in defining our professional identity. As such, it is relevant to current nursing practice. "Indeed, nursing history should be included as part of the nursing curriculum; including nursing history into the curriculum will allow us to educate rather than
"train" our students. In so doing, we will give them a sense of professional identity, a useful methodological research skill, and a context for evaluating information. Overall, it will provide students with the cognitive flexibility that will be required for the formation and navigation of tomorrow's health care environment" (Borsy, 2009).

Allen, Margaret, (2006).Mapping the literature of nursing education, Journal Medical Library Association94(2 Supplement 2006

Nutting, M. Adelaide and Lavinia L. Dock, 1907, A History of Nursing,Prefacep. V.G.P. Putnam's Sons The Knickerbocker Press, New York

Borsay, Anne,Nursing History Review 17 (2009);14-27 A Publication of the American Association for the History of Nursing, Springer Publishing Company DOI:10.1891/1062-8061.17.14 Quote attributed to :Keeling , Arlene and Mary Ramos The role of nursing history in preparing nursing for the future.Nursing and Health Care16
(l):30-34 from Nursing History in the Curriculum: Preparing nurses for the 21st Century

The history of nursing is intertwined with the history of nursing education and nursing’s quest for a professional identity. (Allen, 2006)  Education has been vital in providing the knowledge, skills, and ability to give quality care to our patients,elevating nursing to a profession and gaining the respect of other professions. Thepath to nursing's identification as an independent profession has not been an easy oneas nursing, dominated by women, was initially bound to the Victorian ideal o fwomen, and hospitals' need for an inexpensive source of workers,which conspired
to slow nursing's progress toward status as a profession. Physicians, while recognizing the need for nursing care feared that if nurses were given too much education the nurse would supplant them. These were challenges that nurses needed to overcome; given the enormous challenge, slowly (some say too slowly) nurses have risen to the challenge - thus was the profession of nursing built.

History of Nursing Education: In Our Past, Lies Our Future

People make history; the history of nursing and nursing education is the result of the efforts and actions of nurses, past and present.  The purpose of this web site is to tell the history of American nurses, in their own words whenever possible. In some cases the words of past nurses were captured in their memoirs and written articles . In other cases, their stories were captured through recording their oral histories.

For the purpose of this web site, I plan to concentrate on registered nurse graduates of traditional programs :Diploma, Associated Degree and Baccalaureate degree. While I am aware of the valuable  role that Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) have in nursing, I have chosen, for the sake of brevity, to concentrate on the education of  professional, registered nurses. Future plans call for research into the education of ancillary nursing roles.

History of Nursing Education: In Our Past, Lies Our Future

Major Events in the History of Nursing  Education in the United States

17th Century (1600’s)  thru 18th Century (1700’s) and early nineteenth century (1800 – 1860)

In the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century women  without formal training, unpaid and relying on ’family’ and /or folk  remedies, women were expected to care for family members and neighbors who were ill or unable to care for themselves.  
One notable exception  were women members of religions orders who provided the only trained  nursing care of the sick

Consider sharing your story – your journey through student days and your career can contribute to the shared history of nursing education and can inspire future men and women to seek a nursing career.

Your oral history can easily be recorded by phone, or thru internet  communication technology  -  SKYPE, ZOOM


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Thank you in advance - Davida Michaels MSN, M.Ed RN