National Nurses Week starts each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday.
Brief History of Nursing
The home, in fact, was the center of health care, and for the first two centuries after European exploration of North America, all nursing was home nursing. Even when the nation’s first hospital began in Philadelphia in 1751, it was thought of primarily as an asylum or poorhouse; another century or more would pass before the public viewed hospitals as reputable and safe.
The Civil War gave enormous impetus to the building of hospitals and to the development of nursing as a credentialed profession.
Initial wartime volunteers, however, often were seen as no different from “camp followers,” the women (sometimes mistresses and sometimes wives) who followed their soldier men. It was an era of sharp class definitions, and especially in the South, “respectable” women could not be seen in a military hospital.
Some women had the courage and common sense to defy decorum, though, especially in the North, where the US Sanitary Commission became the forerunner to the Red Cross. The best known of these women, of course, is Clara Barton—but her genius was in supply distribution and in development of systems for the missing and dead, not in nursing. Barton herself acknowledged that she actually nursed for only about six months of the four-year war and that other women did much more.
Learn how you can get started: become a Certified Nurse Aide.