What is the History of Nursing Schools

To understand nursing today and the attitudes that exist around nursing we must look at nursing in the past.

Nursing has existed since the beginning of time, constantly evolving. Those performing this occupation have varied, from gender to occupation. In ancient civilizations like Egypt, it was performed by the priests, like most early cultures, they viewed health and security as keeping the gods happy. Illness meant that some presence of evil spirit was in the possession of the sick patient. To regain health the evil spirits needed to be driven out but, this culture did possess technology for health care. Papyrus books were found dating to 3000B.C. that outline surgical techniques, disease processes and classifications of over 700 drugs.



Some cultures believed that women were not pure enough for the act of nursing and only men were allowed to care for the ill. Many religious groups controlled the care of the sick, and felt it “a calling” requiring giving up all to “serve” believing the sacrifice would be rewarding in another life, “ the martyr “. During what is referred to as the “dark ages” of nursing, hospital nursing was performed by “uncommon women & men” consisting of prisoners, drunks and prostitutes. Pay was poor, hours long and work was difficult. The nurse was regarded as the most menial of servants.

The birth of modern nursing comes from Florence Nightingale. She was from a wealthy class and well educated. She became a nurse and improved nursing drastically. Improving the public image of nursing as a profession. She brought structure and nursing education to a new level. But she also held beliefs that only women held the proper skills and temperament to be a nurse. It was expected that the student nurse live at the hospital and work there. The student was present at least 12 hours a day 6 ½ days a week. It consisted of on the job training or an apprenticeship type model. This model continued for some time.

Even today the nurse is not portrayed by media in an accurate light.  TV shows like ER, House, and Greys Anatomy depict doctors carrying out nursing functions. Nurses are highlighted for romantic /diversion drama.

Beliefs and practices of nursing have been carried forward and current media portrayal of nursing continues to miss the mark.  The past and the present media version helps to create and contribute to many of the stereotypes of nursing that exist today. You need a true and clear picture of what a nurse is today.

Stereotypes based on history and current media includes false impressions and beliefs that affect nursing. From the history discussed above you can now understand possible examples and beliefs given below…they may include:

  • “low pay is deserved because it is your calling to serve” It is wrong for nurses to seek raises or strike. Your reward will come in other non-tangible forms.
  • “the doctor is on the floor, give up your seat”, serve him.
  • “are you going into nursing so you can marry a doctor?”
  • “ why are you complaining about mandatory overtime, you are a giver?”
  • “ jump up in this bed and give me a kiss sweetie!”
  •  “ very long hard hours with verbal abuse in nursing school, that is what is expected to earn your spot”
  • “ don’t go into nursing, all you will be doing is emptying bed pans and wiping doctors noses”
  • “ why are nurses always so mean?”

These stereotypes all have a basis from history and from current media. They keep students from seeking nursing as a profession and hold the profession back as well. This book will help you see what nurses really do and what is in store for you.

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