Evolution of Nursing Care

Nursing as a profession has changed over the years. Being a nurse in the 1900s as compared to nursing as it is today is enlightening to say the least. Education was next to nothing and acquired in a hospital operating room. The working environment and the duties of the nurse were much different; they performed duties that nurses today have never attempted. Nursing began to change during WWII for the better and now has advanced into a profession. The role of nursing in the early 1900s was performed in hospitals as superintendents’, and as private duty nurses and consisted of “sterilizing equipment and administering leeches. Morgan, 1998)” They also boiled water to sterilize needles, sutures and kept equipment sanitary. In the mid 1900s, nurses sharpened needles on an average of two days a week. They earned approximately 50 cents an hour, while working 10-12 hour shifts on an average of seven days a week. The work that was performed was also their training as a nursing student, which was a training course that lasted 4-6 weeks and was learned in a hospital surgery room.
WWII was the beginning of advancement in the role of the nurse and how the public viewed her. Nurses were out of the hospital and were at the patient bedside, “making their own choices bases on their own judgments and dealing with the consequences. (Morgan, 2008)” They were receiving the true experience of nursing. The Cadet Nursing Corps was established by congress in 1943. Nurses that entered agreed to work in underserved areas for the duration of the war. “Over 150,000 nurses gained training through the program over the next three years. Morgan, 2008)” During the 1960s, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was developed, which led to top level doctors and nurses caring for critically ill patients. The beginning of technology; required a higher level of learning to obtain a specialization in nursing and advanced degrees. Nurses that were staffed in ICU’s were taking blood pressures and reading heart monitors, essentially doing the duties of a physician. This gave the nursing role a shift, which led to the nurse practitioner role and becoming a separate entity in the 1970’s.
Today’s nurses are more responsible for the care and safety of their patients, and are held accountable for their actions. They work with patients to teach preventative measures of illness, they are disease managers, and home health providers. Nurses work in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, in the home health sector, and are case managers. Some even work as attorneys. It doesn’t matter where a nurse works today, he or she work with other disciplines in the health care field to provide cost effective, accessible, quality, evidence based care.

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