The Development of the Nursing Practice

Pretty multi-ethnic medical nurses

The nursing profession assumes responsibility for the continuous care of the sick. Nursing encourages the health of individuals, families, and communities and takes place in several different settings and a multitude of practices. Over time, the nursing profession has grown into a multi-dimensional care system integral in any healthcare system and industry. Nurses are involved in healthcare research, management, policy deliberations, and patient advocacy—making it one of the largest and most sought-after health care professions. 

In the United States, there are more than 2.9 million registered nurses and many more worldwide. Nevertheless, the demand for nurses remains high and will continue to increase to meet the needs of the pandemic in the current climate. In addition, large and growing populations and demographic changes also fuel the demand for nurses, which makes it a continual sought-after profession. 

The care provided by nurses is second to none. They show patients compassion, kindness, and empathy, which allows them to develop open communication and mutual respect between themselves and their patients. In addition to this, they follow in-depth and rigorous training in technical medicine to provide the necessary medical interventions needed in the care they give. 

Nursing has not always been so nuanced; however, it has always followed a caring ethos with patient-centered care at the forefront of the practice. 


Most sick care took place in the home throughout history, and patients were treated from their beds if they could afford the upkeep. In the US, family-centered healing remained central to recovery well into the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, sick care delivered by family members and other loses caregivers were usually limited to plagues or epidemics that swept through. In these early days, nursing had very little to do with formal medical training and was generally about your gender and willingness to do the job. Women learned medical skills from their mothers, which helped with the care needed to support family members at home. 

However, when industrialization came and redeveloped urban centers, the types of care settings began to change, and hospitals came in. As a result, nursing began to change drastically, emphasizing the importance of formal training that was not there before. This development has helped define nursing as an essential profession. 

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale in the barrack hospital at Scutari, c1880. Engraving made c1880 showing the barrack hospital during the 1850s. In 1854, during the Crimean War (1853-1856), Sidney Herbert, Secretary of State for War, appointed the English nurse Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), a family friend, to introduce female nurses into the British military hospitals in the Crimea. Until the end of the war she worked tirelessly to improve conditions. (Colorised black and white print). Artist Unknown. (Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Many people look to Florence Nightingale’s work as to where the modern nursing profession began. Florence was an upper-class British woman who led a group of female nurses to the Crimea in 1854 to deliver nursing services to British soldiers. When Nightingale returned from the war, she continued to improve the conditions of hospitals. Her skills as a statistician enabled her to present data on improving these spaces and the benefits of nursing as a form of caregiving. She went on to successfully establish nurse education programs in several British hospitals. These programs were developed around a specific set of ideas about how nurses should be educated and the training they needed to create a successful modern nursing practice. Nightingale, thus, confirmed that women educated in healthcare and informed by experience could radically improve the care of patients.

The Beginnings of Nurse Education

Other than Florence Nightingale, several physicians ran courses for nurses in the 18th and 19th centuries. These courses were focused on maternity patients and taught nurses the skills to care for mothers going through childbirth and in the post-partum period. 

The outbreak of the Civil War in the US created the immediate need for nurses to care for the sick and wounded. In addition, those working had to provide adequate and capable care to soldiers, which cemented the need for future training programs. 

It was in 1873 when professional nursing came onto the scene with three training programs at the New York Training School at the Bellevue Hospital, The Connecticut Training School at the State Hospital, and the Boston Training School at the Massachusetts Hospital. These were nightingale schools that then led to the proliferation of nursing programs around the United States. 

Modern Nursing

The nursing profession flourished in the late 20th century, abandoning its rationale of racial and gendered segregation, nursing opening up equal professional, educational, and employment opportunities for all. New types of nursing who specialized in different areas of the hospitals started appearing; furthermore, nurses were trained in primary caregiving, which took the practice to a new level. Today, nurse practitioners, clinical health nurses, and other nurses with specific specialties are well equipped with the necessary skills to provide a significant portion of health care procedures.

Nursing education has thrived with in-depth specialty training and more financial resources available for those wanting to develop a career in nursing. It is an intense career with lots of technical skills required.  Today’s nursing qualifications provide nurses with the knowledge they need to provide adequate care to patients. Nurses will enter the practices as generalists, which needs a bachelor’s or associate degree.

 All states in the US require registered nurses to have an associate degree and be licensed, which means that they need to complete an accredited nursing program. However, qualifications in nursing do not just stop here; they are available up to the doctorate level, which allows those who want to reach leadership positions in the profession and a chance to gain the necessary qualifications. Doctorates in nursing are usually geared towards senior nurses who wish to gain specialist expertise in their field, adding academic research to their lived experience to change their specialist areas effectively. Doctorate of nursing programs allows senior nurses to make a substantial difference in their field to optimize care outcomes. 

Nursing has grown and developed into a nuanced profession that is revered in the medical practice. Without nurses, the healthcare system would be in a very precarious position. Nurses are essential in the care you receive, and the way health is preserved. From Florence Nightingale to the modern-day, a caring ethos has been behind the nursing practice that ensures patients receive the best support. 


If you are thinking about a nursing profession and wondering whether this is the role for you, it is worth reading about the day-to-day life of a nurse. 

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