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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The history of the nursing profession

Throughout history, nurses have been the unsung heroes of the medical profession. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, for instance, refused to proclaim a “Nurses’ Day” in spite of a request made by Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953. More than two decades later, however, the International Council of Nurses (ICN), succeeded in establishing International Nurses Day on the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, a 19th century wartime nurse considered the founder of modern nursing.

Today, patients, students, and medical practitioners around the world celebrate nurses, both in the present and throughout history, each 12 May. In honor of this awareness day, the timeline below highlights nurses throughout history that have made an impact on the nursing profession as well as their social and political surroundings. From Georgeanna Bacon to Muriel Powell, these nurses not only cared for patients, but also for their fellow nurses and community. In doing so, they have taken the nursing profession one step further and shown that a true caretaker’s calling is not merely contained within the walls of a health care institution.

Image Credit: “Nursing class, Leeds” by Zoë. CC BY NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Recent Comments

  1. Andy

    Seems a bit broken – no timeline, no picture and there’s a javascript error on line 271 with html escape codes for “==”
    if (tlFrame.contentWindow && tlFrame.contentWindow.postMessage) {

  2. AK

    The timeline is not visible – trying to view from IE, Chrome and Firefox. Would love to see it. Thanks!

  3. Irish RN

    Apparently nothing has happened in Nursing since the 1950s

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