Nursing is an evolving profession. Throughout the years, the profession has been through numerous changes that aims to improve the standards of care of the profession. Research is continuously being done to enable nurses to be educated and improve nursing practice and contribute to improvement in patient outcomes and greatly improve the quality of nursing care. Nursing has its own place in history and without some great people, the profession would not have become as it is today.


Nursing, as taught in schools, started way back during the year 1853 through Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing. She is the first person to ever focus on sanitation and its relation to health. She believed that a healthy and clean environment greatly contributes to healing. This is even way back before the germ theory was even proposed. The lady with the lamp already had something in her mind and she focuses on patient care and the environment that patient is placed.

Ten years after the lady started the profession, a floating hospital (or a ship, rather), the USS Red Rover, served over 3,000 patients at sea, with 170 on-board surgeons and a battalion of nurses. The ship is the Navy’s first-ever hospital ship. It was acquired through purchase. The ship also served as a hospital ship during the civil war.

During the year 1881, in a land torn and stricken by civil war, a woman named Clara Barton recognized the need of people in distress who are afflicted by the calamity of war. She had this idea to form an organization that will cater to the needs of those who have fallen and those who have been injured, and thus, the American Red Cross was born. Clara led by example and she empowered others to volunteer and help those in need. The Red Cross is an organization that still exists today, after more than 100 years in voluntary service to humanity.

Shortly after Barton’s founding of the Red Cross, it was during 1895 when the nursing shift became 12-16 hours. In 1901, the Nurse Corps, a nursing branch of the US military, with the mission: “Providing responsive, innovative, and evidenced based nursing care integrated on the Army Medicine Team to enhance readiness, preserve life and function, and promote health and wellness for all those entrusted to our care “, became a permanent part of the army. It seems that the Army has recognized the need to cater to injured soldiers during the war. In 1902, a year after the Nurse Corps, there is an African-American woman who was officially recognized as the first nurse of her race. She was the first black army nurse. She worked in the battlefield for four years.


The 20th century marked the official expansion of the Nursing profession into a more technical field of practice. Branches of expertise began during the century and still continue today. During the 1930-1950, Licensure Laws were implemented to ensure the safe practice of the profession. Nursing has become a recognized profession during this time. In the year 1943, the Nurse Training Act was signed into law. The Act requested the establishment of a special government program to facilitate the training of nurses. Applicants would be granted subsidization of nursing school tuition, associated expenses, and a shorter training period. In exchange, applicants pledged to actively serve in essential civilian or other federal government services for the duration of the war.

In the years 1950-1953, the Korean war erupted. Nurses, during this period were able to utilize and perform dialysis. Nurses also assisted in surgical procedures that involved reconnection of severed limbs. During this period, kidney dialysis is a new technology.


Nursing Education continued to rise and it was in the year 1956 when the first Master’s Degree in Nursing was offered. The degree was conferred by the Columbia University: School of Nursing. It is the first nursing school to have awarded a master’s degree in a clinical specialty. In 1943, the 45th Surgical hospital was established. It is a transportable medical unit and in the year 1966, it developed its MUST (Medical unit, Self-Contained, Transportable.) Education further flourished and the first iteration of a clinical doctorate, a nursing doctorate (ND), was established at Case Western Reserve University in 1979.

The 1980s is the year where nursing shortage in the USA has become serious. Because of this, another specialty in Nursing was born, the Travel nurse. These nurses traveled across the nation to render care to sick people during the time when nurses are very scarce. During 1983-1985, Nurse Practitioners were granted the permission to render long-term care. The government also required NPs to receive a certain certification that is mandatory. Distance learning has become the trend in 1989 as the government recognized the existence of individuals who want to learn the profession without access to schools offering the programs.

It is interesting to know that nurses have once held paper licenses as  a proof of their registration. It was only in 1997 when the paper license was replaced by the plastic license. We have technology to thank for that. Nursing has then continued to grow and a lot of research has been done. It was during the year 2000 that the world entered the computer and internet age and the Nursing profession has also been affected by this. Continuing Professional Education has been offered via the internet at sites like MedScape and nurses participated in online review and education programs.


In 2009, Social Media App usage grew and a lot of nurses used the Epocrates App, an app that served as a drug formulary. Nurses saved 30 minutes of their time by using the application.  It was also during the same year that the Loyola School of Nursing offered its Doctor of Nursing practice program and in 2012, US News and World Report ranked the program among the top 5 Online Graduate Programs.

Nursing Evolution [Infographic]

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Nursing has indeed prospered and has become more advanced as ever, with standards of practice growing as well. Many people have contributed greatly to humanity by researching better ways to provide care and prevent disease. What about you, what have you done to better and raise the standards of practice of our profession? Will your name be the next in nursing history?

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JD Gopez, R.N. I am a Professional Registered Nurse with skills in literature, analysis, and comprehension.I am currently employed as a staff nurse at a Tertiary Hospital. I am just a simple nurse who enjoys writing.