Nursing Then and Now
February 17, 2005
Although nursing has changed a lot through the years, it is hard to define when nursing actually came to be. It is often said that as long as there have been mothers, there’s been nursing. “Nursing has been around a long time,” says Lana Bolhouse, dean of the School of Nursing at OBU.
“One of our retired professors claims that Phoebe was a nurse in the New Testament, and she may be right. And in the Crusades there were men who were nurses. People always think it’s a contemporary thing to have a man as a nurse, but during this time even some so-called knights attended to the wounded on the battlefield,” she says.
It was not until the late 1800s that Florence Nightingale began work and later became known as the mother of modern-day nursing. “Nurses were really considered ragged in the 1800s. Florence Nightingale’s family didn’t want her to become a nurse because of the reputation. Nurses were considered slovenly. But because she came from an educated, aristocratic family, she begins to change the perception. She had many great thoughts about the right and wrong way to interact with people, too. She brought about the idea that nurses needed education, and she is credited as being the one who turned things around.”
Initially, nurses were educated at hospitals, and it was not until the early 1900s that the first attempts at nursing education were attempted at a university. In Oklahoma, OBU was the first to offer the program in 1952.
Today, there are different ways to become a nurse, and the amount of education needed has changed through the years, also. There currently are three ways to become a registered nurse – through a university baccalaureate program, a hospital diploma program or an associate’s degree at a community college.
Technology also has added new challenges to the field of nursing. “Pumps and tubes are things that nurses have to deal with now, and computers also have impacted the profession,” Lana says. “Many of these advancements allow nurses to concentrate more of patient care.”
In recent years, nursing has also branched out to include research. “This is often thought of as a field in healthcare reserved for physicians, but we are seeing more and more nurses working in research.” And there are many other areas in which nurses work today – there are nurses not only in hospitals, but in schools, clinics and businesses.
“Nursing really has come a long way. People used to see nurses as a handmaiden to the physicians, but that’s changed. It’s more thoughtful and no longer simply about doing as the doctor orders.”