Nursing Mothers & Common Problems

Nursing historians face the challenge of determining whether care provided to the sick or injured in antiquity was nursing care. In the fifth century BC, for example, the Hippocratic Collection in places describes skilled care and observation of patients by male "attendants", who may have been early nurses. Around 600 BC in India, it is recorded in Sushruta Samhita, Book 3, Chapter V about the role of nurse as "the different parts or members of the body as mentioned before including the skin, cannot be correctly described by one who is not well versed in anatomy. Hence, any one desirous of acquiring a thorough knowledge of anatomy should prepare a dead body and carefully, observe, by dissecting it, and examine its different parts."

Before the foundation of modern nursing, members of religious orders such as nuns and monks often provided nursing-like care. Examples exist in Christian, Islamic and Buddhist traditions amongst others. Phoebe, mentioned in Romans 16 has been described in many sources as "the first visiting nurse". These traditions were influential in the development of the ethos of modern nursing. The religious roots of modern nursing remain in evidence today in many countries. One example in the United Kingdom is the use of the historical title "sister" to refer to a senior nurse in the past.

During the Reformation of the 16th century, Protestant reformers shut down the monasteries and convents, allowing a few hundred municipal hospices to remain in operation in northern Europe. Those nuns who had been serving as nurses were given pensions or told to get married and stay home. Nursing care went to the inexperienced as traditional caretakers, rooted in the Roman Catholic Church, were removed from their positions. The nursing profession suffered a major setback for approximately 200 years.

Hospital-based training came to the fore in the early 1900s, with an emphasis on practical experience. The Nightingale-style school began to disappear. Hospitals and physicians saw women in nursing as a source of free or inexpensive labor. Exploitation of nurses was not uncommon by employers, physicians and educational providers.

Many nurses saw active duty in World War I, but the profession was transformed during the second World War. British nurses of the Army Nursing Service were part of every overseas campaign. More nurses volunteered for service in the US Army and Navy than any other occupation. The Nazis had their own Brown Nurses, 40,000 strong.Two dozen German Red Cross nurses were awarded the Iron Cross for heroism under fire.

The modern era saw the development of undergraduate and post-graduate nursing degrees. Advancement of nursing research and a desire for association and organization led to the formation of a wide variety of professional organizations and academic journals. Growing recognition of nursing as a distinct academic discipline was accompanied by an awareness of the need to define the theoretical basis for practice.

In the 19th and early 20th century, nursing was considered a women's profession, just as doctoring was a men's profession. With increasing expectations of workplace equality during the late 20th century, nursing became an officially gender-neutral profession, though in practice the percentage of male nurses remains well below that of female physicians in the early 21st century.