One might surmise that the practice of care and nurturance of the sick and injured is as old as civilized society. It is to be noted, however, that it is the celebrated Miss Florence Nightingale, who is justifiably honored as the founder of modern nursing. Rejecting the societal expectations of the 19th Century, relative to a daughter born into the English privileged class, she became an outspoken reformer and staunch advocate for enlightened and improved care for the afflicted.
Her kindly nocturnal visits to the bedside of countless wounded and suffering English soldiers, languishing in a squalid Turkish hospital during the Crimean War, earned her the saintly name, “The Lady of the Lamp.” By reason of her tireless and dedicated efforts the Turkish hospital was transformed from a virtual cesspool of sepsis and predictable death to a sanitary healing institution, with clean bedding, sterile bandages, proper food and necessary ventilation. Such prodigious and heroic efforts markedly reduced the hospital’s high level of mortality and historically created the foundation for the modern nursing profession.
The natural evolution of the nursing profession, from the confined role of a bedside assistant to the treating physician to today’s independent health care professional, can be seen as the logical result of a combination of societal need and the laudable aspirations of many towards the healing arts.
Certain medical associations, for various reasons, have persisted in their opposition to the independent functioning ( i.e., without physician oversight) of the advanced practice nurse, despite the demonstration by many respected studies that nursing outcomes have been comparable to, and in certain categories better, than physician outcomes.
The continuum of nursing education and certification, proceeds from the education and training of the licensed Registered Nurse (RN) to a Master’s prepared application and certification as a licensed Nurse Practitioner (NP), and if pursued and officially qualified, the Clinical Nurse Doctor (DNP). There is a current trend towards proceeding (with the requisite education, training, and certification) from the status of RN with a BS degree directly to the NP with a DNP degree.
Society has continued to manifest an ever growing need for increases in the number of advanced practice nurses, particularly in the areas of primary care and illness prevention, by reason of the evident increase in population and in the numbers of the aged community. Additionally, there is a great need to be met in furnishing health services to our many underserved communities.
Florence’s saintly light has continued to illumine the plight of the sick and disabled through its reflected glow, emanating from a multitude of lenses caringly focused on them by a competent and dedicated nursing community.