Nurses are pretty impressive. They are the ones on the frontlines, providing bedside care for patients and making important—and often life-saving—decisions, all while working 10 and 12 hour shifts. Many women have paved the way for modern nursing through their compassion and the belief that anything is possible.
Here are five nurses who made history and continue to be an inspiration today.
Florence Nightingale provided care to soldiers during the Crimean War. As a nurse, she would work night rounds caring for the wounded, landing her the nickname of "lady with the lamp." Along with a team of nurses, she drastically improved the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital. Later, her writings would spark healthcare reform across the world. In 1860, she established St. Thomas' Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses, paving the way for many more like her.
Throughout her life, Mary Eliza Mahoney experienced a lot of firsts. She attended the nursing school of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and in 1879 became the first black woman to complete nurse's training. As an advocate of the women's suffrage movement, she also is said to have been one of the first women to register to vote in Boston after the ratification off the 19th amendment in 1920. After her death, she was inducted into both the Nursing Hall of Fame and the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Clara Barton made her mark on the nursing profession with her bravery, compassion and leadership. During the American Civil War, she put her life on the line to bring supplies to soldiers in the field and care for the wounded. Later in life, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and served as leader of the organization for 23 years.
Mabel Keaton Staupers led the way for many black nurses in her life-long dedication to break down racial barriers in the nursing profession. As a nurse in Harlem, she developed a wide range of services that improved healthcare in the area. During World War II, she was at the head of the movement to fully integrate black nurses into the armed forces and professional nursing organizations, such as the American Nurses Association. Her efforts were instrumental in the fight for recognition and acceptance of Black nurses in the United States.
Virginia Henderson is notable not only for her work as a nurse, but as a researcher, theorist and author. She is most famously known for her definition of nursing: "The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge." Her writing has made her one of the most well known nurses of the 20th century, garnering comparisons to the earlier works of Florence Nightingale. "Henderson's Model," which describes 14 components of basic nursing, has been used throughout the world for standardizing nursing practice.
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