7 Jun 2022


Important Nurses of The 19th Century

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Academic level: College

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Current and historical nursing roles 

There have been tremendous changes that have been experienced in the nursing field. The need for nurses to be extensively skilled, highly educated, and analytical thinkers is a requisite that enables them to formulate composite clinical decisions that would have been made by physicians 50 years ago. Historical roles of nurses were minimal compared to the current situation healthcare organizations. The reason behind this is embedded on the fact that, people are continually changing their way of living hence, there is a need for diversified healthcare services. These changes are calling for an expansion in the scope of nursing and midwifery. Thus, there have been changes in the training and education sector to ensure that nurses and midwives are in a position of assuming fresh and multifaceted roles. Historical nursing roles were more inclined on the feminine gender, however with the contemporary and changing world, there has been sustainability in the field in terms of sex and gender. Ultimately, the current world and education system is equipping nursing practitioners with skills that do not require them to work under physicians control, they can assume roles and perform them autonomously. However, in the historical perspective, nurses were only allowed to work under a physician’s insight. 

Mary C. Breckinridge 

Mary C. Breckinridge is a good example of a living legacy in the field of nursing. She was the founding principle of the Frontier Nursing Service, a service that is alive and well even after more than 50 years of her demise. Her idea of the Frontier Nursing Service was instigated by the predicament of the residents of Appalachia of Kentucky. She got certified by British Central midwives. Afterwards, she left back to Kentucky in the year 1925 and hired two staffs. She launched her first clinic in the Hyden Region which was subsequently trailed by other six garrison nursing hubs (Young, 2004). Each nursing hub provided healthcare services to about 260 households. In addition to administering the nursing organization and attending to patients, Mary used a huge part of his life building up and collecting funds which helped in enhancing the lives of the Kentuckian people. The money that was raised also helped in establishing a 12 bed hospital that was launched in June 1928. The hospital was later made the epicenter for the FNS medical system (Frontier Nursing Service & rural health in Appalachia", 2008). Afterwards, Mary inaugurated the Frontier Graduate School which was set aside to offer the required training for midwife services (Frontier Nursing Service, 2014). Today, the school is now a large medical academic institution which has diversified its fields to degree and NP programs. In spite of hunger, droughts, wars and extreme misery, Mary defended the cause of the Appalachians and through determination and endurance she developed an unfathomable understanding of the locality’s plight. By the time she died, she had already raised more than 10 million dollars for the FNS medical system. 

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Mary Breckinridge: The Frontier Nursing Service & rural health in Appalachia. (2008). Choice Reviews Online , 46 (03), 46-1517-46-1517. doi: 10.5860/choice.46-1517 

Young, J. (2004). “Monthly” Nurses, “Sick” Nurses, and Midwives in 19th-Century Toronto, 1830–1891. Canadian Bulletin of Medical History , 21 (2), 281-302. doi: 10.3138/cbmh.21.2.281 

Frontier Nursing Service (2014) History of Mary Breckinridge. Retrieved from http://www.frontiernursing.org 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Important Nurses of The 19th Century.


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