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Registered Nurses

History

Modern ideas about hospitals and nursing as a profession did not develop until the 19th century. The life and work of Florence Nightingale were a strong influence on the profession's development. Nightingale, who came from a wealthy, upper-class British family, dedicated her life to improving conditions in hospitals, beginning in an army hospital during the Crimean War. In the United States, many of Nightingale's ideas were put into practice for the care of the wounded during the Civil War. The care, however, was provided by concerned individuals who nursed, rather than by professionally trained nurses. They had not received the kind of training that is required for nurses today.

The first school of nursing in the United States was founded in Boston in 1873. In 1938, New York State passed the first state law requiring that practical nurses be licensed. Even though the first school for the training of practical nurses was started more than 75 years ago, and the establishment of other schools followed, the training programs then lacked uniformity.

After the 1938 law was passed, a movement emerged to have organized training programs that would assure new standards in the field. The role and training of nurses have undergone radical changes since the first schools opened.

Education standards for nurses have been improving constantly since that time. Today's nurse is a highly educated, licensed health care professional. Extended programs of training are offered throughout the country, and all states have enacted laws to assure training standards are maintained and to assure qualification for licensure. Nurses are a vital part of the health care system.

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