Nursing is more than a career; it’s something that makes a visible difference to the lives of ordinary people. Not only are nurses at the forefront of medical care, but they also continue the work of a long line of strong and dedicated individuals, who throughout history, worked tirelessly to make the profession what it is today.
A history of helping others
The Romans were very advanced in their thinking. They had an awareness of the importance of public health and introduced water systems, public baths and hospitals. Records show that around 300 AD, the Romans even tried to set up a hospital in every town, with male and female nurses working with doctors to care for patients.
Religion during the Middle Ages, was the driving force behind advancements in nursing, because monks and nuns took on the responsibility of caring for the poor and sick. Hospitals were often connected to monasteries and churches, because the Catholic church encouraged helping anyone in need. By the 17th century, Protestantism was taking hold in England and monasteries were closed. The progress of nursing slowed, but the demand for healthcare remained.
Pioneering women, working as nurses, changed the face of the profession. Nursing skills were especially important during war, because unhygienic conditions led to infected wounds and many deaths from infectious diseases.
Mary Seacole was born in Jamaica, in 1805, and picked up nursing skills from watching her mother care for sick soldiers. She travelled around the world, nursing cholera victims in Panama and becoming skilled in treating knife wounds. Back in Jamaica, Mary set up a hospital for British soldiers suffering from yellow fever. Her travels included visiting Britain several times and she was very proud of her half-Scottish ancestry.
When she was refused permission to join a British mission to treat soldiers in the Crimea, Mary travelled there by herself. She set up the British Hotel, close to Balaklava, to care for injured soldiers and even treated wounded men on the battlefield. Mary was known to treat soldiers from both sides and sold food and supplies to the troops to fund the care she provided.
Born in Italy, in 1820, Florence Nightingale is another famous figure who had a huge impact upon the world of nursing. From a young age, she felt that it was her moral duty to care for others and nursed sick villagers near to her home. Going against her social standing and the expectations of her parents, Florence headed to Germany to train as a nurse. Back in London, she impressed her employers at a hospital and was soon given a job as a superintendent.
Like Mary Seacole, Florence was inspired to go to the Crimea, after reports revealed the terrible conditions for soldiers out there. She put together a group of nurses and once she arrived, was shocked to find problems including contamination, rodents and a lack of supplies. By improving cleanliness and providing medical care, Florence cut down deaths by two-thirds. Often seen continuing her rounds at night, she became known as the Lady of the Lamp. Florence used her experiences to write a report that became the model for military hospitals worldwide and made use of prize money from the British Government, to set up a training school for nurses. She helped to remove attitudes that the nursing profession was only for the lower classes and wealthy young women started to train, inspired by her work.
Few nurses risked as much as Edith Cavell, as they tried to help others. Born in England in 1865, she moved to Belgium, but returned to care for her sick father. Inspired by this experience, Edith trained to be a nurse at the Royal London Hospital. In 1907, she became matron of Belgium’s first nursing school and soon started managing hospitals and nursing homes.
When the First World War started, Edith set off for the front line in Belgium and her hospital became a Red Cross hospital. She cared for both German and Allied soldiers and smuggled Allied soldiers from her hospital to the Netherlands, where they would be safe. Using safe houses, she helped 200 servicemen to escape. Eventually arrested by the Germans, she was executed by a firing squad for treason, despite international condemnation. In honour of Edith, a fund for nurses in need was set up, called the Cavell Nurses’ Trust.
Nursing skills in 2016
Going into nursing in 2016, is still a career choice which brings challenges and also fulfils a need to help, for many people. Being a nurse may not be the dangerous career choice it once was, but the nurses of today continue the work of the women who fought to provide healthcare that was desperately needed.
You may not think that you have what it takes, but many people find that caring for other people comes naturally. If you feel that you might have something to offer, then you may be surprised to find that you already have the nursing skills you need. Nursing is active, varied and requires skills in communication, leadership and project management.
Nursing skills will always matter, because they have so much potential to evolve, as healthcare does. As a nurse, you won’t just be standing by bedsides, or stuck on the same ward forever. It’s a complex role that includes:
- Monitoring data.
- Using the very latest technology.
- Applying research.
- Specialising in key areas.
- Assessing patients and making decisions.
- Working as part of a team.
- Collaborating with social workers, police and local communities.
- Building a career in different locations and roles.
NHS nurses have flexible working hours and starting salaries of over £21,000, with the potential to earn up to £97,000. There are also many opportunities within healthcare for progression.
How do you become a nurse?
To qualify as a nurse, you’ll need to go to university and get a degree in nursing. If you don’t have your A-Levels, you don’t have to go back to college to get them. Stonebridge offers an Access to Higher Education Diploma, with a nursing pathway, which will qualify you to apply for nursing courses at university.
Studying an Access to Higher Education Diploma, you’ll learn how to write assignments and do your own research, to prepare you for university. Improve your job prospects with a course that is easy to understand and the support of a personal tutor, via email, phone and Skype.
Study at your own pace through distance learning. You can learn online, from home, which means you don’t need to give up your job and you can study whenever you have the time. Once you’ve completed the course, you can apply for nursing courses at university through UCAS. Most universities and colleges will accept Access to Higher Education Diplomas, but you should check with the universities of your choice.
Nursing skills have always been important and they always will be. Hardworking nurses are on the front line of hospitals and save lives every day. Be inspired to start making a difference and train for a new career with Stonebridge.