The History of Nursing: An Infographic



There are over 2.9 million nurses in America
Or one for every 102 Americans
Caring for over 8 million Americans a day.

Nurses per 10,000 people around the world:
Africa: 11
Americas: 61
South-East Asia: 13
Europe: 75
Eastern Mediterranean: 15
Western Pacific: 20
United Kingdom: 103
America: 98
Canada: 101
Australia: 96
World: 30

Adding $7 billion in economic value.
Just in medical savings and increased patient productivity

They provide valuable services like…

EXECUTING medical regimes prescribed by doctors
ASSISTING through in-depth medical assessments
TEACHING patients and families on health procedures
MANAGING restorative and palliative care
EMBRACING ethical obligations of patient/healthcare provider relations

But it wasn’t always that way

The first recorded nurse:
Phoebe a deaconess was sent to Rome by Paul to nurse both men and women.

Romans 16:1-3
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.”

165-180 AD: Christian nurses won friends caring for the sick of the smallpox epidemic.
325 AD: “It’s the Christian thing to do”
Unlike pagans before, the First Council of Nicea started the construction of a hospital in every cathedral town.
Earliest include:
Caesarea (Turkey)
And Constantinople

Which included housing for nurses and doctors
A separate section for lepers.
Space for medical and pharmacological studies.
A chief physician, professional nurses, and orderlies.

580 AD: Merida, Spain
A xenodochium was established.
An inn for travelers +
a hospital for citizens and local farmers

700’s-800’s: Emperor Charlemagne decrees old hospitals in decay be restored.

800’s: Islamic hospital at Kairouan, Tunisia founded.
Had a waiting room as well as male nurses for male patients, and female nurses for female patients.

900’s: Convents and Monasteries became central to healthcare.
Nuns occupied prestigious positions. Were often from wealthy families who funded convents to help provide healthcare for the poor.

1100’s: Carmelites: Still extant Catholic order that cares for the sick created.

1200’s: Dominican and Franciscan Orders created who also have a long lineage of nursing the sick.

1500’s: Protestant Reformation
Protestant reformers shut down monasteries and convents.
Some hospitals continued in government hands.

1600-1800: Nursing ranks dissipated as women forced to remain at home.

1639: Canadian Augustine nuns establish the first nursing apprenticeship in North America.

1836: First deaconess house opened.

Women pledged themselves to 5 years of service for room, board, uniforms, pocket change, and lifelong care.

By 1957:
[number of deaconesses by nation]
Germany: 46,000
US & Canada: 1550
Other Nations: 17,000

Late 1800’s: Nightingale’s Britain
Florence Nightingale lays the foundations of professional nursing in her book Notes on Nursing

1860: Queen Victoria opens the Royal Victoria Hospital to train medical caretakers and provide for soldiers.
Nurses accompanied troops to field hospitals in the:
First Boer War (1879-1881)
Egyptian Campaign (1882)
Sudan War (1883-1884)
With close to 2000 nurses serving in the Anglo-Boer War of 1889-1902

1874: General and Marine Hospital in St. Catharines General Hospital in Ontario starts training nurses.

Leads to a push for:
licensing legislation
nursing journals
university training
professional organizations

Emily Stowe (1831-1901): First female doctor to practice in Canada.
Augusta Stowe-Gullen (1857-1943): Stowe’s daughter, the first women to graduate from Canadian Medical School.

1870: 1500 hospitals were run by 11,000 Catholic Sisters
1911: 15,000 nuns from over 200 religious orders running the healthcare system.

1873: Linda Richards graduates as America’s first professionally trained nurse in Boston.
1881: American Red Cross started by Clara Barton, a famous Civil War-era nurse known as the “angel of the battlefield.”
Early 1900’s: Hospitals took over schools, favoring clinical experience over “book learning” and using students as cheap labor.

Hospital Growth:
1873: 149 hospitals
1910: 4,400 hospitals
1933: 6,300 hospitals

With active graduate nurses growing rapidly:
1910: 51,000
1940: 375,000
1970: 700,000

World War II transformed nursing in America.
With 1 nurse for every 10 soldiers
And 600,000 soldiers.

In his final “fireside chat” President Roosevelt–fearing heavy casualties in the invasion of Japan called for a compulsory draft of nurses.


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