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Nurses in history and reasons to be thankful for them

thankful for nurses

Many people think of health care careers as the noblest of professions, and nursing is no exception. With the amount of hands-on, around-the-clock care that nurses typically give their patients, it’s no wonder that nursing gets so much respect. There are many specialties that nurses can train for, and their core values and collective contributions are all admirable. Regardless of whether the position is mainly bedside care or office tasks, compassion, quick thinking, intuitiveness, and knowledge are truly what make them stand out. A quick look at history shows us just a few great nursing contributions and why we still should be very thankful for nurses today.

1. Education

One of the basic duties of nurses is to keep up with the latest in healthcare. Their job also involves educating their patients.

Often, nurses must look at patient needs holistically, not just give them medicine. Thus, it should not be a surprise that nurses often go above and beyond to care for others.

Speaking of nursing education, it is almost impossible to forget the contributions of Florence Nightingale. Some people say she is the mother of nursing.

Since the creation of her first formal nursing school in 1860, her curriculum has been seen as a foundation or inspiration for nursing programs around the world. That includes the one at grand canyon university nursing school.

Fast forward to the 20th century. The inspirational words of Virginia Henderson helped shape modern nursing. Thanks to her inspirational written works, nurses around the world have learned the importance of respecting patient needs and providing patients with education.

An important thing she emphasized was teaching and preparing patients to be independent even when not under direct care. Those are more reasons to be thankful for nurses!

2. Nurses in history: Advocacy and legislation

With a quality education, such as that offered at the grand canyon university nursing program, as well as continuous learning and close patient relationships, nurses often make great advocates for patients. With an emphasis on lifelong learning, nurses often are a trustworthy source of information when it comes to the needs and comforts of others. They have been instrumental in shaping legislation for the better.

For example, Margaret Sanger did a lot for family planning and reproductive rights. She is the most famous for creating Planned Parenthood. But her efforts along the way are just as important.

Some ways she has made a difference are:

  • International research on birth control
  • Fights against anti-contraception legislation
  • The launch of a magazine to inform and educate readers about their options

3. Civil rights: Being thankful for nurses

Nurses have helped advance civil rights matters too. That’s yet another reason to be thankful for nurses.

Consider Susie King Taylor, the first African-American nurse who incorporated her early teaching background to teach literacy to African-American soldiers during the civil war.

Also, note the contributions of the first African-American Registered Nurse, Mary Eliza Mahoney. She not only hit an important milestone for minorities in nursing but also paved the way for other nurses of color.

How did she do so? By bringing attention to discrimination and inequality in nursing.

4. Innovation

One of the most trustworthy organizations for relief efforts for the military or natural disasters is the American Red Cross, which is the brainchild of nurse Clara Barton. From her start as a civil war nurse, she grew an organization that people still depend on today. Activities of the American Red Cross include:

  • Deliver supplies
  • Provide education
  • Bridge communication gaps in difficult conditions

Clara Barton used the framework of a similar program in Switzerland to create the Red Cross. It was designed to meet American needs both within the country and internationally.

Remembering to be thankful for nurses

Many people remember the direct care they received in hospitals or clinics from nurses. However, it’s also important to remember the significant ways that nurses’ knowledge and compassion have improved the world.

Do you have experience with a nurse who went above the call of duty? Please share your nursing experience below or more about nurses in history.

42 thoughts on “Nurses in history and reasons to be thankful for them”

  1. I am so happy that people from other parts of the world value nurses. Funny how, nursenurse professionals, like me, are taken for granted and underrated from where I am from.

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s just so consoling to know that there are still other people who see our worth. :)

  2. Here is a quote that I agree with: “Many people remember the direct care they received in hospitals or clinics from nurses. However, it’s also important to remember the significant ways that nurses’ knowledge and compassion has improved the world.” If you have had experience with a nurse that provided you with the best quality care, thank them every time.

  3. Hi, Christy. For eight years I was a volunteer in a hospital unit that did a variety of medical procedures/surgeries. I met many nurses in this unit, and gained a lot of respect for them. Quite a few times I saw nurses uncover information that wasn’t obvious about patients, and which led to better decisions being made about the proper course of treatment.


    1. It sounds like the nurses you were in contact with went above and beyond their job description. And that’s a beautiful thing to read from your comment, Neil. Thank you too for your volunteer service!

  4. I’m the driver and live-in caregiver for a patient in chemothreapy. (I’m looking forward to becoming just the husband again one day.) We’ve spent endless hours in the outpatient infusion centers. Thanks to the side effects of chemo, she’s been admitted to the hospital a few times. We’ve worked closely with perhaps 30 nurses over the past five months.
    Here are my four reasons to be thankful for nurses.
    Multitasking. The nurses are dealing with a cancer patient in room 12, an elderly person in room 10, and we’re not sure why he’s still vomiting in room 8. They get each patient’s needs right. Opportunities for errors are huge, but they seldom happen.
    Details. The nurse can talk with my patient about her medication to control side effects as though she (or he, the one guy was just as good) talks about that one every day. Multiply by 10 or 20 patients each day, and a different set the next day.
    Calm. You have an issue, something messy happens, they just come in and get you cleaned up. No big deal, and they’re cheerful while they do it.
    Compassion. They’re super busy, you can tell they have a lot to do, but when you need some time, they stay and talk with you. Nurse hugs are also effective caregiver therapy.

    1. I love those 4 points you mention, especially nurse hugs. There really is such value in a hug as an emotional connection with someone. Thank you for such a beautiful comment in appreciation of nurses.

    1. Absolutely! They deserve so much for what they do! I work in a different aspect of healthcare, but they will always have my respect and appreciation.

  5. Yes I agree, nurses knowledge and compassion is enormous and they deserve a medal for what they have to put up with. They are one of the most under-valued and under-appreciated profession. I have so much respect for these wonderful people.

  6. I am a nurse and readily admit there are the good ones and the ones who should be working at McDonald’s or in a coal mine. The nursing profession is difficult and not anything what it used to be. Most bedside nurses are overworked and underpaid. I loved my patients but am relieved to have left the profession after 28 years! Thanks for the appreciation of the profession regardless nurses do deserve the recognition.

  7. On a few occasions, I have had the experience of receiving nursing care ranging from good to excellent in terms of standards. The profession calls for a great sense of dedication and unfailing commitment and these were readily visible in the nurses who took care of me. Good nurses are as important as competent doctors in the matter of delivering efficient health services at affordable cost.

    1. Raj, you made an excellent point: it’s not only doctors that we must hold in high regard but also nurses as the care they both take can move mountains in and out of the hospital. I’m pleased you have had such good experiences. I want you in excellent health, dear friend.

  8. My biggest thing that I take with heart and pride is my advocacy for my patients. As a nurse advocacy, and patient care, are the two most important things you can do as a nurse. Thank you so much for this post. <3

    1. My mother was very ill with urosepsis and pneumonia this past week, the medical care and attention she got was second to none in an Irish health system that is at bursting point but it was how the nurses made her feel by their gentle care and genuine concern that made all the difference for her and for us. Nurses are going on strike this week to address cuts still in place since the recession. They deserve way more credit than they get. Excellent post Christy.

    2. I’m so glad your mother has received such a high standard of care. Hopefully the nurses get what they’re asking for in the strike – they deserve pay that’s in line with the incredible work they do!

    3. Thank you for your commitment to helping others as a nurse, Holly! It is such a noble profession. PS The comments readers have left here on this post about their positive experiences with nurses are heart warming, wow!

  9. As a retired nurse, I have seen the good that is accomplished by caring individuals who become nurses and work for the welfare of their patients. The training that goes into becoming a nurse is never wasted and can be put to good use in the community at large.

    1. Thank you for having devoted your career to being a nurse, Peggy! Now you shine bright with your Houston posts – writing must be a second career for you :) I’m sorry I missed this comment from you – I didn’t see it until now. I hope your week is going well.

  10. Many times I saw the good work that nurses do when I visited someone in the hospital or saw a nurse make a home visit. I did not fully appreciate them until I experienced it first hand when I woke up in ICU after a surgery to find a wonderful male nurse by my side. He got me through those first rough hours and kept my husband and son updated.

    1. That nurse sounds like he provided exactly what you and family needed in that difficult time post, surgery, Jo. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you good health xo

  11. Sadly I’ve come across many nurses during my times in hospital that have been awful, making you wonder why they’re in the profession when they don’t seem to like people, let alone showing care for them. However, they’re in the minority. The work that nurses do, and the ways they’ve changed history, is something we should all acknowledge and be grateful for. And wow, the path that Susie King Taylor and Mary Eliza Mahoney took, their perseverance and courage, is truly amazing. They really did help pave the way towards unity and away from discrimination and inequality. Brilliant post!!
    Caz xx

    1. Wonderful Caz how you continue to look at the positive, in spite of some bad experiences with nurses in the past. I hope you are having a good day and I think YOU are a courageous woman, just so you know.

  12. I had a nurse in grammar school that caught onto the fact that I had strabismus! She was not an eye doctor per second but she caught on to that. After she caught on to that, I had surgery and my quality of life has just been better since then. And for that, I am forever grateful.

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