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The field of nursing is growing and changing rapidly, but this isn’t the first time in history that nursing has undergone radical transformation. In the middle of the 1800s, English nurse Florence Nightingale write Notes on Nursing, a handbook for nurses, and the beginnings of a new level of structure and respect for nursing as a profession. Nursing is now one of the fastest growing, and most important professions in the medical field, and anyone studying nursing today should take time to appreciate the historical figures that laid the foundation for modern nursing as we know it over 150 years ago.
Nursing history is such a rich topic that there are entire museums and libraries dedicated to it, as well as smaller collections of preserved memorabilia held by medical institutions, universities, and more.
The Museum of Nursing History is located in Philadelphia and has historical items from nurses all over the world to paint a comprehensive picture of what it was like to be a nurse in the past centuries. The website is loaded with useful information about what to expect when attending the museum, so it’s very worthwhile previous to a visit.
The Florence Nightingale Museum gives a detailed retelling of the life of the “Lady with the Lamp” who led the nurses as they aided soldiers during the Crimean War. Nurses are encouraged to check out the museum to see how one woman became such a prominent figure in the United Kingdom and had such a lasting impact on healthcare today.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine: Nurse History has over 4000 pieces on nursing history and the search engine allows for refining to a specific area in nursing history. Anyone in the profession will be sure to find great useful material on programs, services, news, and much more.
Wellcome Library bills itself as the most important collection of manuscripts and archives on the history of Medicine in Britain. It lives up to its name and has an impressive selection to work through.
North Park University, Chicago, Open Stacks: School of Nursing blogs about the history of nursing in the Chicago area. It paints a really beautiful picture of all the people who have been involved in improving nursing in their community.
Wayne State University Library’s History is a student resource, but extends beyond the scope of collegiate nursing history. They have a great section on featured nursing and even pdf’s of journals and books from prominent nurses throughout history.
History of Black Nursing gives users a nice overview of how African Americans have become much more involved with nursing since the late 1700’s. Nursing students can take advantage of their guide to web resources as well.
The John A. Graziano Memorial Library is part of Samuel Merritt University and their History of Nursing Resources page advocates on behalf of the field of nursing by addressing the history of nursing to avoid making the same mistakes of the past. They highlight some of the best nursing history books and has a page dedicated to research materials.
Minnesota State University, Mankato, University Archives: School of Nursing. Collection, 1947-Ongoing is an incredibly dense resource for locating any information pertaining to nursing as it has happened since 1947. The page highlights the specific locations of a wealth of documents users can attain to see how the school has developed.
UConn Nursing History Collection has compiled a page for quickly accessing a variety of nursing records, including the Eastern Nursing Research Society Records, School of Nursing Records (UConn), and the Connecticut Nurses Association Records. This makes a great research source for undergraduates, as well as graduate students.
Clemson: History of Nursing is lush with some of the most notable referencing material in nursing history. Students should take advantage of their unique content on nursing in the military and wars, the Virginia area, and biographies and essays through the years.
The Rose Melnick Medical Museum was founded in 1985 by John C. Melnick, a Youngstown, Ohio radiologist, and named after his mother who inspired him to pursue medicine. The collection of museum includes over 10,000 items from medicine, dentistry, nursing, and pharmacy from the 1700’s to present. The site also has a great blog that stays up to date on the latest developments in the field.
The Indiana Medical History Museum is a non-profit organization that helps to explain the rich nursing history of the state of Indiana and is a must-visit destination for those interested in nursing who live in Indiana. Even if you can’t make it though, their “Great Links” tab has useful information about nursing in the state.
The University of Maryland School of Nursing Living History Museum is one of the premier nursing history museums in the country with their impressive audio and video presentations. The Virtual Tour is also a great way to experience this great museum without having to travel.
Army Medical Services Museum has extensive documents and historical information for all four corps in the UK, including medical, veterinary, dental, and nursing. It explains how medicine became a crucial part of the military, which is useful for those looking to get into nursing in the military.
The Museum of the Order of St. John details how this organization came to be in the eleventh century and the humanitarian efforts they provide, specifically nursing and a hospital setting.
As one of the premier sources for disseminating nursing information, the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing is even useful to nurses that do not live in Canada. They hold regular conferences and are actively involved in outreach events.
Archives and Museum, Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel is connected to a network of nursing and health-related museums. The website details their events, exhibitions, and even medical history tours. Nurses in the United Kingdom should be sure to visit the site to understand how they became Britain’s largest voluntary festival.
Massillon Museum: Massillon Community Hospital School of Nursing combines art and history to keep viewers attention and educate them on the advancements in nursing.
The Library of Congress Veterans History Project: Nurses has stories from nurses that explain how hard the job can be and why so many are willing to step up to the unique problems the job has. With such an in-depth bank of stories, you can surely find enough that provide a thorough picture of what the job is like.
The Canadian Nursing History Collection is an online resource that includes over 1800 artifacts from the late 19th century to the 1980’s from all over the field of nursing. The collection is also searchable, so very specific nursing items can be located.
AANA Archives-Library gives a detailed recounting of everything related to nurse anesthetists from historical documents and publications to photographs and memorabilia. Any aspiring or practicing nurse anesthetists should definitely check out this page.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine does an impressive job of showing how integral nurses were across the country in assisting soldiers and citizens during a tumultuous time in American history.
The Museum of Health Care: Kingston Nursing Education Past and Present is a great nursing resource for seeing how the job has changed over the past few decades and gives plenty of information to see how the job has evolved into the position today. The site has information on what it’s like at the museum and has many useful videos to watch.
The Museum of Male Nursing addresses one of the most overlooked groups in nursing – males. As a field that is predominantly women, many are not educated on the contributions of men. Their site is uniquely situated to educate others on this underrepresented area of nursing history.
The Lost Art of Nursing Museum is a really interesting collection of art either about nursing or directly influenced by it. The works show how artists’ perception of nurses in society has changed over the years, which makes a great resource for studying the history.
California Nursing Museum from Golden State Nursing Foundation gives nurses across the state a place to find information relevant to being a nurse specifically in California and has uniforms, pictures, books, and more. The organization aims to give nurses in California a stronger voice and the museum functions as a great source of identity.
National medical organizations, universities, and historical societies maintain collections of nursing related historical data, photographs, mimeographs and other documentation of nursing’s rich past.
The National Archives: Nursing section allows users to see every document pertaining to the field at any archive or museum in the United Kingdom. It’s possible to search for very specific historical nursing material due to the density and high specificity of content they have.
Columbia University’s PocketKnowledge archive has a delightful collection of information about Mary Adelaide Nutting, a noted nurse educator and great contributor to the development of the nursing profession. The Adelaide Nutting Historical Nursing Collection has thousands of documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, and more related to Nutting’s monumental achievements in the field of nursing.
The London Metropolitan Archives have a wide range of resources about London’s rich history, including documents pertaining to events and individuals significant to the history of nursing. A quick search of nursing history on the LMA site will turn up plenty of good reading material on the subject.
Lothian Health Services Archive holds on to historically important medical records from local hospitals. Researching diseases in a region over time is getting more important for tracing their causes and Lothian Health Services has been a leader in this area. They have very useful tools for researching the history of nursing in Scotland as well.
Indian Nursing Collection of Diana Hartley is composed of papers and other material written by the first full-time secretary of the Trained Nurses Association of India. It is a foremost source of information on what it was like to be a nurse during World War Two.
History of the Jefferson Nursing Program is a good page for looking at the rise of nursing as a viable profession in the late 1800’s. They’ve chronicled how nursing has changed by thoroughly documenting the field from the inaugural class in 1891.
The Liliane S. Kaufmann School of Nursing was created in memory of the only woman to serve as president of Montefiore Hospital. Her role in the healthcare community was significant and the site has a great backstory to the history of nursing in the Pittsburgh area.
Archive Grid has a large bank of historical nursing documents to sift through and is a useful research device to understand how nursing has evolved in recent years. With over 5000 publications to read through, there is plenty to keep your attention.
Archives in London and the M25 Area is a database of web-accessible archives and manuscripts from over 100 of London’s higher education institutions, along with cultural institutions, and city livery companies. The website has been available since 2002 and is a comprehensive resource on a wide range of topics in academia.
The American Journal of Nursing: Nursing History has some of the densest resources when it comes to the history of nursing and contemporary news on where the field is heading. Since the publication still publishes articles, it provides wonderful context for where the field has been and where it will go in the future.
The Zwerdling Nursing Archives published a book on nursing postcards from around the world, totaling over 70 countries, from as early as 1893. Additionally, the book was authored by a hospice nurse and expert in historical graphics, so you can be sure the material is accurate.
As one of the most colorful and densely organized guides to the history of nursing, The Western Conservancy of Nursing History Timeline provides some very valuable insight to how the profession has changed since the early 1800’s. Additionally, the page is very colorful and appealing to read through.
A Guide to the Southwest Center for Nursing History Archives breaks down all the content you can find at the center, right down to specific papers and where to find them. For those researching nursing history, it provides crucial perspective to many issues over the development of the field.
The foundations of the modern nursing profession were laid during the Crimean war, and military nursing has an even more preserved and studied past than the nursing field as a whole.
The Walt Whitman Archive: Nurses is everything the famed author wrote about nurses and is a searchable database for nursing information.
Army Nurses Corps: More Than 100 Years of Service to Our Nation shows how Army nurses have improved the quality of life for soldiers as well as civilians in conflicts around the world. It’s useful for nurses who may have an interest in joining the Army.
Historynet: Nurses has nearly 150 articles explaining what role nurses had in various wars throughout history. Nurses should use this page to sift through some of the best content relating to the Civil War.
The Civil War Homefront: Nursing has documents and educational materials for teachers to provide great foundations for the history of nursing. They have a great section on useful books on the subject as well.
Medical History of WWI Nursing Documents has letters, nursing regulations, nursing equipment, and more to give an understanding as to what it was like to be a nurse during the First World War. For those studying nursing history, this gives great context to how far the field has come in the 100 years since.
Experiences of War: The Nurse’s Story presents a perspective on war much less covered, but just as impactful and necessary. The site is a gold mine for nursing history from World War I and moving forward.
The U.S. Army Nurse Corps Historical Collection knows that to make lasting breakthroughs in nursing, we must be educated on the past, which is why this page is so useful. Content is primarily geared towards Army nurses, but it’s definitely a worthwhile read.
Youngest nurse in Civil War details the history of Mary Squire, a woman who volunteered at age 19 to help soldiers injured in the war. The four pages published on October 20th, 1915 in the Sheboygan Press cover the in-depth news article written about her at the time of her volunteering.
The Triservice Nursing Research Program is a project of the U.S. Military that makes “Fostering Excellence in Military Nursing Science” their primary goal. The website has both historical and modern information on military nursing.
The Naval History & Heritage Command web site features an in-depth catalog of nursing uniforms from the Red Cross and Army’s nursing contingents in the early 1900s. Photographic reproductions of their images are available, and the detailed descriptions of the uniforms would be useful to anyone taking a special interest in military nursing standards and practices of the time.
The Australian War Memorial has excellent documentation of nurses from the Australian military, especially regarding their activities in India in the early 1900s. Photographs, texts, and anecdotal information make this a rich resource about a very specific moment in nursing history.
Short History of Military Nursing provides some information as to what it was like to be a nurse during World War I, World War II, as well as The Korean War, and Vietnam War. With numerous pictures and great explanations of various procedures they used.
Female Nurses of the Civil War is an integral page when it comes to the history of nursing and the various capacities nurses filled during the American Civil War. It makes great material for researching nursing history at a time that had the first significant amount of documentation to research.
This Intrepid Band is a UK-based nursing history blog discussing the role of nurses in many wars the United Kingdom has been involved in. It’s updated often and provides pictures with interesting details to support the stories.
The Vietnam War is recent enough to today that it still has influenced a number of individuals, which is why Military Nurses in Vietnam is such an informative blog when it comes to the history of nursing in a more contemporary sense. It’s loaded with quotes and links to letters from nurses and soldiers as well that are incredibly impactful.
Smithsonian’s “The Diary of a Civil War Nurse” is a powerful exhibit that recounts a woman’s journey from New York to Washington D.C. to help aid those in need during the Civil War. She kept thorough journal entries and wrote many letters to her family, which has informed nursing historians, at great length, as to what it was like to be a nurse during this time.
Florence Nightingale is a name that everyone knows from nursing history, but many other influential figures have contributed to the development of the field, and their histories are also preserved and available for further research.
Regarded as one of the most impactful nurses in history, Dorothea Dix: Mental Health Reformer and Civil War Nurse has a biography in the Smithsonian Institute Archives. It explains how she rose to prominence in the nursing community since her work during the Civil War.
Famous Figures in Nursing goes over notable nurses that anyone getting into the profession should be familiar with. This is the first part of this blog’s Famous Figures series and focuses solely on the Civil War, so nurses will be able to find continued posts on great nurses.
Mary Adelaide Nutting was a prominent voice in professional nursing and nursing education in the Maryland area. She helped establish the American Journal of Nursing in 1900 and contributed greatly to the creation of nursing history.
Florence Nightingale 1898: Notes on Nursing What It Is, and What It Is Not is a complete eBook that explains how to take care of someone in need of medical attention, even for children. As one of the most highly regarded nurses in the history of the profession, Florence Nightingale’s perspective is timeless.
When it comes to nursing history, it’s important to mention Edith Cavell and her invaluable contributions during World War I. She was part of a team that helped save over 200 Allied soldiers and was willing to help members of either side of the war to be healed and have the resources needed.
Cavell Nurses’ Trust is a national charity offering financial assistance to nurses, midwives, and healthcare assistants. The organization was founded in honor of Edith Cavell, celebrated nurse who offered medical aid to soldiers on both sides of WWI, and was executed for assisting Allied soldiers in their escape from occupied Belgium.
Country Joe McDonald’s Tribute to Florence Nightingale is a nice biography that breaks her life down into intuitive sections that chronicle the defining points in her life and career as a nurse. For someone wondering what the process was like for Florence Nightingale to rise to one of the most prominent voices in nursing, this is where to begin.
The Florence Nightingale page is a detailed retelling of her life by PhD Senior Research Fellow Marjie Bloy. It’s a very in-depth biography of Nightingale’s life and even includes additional reading that nursing history scholars will enjoy.
The National Women’s History Project Biography Center has a list of all women who have been awarded for National Women’s History Week or National Women’s History Month. This includes a significant number of nurses, so makes an engaging resource to see who this organization deems the most impactful in the field.
If you’re a nurse and want to do better at your job, it’s useful to know what steps some of the most famous nurses took to help their communities, which is why Notable Nurses is such a great page. Each blog post highlights another individual who has made incredible contributions to nursing and it’s full of very interesting stories as well.
Nearly any university with a nursing program has a collection of historical documents and nursing memorabilia in their archive or library, and there are even state historical societies dedicated to the preservation of highly localized nursing history.
The American Association for the History of Nursing was established in 1978 and over the last 25 years has been a huge part in promoting the roles of nurses from across America. They have information on fellowships, research initiatives, and more on the site.
A Brief History of the American Red Cross explains, from their perspective, one of the most well-known aid organizations in the world and how they grew into such a prominent role in healthcare.
History of British Red Cross nurses and hospitals starts as early as World War I and details up to the present for what it has been like for this renowned organization as they’ve supported soldiers and civilians during some international wars. They have supplementary content that features banks of pictures to pick through and they help paint an even more complete picture of the history of the organization.
ANA History explains how the American Nurses Association has grown and refined a collection of material to improve practice in the field and advance the field of nursing from legislative advocacy.
The Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Services website has a uniquely comprehensive collection of nursing history resources including documents, oral histories, photographs, and journals pertaining to the UK’s rich nursing heritage.
Nursing in the United States – Jewish Women’s Archive is a page from their historical encyclopedia describing in detail how Jewish woman were able to come into roles in nursing. It’s a very interesting and inspiring page that any woman nurse can find use in.
The Canadian Nurses Association History goes over every major development within the field of nursing in Canada. The page is loaded with useful links to information such as leadership and the nursing archives.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has a detailed history section that dates back to the 1960’s and goes over the most important events of each decade since. It’s a great page to check out the explosion in the growth of healthcare.
The International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame promotes the leading nurse researchers who are part Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing. The list of individuals who have been awarded stretches to almost every corner of the field and gives a good idea as to significant milestones in nursing history.
Indiana Historical Society: Nursing has 80 links that comprise the state’s database on nursing. Some notable Indiana figures in nursing over the decades have their papers featured and the site has archived news bulletins pertaining to the biggest developments.
The Study of Nursing: Research and Historical Resources is dense with ways to research nursing and how to recognize reputable sources. It’s a great walkthrough on how to develop historical research skills related to nursing.
The University of Virginia School of Nursing’s Eleanor Crowder Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry was founded in 1991 to support the enrichment of nursing history and they’ve done a great job at establishing a great amount of material for exploring and how the field has developed over many decades.
The Cuyahoga Community College: Crile Archives Center for History Education aims to make the historical significance of healthcare better known and they have very interesting collections and exhibitions.
A Selection of Letters Written by Florence Nightingale allows nurses and nursing historians to read a large amount of correspondence from one of the most well-known figures in modern nursing practice. The letters give surprising insight and make her much more relatable.
The JISCMail Nursing History Listserv is a forum for discussing academic research and discourse on the history of nursing. Subscribers to the list will receive emails with new messages from other users, and anyone is free to peruse the publicly posted messages from international nurse historians and academics.
The Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing emphasizes the importance of the history of nursing and is comprised of internationally recognized nurse historians. The value of their work comes from enabling the field of nursing great insight into the past to implement effective policies moving forward.
The Nursing History Digitization Project is based at Mount Saint Vincent University and chronicles the history of nursing education in Nova Scotia since 1890. The site is loaded with wonderful pictures of nurses and gives great context to how the field of nursing has involved.
The Irish Centre for Nursing & Midwifery History is a part of University College Dublin and is a resource for finding the newest information on the history of nursing. They also have a great research facility for graduate students pursuing graduate degrees or PhDs.
The Virginia Commonwealth University History of Nursing Research Guides is a notable reference page for various nursing organizations and useful links to various components of the history of nursing. Practicing nurses will love this page when wanting a good starting place for nursing.
History in Practice is the blog of Dr. Kylie Smith, a historian who applies a critical theory approach to the study of nursing’s rich heritage. She is currently focusing on the history of mental health nursing in Australia, and she lists Foucault, Lacan, and Bordieu as influences on her personal and academic philosophies.
The History of Nursing is a set of slides that give a broad overview to the field of nursing. It’s pretty general material, so it makes a great place for students to get started for an overview of nursing since the late 1800’s.
Kellogg African American Health Care Project: The Oral Histories has stories from various health professionals throughout the field and gives first-hand perspective to how nursing has changed in the past few decades for African Americans. The site is very dense with oral histories, so there’s enough material to keep busy for hours.
The University of Ottowa’s Nursing History Research Unit is “dedicated to the study of the history of health, broadly defined, with a primary focus on the history of nursing.” While the page is intended for students of the university, it certainly has info that any soon-to-be nursing student could find useful.
Nursing and Allied Health Resources Section: Celebrating Nursing History: What to Keep elaborates on the most important parts of nursing and has made significant contributions to literature in nursing. Dense with information on even the most specific parts of nursing history, the site is a very thorough resource.
The History of Midwifery and Childbirth in America: A Time Line starts in 1660 and provides incredible depth at how the profession has changed in the United States. The website has extensive information on midwifery overall, from conferences to resources for becoming one.
Beyond Bed Pans: The Life of a Late 19th-Century Young Nurse is a first-person recounting of what it was like to be a nurse in 1893 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The refreshing candor expressed provides such great insight to see how the field of nursing was near the turn of the century.
Nursing History Nova Scotia is dedicated to commemorating nursing pioneers and the people and events that helped make nursing what it is today. The site features historical data about many of the first and most influential nurses, and the organization maintains a collection of historic nursing memorabilia.
Nurses Uniforms Past and Present is a wonderful overview of how nursing attire has transformed over the life of nursing. They provide pictures from pop culture, articles, and a variety of nursing history links that students will definitely find useful.
The Washington State Historical Society’s nursing resources include some collections, exhibits, and programs related to nursing throughout the state. Nurses in Washington should be sure to check this one out to get a clear picture of how nursing has developed.
North Carolina Nursing History is a page from Appalachian State University with great resources related to the state’s relationship with nurses over the years, including a timeline, video, and detailed history.
Maine History Online: Practical Nursing in Waterville showcases from 1957 to 1980 when nurses were trained at their facility and how it helped to foster a successful generation of nurses not only in Maine, but as they continued to move around the country and world.
Primarily geared towards nurses in the province of British Columbia in Canada, B.C. History of Nursing Society reinforces the rich history of nursing in the area while also uniting nurses on important issues of today.
The Center for Nursing History at Misericordia University focuses on nursing history as it pertains to Northeastern Pennsylvania. The page gives a nice overview of the center and provides enticing details of upcoming events.
UPenn Nursing, History, and Health Care provides integrative materials for understanding how nursing has developed as an occupation over the past few decades and is a very thorough source that includes the history of hospitals and children healthcare institutions.
An 1895 Look At Nursing is taken from a book titled “Ambulance Work and Nursing” in 1895. The content explains in depth what it was like to be a nurse at that time from the material they were teaching to prospective nurses at the time. It gives great context to how nurses were being trained at the time, which varies slightly from historical recounting.
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