Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death.
Nurses work in a large variety of specialties where they work independently and as part of a team to assess, plan, implement and evaluate care. Nursing Science is a field of knowledge based on the contributions of nursing scientist through peer reviewed scholarly journals and evidenced-based practice.
History of nursing
In fifth century BC, Hippocrates was one of the first people in the world to study healthcare, earning him the title of "the father of modern medicine". Jesus Christ also taught that sick people should be cared for; in around 370 AD, one of the first Christian hospitals in the world was built in Cappadocia. Western European concepts of nursing were first practiced by male Catholic monks who provided for the sick and ill during the Dark Ages of Europe.
During 17th century Europe, nursing care was provided by men and women serving punishment. It was often associated with prostitutes and other female criminals serving time. They had a reputation for being drunk and obnoxious, a view amplified by the doctors of the time to make themselves seem more important and able. It was not until Florence Nightingale, a well-educated woman from a wealthy class family, became a nurse and improved it drastically that people began to accept nursing as a respectable profession. Other aspects also helped in the acceptance of nursing. In 1853 Theodore Fliedner set up a hospital where the nurses he employed had to be of good nature. Many people were impressed with this facility, and because of it, the British Institute of Nursing Sisters was set up.
Prior to the foundation of modern nursing, nuns and the military often provided nursing-like services. The religious and military roots of modern nursing remain in evidence today in many countries, for example in the United Kingdom, senior female nurses are known as sisters. It was during time of war that a significant development in nursing history arose when English nurse Florence Nightingale, working to improve conditions of soldiers in the Crimean War, laid the foundation stone of professional nursing with the principles summarised in the book Notes on Nursing. Other important nurses in the development of the profession include: Mary Seacole, who also worked as a nurse in the Crimea; Agnes Elizabeth Jones and Linda Richards, who established quality nursing schools in the USA and Japan, and Linda Richards who was officially America's first professionally trained nurse, graduating in 1873 from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston.
New Zealand was the first country to regulate nurses nationally, with adoption of the Nurses Registration Act on the 12 September 1901. It was here in New Zealand that Ellen Dougherty became the first registered nurse. North Carolina was the first state in the United States to pass a nursing licensure law in 1903.
Nurses in the United States Army actually started during the Revolutionary War when a general suggested to George Washington that the he needed female nurses "to attend the sick and obey the matron's orders. In July 1775, a plan was submitted to the Second Continental Congress that provided one nurse for every ten patients and provided that a matron be allotted to every hundred sick or wounded".
Nurses have experienced difficulty with the hierarchy in medicine that has resulted in an impression that nurses' primary purpose is to follow the direction of physicians. This tendency is certainly not observed in Nightingale's Notes on Nursing, where the physicians are mentioned relatively infrequently, and often in critical tones—particularly relating to bedside manner.
The modern era has seen the development of nursing degrees and nursing has numerous journals to broaden the knowledge base of the profession. Nurses are often in key management roles within health services and hold research posts at universities.
Nursing as a profession
The authority for the practice of nursing is based upon a social contract that delineates professional rights and responsibilities as well as mechanisms for public accountability. In almost all countries, nursing practice is defined and governed by law, and entrance to the profession is regulated at national or state level.
The aim of the nursing community worldwide is for its professionals to ensure quality care for all, while maintaining their credentials, code of ethics, standards, and competencies, and continuing their education. There are a number of educational paths to becoming a professional nurse, which vary greatly worldwide, but all involve extensive study of nursing theory and practice and training in clinical skills.
Nurses care for individuals of all ages and cultural backgrounds who are healthy and ill in a holistic manner based on the individual's physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs. The profession combines physical science, social science, nursing theory, and technology in caring for those individuals.
In order to work in the nursing profession, all nurses hold one or more credentials depending on their scope of practice and education. A Licensed practical nurse (LPN) (also referred to as a Licensed vocational nurse, Registered practical nurse, Enrolled nurse, and State enrolled nurse) works independently or with a Registered nurse. The most significant differentiation between an LPN and RN is found in the requirements for entry to practice, which determines entitlement for their scope of practice, for example in Canada an RN requires a bachelors degree and a LPN requires a 2 year diploma. A Registered nurse (RN) provides scientific, psychological, and technological knowledge in the care of patients and families in many health care settings. Registered nurses may also earn additional credentials or degrees enabling them to work under different titles (Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Registered Nurse First Assistant, etc.).
Nursing practice is the actual provision of nursing care. In providing care, nurses implement the nursing care plan using the nursing process. This is based around a specific nursing theory which is selected based on the care setting and population served. In providing nursing care, the nurse uses both nursing theory and best practice derived from nursing research.
Although nursing practice varies both through its various specialities and countries, these nursing organizations offer the following definitions:
Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings. Nursing i includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people. Advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, participation in shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education are also key nursing roles.
— International Council of Nurses
The use of clinical judgement in the provision of care to enable people to improve, maintain, or recover health, to cope with health problems, and to achieve the best possible quality of life, whatever their disease or disability, until death."
—Royal College of Nursing UK
Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities; prevention of illness and injury; alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human responses; and advocacy in health care for individuals, families, communities, and populations.
—American Nurses Association
The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge.
—Virginia Avenel Henderson
Nurses may follow their personal and professional interests by working with any group of people, in any setting, at any time. Some nurses follow the traditional role of working in a hospital setting.
Nursing theory and process
In general terms, the nursing process is the method used to assess and diagnose needs, plan outcomes and interventions, implement interventions, and evaluate the outcomes of the care provided. Like other disciplines, the profession has developed different theories derived from sometimes diverse philosophical beliefs and paradigms or worldviews to help nurses direct their activities to accomplish specific goals. Currently, two paradigms exist in nursing, the totality paradigm and the simultaneity paradigm.
Nurses practice in a wide range of settings, from hospitals to visiting people in their homes and caring for them in schools to research in pharmaceutical companies. Nurses work in occupational health settings (also called industrial health settings), free-standing clinics and physician offices, nurse-led clinics, long-term care facilities and camps. They also work on cruise ships and in military service. Nurses act as advisers and consultants to the health care and insurance industries. Many nurses also work in the health advocacy and patient advocacy fields at companies such as Health Advocate, Inc. helping in a variety of clinical and administrative issues. Some are attorneys and others work with attorneys as legal nurse consultants, reviewing patient records to assure that adequate care was provided and testifying in court. Nurses can work on a temporary basis, which involves doing shifts without a contact in a variety of settings, sometimes known as per diem nursing, agency nursing or travel nursing. Nurses work as researchers in laboratories, universities, and research institutions.
Internationally, there is a serious shortage of nurses. One reason for this shortage is due to the work environment in which nurses practice. In a recent review of the empirical human factors and ergonomic literature specific to nursing performance, nurses were found to work in generally poor environmental conditions. DeLucia, Ott, & Palmieri (2009) concluded, "the profession of nursing as a whole is overloaded because there is a nursing shortage. Individual nurses are overloaded. They are overloaded by the number of patients they oversee. They are overloaded by the number of tasks they perform. They work under cognitive overload, engaging in multitasking and encountering frequent interruptions. They work under perceptual overload due to medical devices that do not meet perceptual requirements (Morrow et al., 2005), insufficient lighting, illegible handwriting, and poor labeling designs. They work under physical overload due to long work hours and patient handling demands which leads to a high incidence of MSDs. In short, the nursing work system often exceeds the limits and capabilities of human performance. HF/E research should be conducted to determine how these overloads can be reduced and how the limits and capabilities of performance can be accommodated. Ironically, the literature shows that there are studies to determine whether nurses can effectively perform tasks ordinarily performed by physicians. Results indicate that nurses can perform such tasks effectively. Nevertheless, already overloaded nurses should not be given more tasks to perform. When reducing the overload, it should be kept in mind that underloads also can be detrimental to performance (Mackworth, 1948). Both overloads and underloads are important to consider for improving performance." Each county/ state in which a nurse is licenced has laws concerning how many patients one nurse can tend to(depending on the accuity of the patients needs).
Nursing is the most diverse of all healthcare professions. Nurses practice in a wide range of settings but generally nursing is divided depending on the needs of the person being nursed.
The major divisions are:-
* the nursing of people with mental health problems - Psychiatric and mental health nursing
* the nursing of people with learning or developmental disabilities - Learning disability nursing (UK)
* the nursing of children - Pediatric nursing.
* the nursing of older adults - Geriatric nursing
* the nursing of people in acute care and long term care institutional settings.
* the nursing of people in their own homes - Home health nursing (US), District nursing and Health visiting (UK). See also Live-in nurse
There are also specialist areas such as cardiac nursing, orthopedic nursing, palliative care, perioperative nursing, obstetrical nursing, and oncology nursing.