National Nurses Week serves as the perfect opportunity to look back on some of the individuals who have brought the nursing profession to where it stands today. Throughout history, there have been many nurses who have fought to make the nursing profession accessible to women, people of color, and the lower class. Many of these women also pioneered advances in patient care and worked to make healthcare more available to underserved populations. In accordance with this year’s theme, “Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care,” we created a video and infographic to recognize a few nursing heroes who have changed patient care.
Though they lived in different eras and pursued different passions, each of these women has made a vital impact on healthcare. Let’s take a closer look at some of the nurses who made it onto our list.
Dorothea Dix: 1802 – 1877
“I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow.”
A renowned military nurse, Dorothea is best known for creating the first mental health system in the United States. During the Civil War, she braved the battlefield as Superintendent of Union Army Nurses. After the war, she lobbied state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to create the first American mental asylum. After establishing the Dorothea Dix Hospital for the mentally ill in Raleigh, North Carolina, Dorothea was inducted into the ANA Hall of Fame.
Florence Nightingale: 1820–1910
“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”
Known as the founder of modern nursing, English nurse Florence was an advocate for female participation in healthcare and treated patients regardless of class. During the Crimean War, Florence was known for making her rounds at night with a lamp in hand. Gifted with mathematics, Florence pioneered innovations in public health service and statistical graphics. One such innovation was the Nightingale rose diagram, a pie chart use to identify seasonal causes of mortality among military patients. In 1860, Florence founded the world’s first secular nursing school, St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. She was also a well-known author, and her book Notes on Nursing was used as a reference by the general public. Nurses Week ends each year on May 12th, Florence’s birthday.
Clara Barton: 1821–1912
“The surest test of discipline is its absence.”
Known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” Clara created the standard for military care, treating the injured in the face of extreme danger. Clara is best known for founding the American Red Cross, which she organized to help victims of war and disasters. She was an avid supporter of women’s suffrage, and was a well-known public speaker nationwide. Clara even traveled to Turkey, where she directed relief operations on behalf of victims of civil unrest in Turkey and Armenia. She was the only woman and sole Red Cross advocate the Turkish government allowed to enter the country.
Mary Eliza Mahoney: 1845–1926
As the first African American female nurse in the United States, Mary’s legacy created countless opportunities for women of color in healthcare. Mary worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children for fifteen years before being accepted into the hospital’s nursing school. She was an original member of the mostly-white Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada, which eventually became the American Nurses Association. In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. Mary was an avid supporter of women’s suffrage and was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote.
Hazel Johnson-Brown: 1927–2011
“If you stand still and settle for the status quo, that’s exactly what you will have.”
To say that Hazel was a fighter would be an understatement. She was the first African American female general in the U.S. Army and the first African American Chief of the Army Nursing Corps. After joining the army in 1955, Hazel served as a staff nurse for the U.S. Army in Japan, and she later trained nurses on their way to Vietnam. She also lived in Seoul, South Korea, while serving as chief nurse at the Army hospital there. When she returned to the states, she served as Director of Government Affairs for the American Nurses Association.
If you’d like to learn more about National Nurses Week, you can view a historical timeline of the celebration or check out the variety of educational materials available on the American Nurses Association website. Stay tuned to our social media channels until the end of the week, when we’ll release the infographic in its entirety.