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Nursing Education History: Then and Now Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 29th, 2021

Short Overview of History of Nursing Education

Nurse education expands to empirical and theoretical frameworks introduced to future nurses and prepares them for completing tasks in a nursing care unit. The education is also introduced to nursing students by professional nurses and other medical experts who have been taught to accomplish various educational tasks. Previously, prior to the development of the theoretical foundations proposed by Florence Nightingale, nursing was considered purely from a medical viewpoint, which involved medical intervention and treatment.

Further investigations and development of nursing education have been largely influenced by other disciplines, including ethics, morale, and philosophy, which teacher future nurse to perceive persons not only as patients with certain disorders, but as holistic beings whose concerns also depend on their social, cultural, and political backgrounds. Contemporary arrangements also focus on developing the balance between practical implications and theoretical foundation to shape a new patient-centered vision on nursing and health care.

Purpose Statement

The main purpose of this paper is to trace the shifts in nursing education, starting from the development of Nightingale’s model and focusing on the present underpinnings and alterations in nurses’ training.

Florence Nightingale Concepts and Frameworks

With the advent of Nightingale’s concepts in nursing, a rigid distinction between clinical leadership and nursing leadership has emerged. At this point, Stanley and Sherratt (2010) refer to the concepts introduced by the nurse theorist and state, “Nursing leadership is based on a relationship with management and with nurses who…may operate in a broader context at an operational or systems-level” (p. 116). Therefore, Nightingale was a pioneer in combining philosophical and medical concepts and developing a new ethical framework for the nurse to collaborate while dealing with patients.

Nightingales’ legacy has been recognized as the foundation of modern nursing. Florence Nightingale, a holistic leader who has integrated new philosophy into treating patients, focused specifically on “the individual and the collective, the inner and outer, and human and nonhuman concerns” (Dossey, 2010, p. 14). The theorists expanded on the main concerns of humans and all dimensions of the environment.

For developing her model, Nightingale has established a training program for nursing schools in England, which further spread worldwide. During the Crimean War, a prototype model has been created for wounded soldiers, leading to an innovative medical reform conducted by the British Army. At the threshold of the twentieth century, over a thousand Nurse training schools have been established in the United States and many other countries.

Historical Development of Nursing Science

The premises of Nightingale’s theory consist in forwarding social actions that demonstrate and communicate the art and science of a global view on nursing. Social actions involved sacred activism, “…the fusion of the deepest spiritual knowledge with radical action in the world” (Dossey, 2010, p. 15). Therefore, Nightingale’s faithfulness and commitment to health and nursing had a potent impact on healing theories and humanity’s welfare at an international level. Its mission and philosophy are heavily applied in contemporary health care. This is of particular concern to the current healthcare system that provides education on prevention, wellness, and health working and domestic environment.

In 1981, the American Holistic Nurses Association was founded, in which Charlotte McGuire, the founder of the organization, along with 78 nurses, is working on the main underpinnings of holistic nursing and on “proactive mission for a national organization to unite nurse in healing and…explore the components of optimal healing environments” (Dossey, 2010, p. 15). At the end of the twentieth century, the nurses managed to predict the development of new holistic principles and integrative perspectives of healing modalities.

Influence of Other Disciplines on Nursing Science

The current situation in nursing education is strongly associated with the learning and development of integrative and collaborative approaches that nurses should employ while acting in various environments. Appealing to social and ethical dimensions is also essential while dealing with each patient separately. According to Deguzman and Kulbok (2012), the existing model “…describes how physical and social environment interact to influence individual and population health and health disparities at multiple: macro, community, and interpersonal” (p. 342). Culture and tradition should be respected to ensure that patient’s welfare has not been aggravated.

Further development and advancement of Nightingale’s concept have led to the evaluation of public health nursing in terms of nurses’ responsibility. Specifically, the theorist focuses on providing solutions to such global problems as the need for clean water. As a result, the evolution of the model has led to the integration of technological advances for meeting the established needs and purposes (Shaner-McRae et al., 2007). The emphasis placed on environmental design promotes patient’s healing and protection.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that Nightingale’s theories have had a potent impact on nursing education and training. Specifically, it has contributed to developing learning techniques that focus on the broader context in which individuals operate. Possessing an awareness of patient’s cultural and social backgrounds can provide a shift in treating them. The theory also attains much importance to cultural diversity issues and refers to national and ethnic issues relating to health care and treatment.


Deguzman, P. B., & Kulbok, P. A. (2012). Changing Health Outcomes of Vulnerable Populations Through Nursing’s Influence on Neighborhood Built Environment: A Framework for Nursing Research. Journal Of Nursing Scholarship, 44(4), 341-348.

Dossey, B. M. (2010). Holistic Nursing: From Florence Nightingale’s Historical Legacy to 21st-Century Global Nursing. Alternative Therapies In Health & Medicine, 16(5), 14-16.

Shaner-McRae, H., McRae, G., & Jas, V. (2007). Environmentally Safe Health Care Agencies: Nursing’s Responsibility, Nightingale’s Legacy. Online Journal of Issues In Nursing, 12(2), 1.

Stanley, D., & Sherratt, A. (2010). Lamp light on leadership: clinical leadership and Florence Nightingale. Journal Of Nursing Management, 18(2), 115-121.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Nursing Education History: Then and Now." April 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nursing-education-history-then-and-now/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Nursing Education History: Then and Now'. 29 April.

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