This essay will focus on the history of the past being important in nursing at the present. My summary of nursing history will touch on some important events in the past that had a great impact on nursing throughout time helping to shape the profession as we know it today. The effect of Florence Nightingale and her influence on nursing will be briefly explored. The role and history of male nurses will also be included throughout a summarised timeline of events; it will briefly explore male nursing in the past.

Florence Nightingale who lived over a century ago still has an affect on nursing today (Miracle 2008).  Florence Nightingale became a nurse at a young age having been sick for much of her young life possibly influencing her decision. Nightingale’s belief in the principle of relieving suffering was total, whether treating the poor women in London slums, soldiers in the Crimea, or the people of India (Malpas 2006). One of Florence Nightingale’s most acclaimed and recognised gifts to nursing, and one with which most of us are familiar, was to identify nursing in the public mind with professionalism, sanctified duty, and patient advocacy by promoting high standards of cleanliness, safety and caring (Gladfelter 2007).

The history of nursing is almost exclusively a history of women’s accomplishments despite the fact that, as early as the fourth and fifth centuries, men have worked as nurses (Evans 2004), Fulfilling the caring role in areas such as asylums, workhouse infirmaries, military services and private associations. The failure to recognise this contribution leaves male nurses today with little information about their professional background and historical position (Mackintosh 1997).

The early history of nursing clearly accepts that a place and role for men as nurses existed from earliest times. It is a tradition which is detailed in records of the monastic movement, with the foundation of the St Antonines in 1095 to care for sufferers of erysipelas (St Anthony’s Fire) and the mentally ill, the Knight Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem founded in 1200 and the Knights of Lazarus founded in 1490 to care for lepers (Mackintosh 1997).

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With the dissolution of monasteries in the 16th century, any form of organised nursing activity disappears from available records. Only with the development of the larger scale charitable or voluntary hospitals in the 18th century, such as Manchester Royal Infirmary, England, in 1752, did nursing begin to acquire some form of organisation, and a more distinct role from that of servants (Mackintosh 1997).

The Crimean War was fought from 1854 to 1856. The British, French, and Turkish allies fought Russia on a small peninsular of the Black Sea. It was during this war that Florence Nightingale made her mark on ...

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