Choosing a nursing career or job

Learning the history of nursing and caring for the sick

Nurses are specially trained people who take care of the sick and the helpless. Their profession is called nursing. Nursing gives valuable assistance to the other professions concerned with maintaining health and treating disease. These professions include medicine, surgery, and dentistry.

Training of Nurses

Accredited nursing schools in the United States total over 1,300. About 20 percent are affiliated with colleges or universities. The others are conducted by hospitals and their staffs.

All nursing schools require that an applicant be a high-school graduate. The high-school course must have included instruction in such sciences as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Most nursing schools also require the candidate to pass a special pretraining aptitude examination.

Three programs of education and training are open to students. The degree programs is offered by nursing schools affiliated with colleges or universities. It leads to a bachelor of science degree in nursing. Almost all degree programs are four-year courses. A few require five years. About 260 universities grant postgraduate degrees in nursing. The first doctor of science in the field was offered by Boston University in May 1960.

The diploma program is a three-year course. It is taken in a hospital-conducted school. Credits earned may be applied toward a bachelor's degree. The two-year associate-degree program is given by a junior college or a community college. Credits earned may also apply toward a bachelor's degree.

Registered and Practical Nurses

Each state has its own laws regulating the practice of nursing. Each requires a prospective registered nurse to pass a qualifying examination given by its board of examiners before she can practice.

 In all states graduates of degree or diploma programs are eligible to take the state board examinations. Some states also permit associate-degree-holders to take these qualifying tests. Upon passing them, the candidate becomes a registered nurse, or R.N.

Practical nurses are licensed by a number of states. These nurses have some training and experience, but their professional activities are not as extensive as those of registered nurses. The practical nurse's typical duties include bathing the patient, bringing his food, feeding him if necessary, and otherwise attending to his general comfort. When allowed by state law, practical nurses may also administer medication under proper supervision.

Careers in Nursing

A wide variety of careers is open to registered nurses. More than half the employed nurses in the United States are hospital nurses. Many of these serve as general-duty nurses, who care for all the patients in the section of the hospital to which they are assigned. Hospital nurses may also perform on one of several special branches. Surgical nurses work only in the operatin room. Psychiatric nurses specialize in caring forpeople with mental illnesses. Pediatric nurses handle sick children.

Office nurses work in the offices of physicians, surgeons, or dentists. Industrial nurses are hired by manufcturing organizations to look after employee health. Some nurses are instructors in nursing schools. Others work in rehabilation centers, where they help teach disabled persons how to overcome their handicaps and live useful lives.

Many nurses work for local, state, or federal health departments. They may serve with the Veterans Administration. They may also serve with the World Health Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. Registered Nurses become commissioned officers when they enlist in the United States Army, Navy, or Air Force.

A private-duty nurse is engaged to attend one patient. She may care for him in a hospital or in the home. These nurses are not members of a hospital staff. They are privately employed.

History of Nursing

Caring for the sick and helpless is older than medical science itself. During the Middle Ages certain religious groups were especially devoted to tending the sick. Their members were taught simple nursing methods learned through generations of practical experience. The Sisters of Mercy is among the many religious orders devoted to hospital work today.

It was the pioneer efforts of Florence Nightingale in the mid 1800's that brought about the recognition of nursing as a technical profession. Systematic training for nurses began in the last hald of the 19th century. In 1872 the first clas of scientifically trained nurses was graduated in the United States.