Overview of the Nursing History

Overview of Nursing History. In order to consider how we and our colleagues are making nursing history today, we must first examine our past. Nursing has a rich heritage of service to others across many centuries. Together, we’ll explore many aspects of nursing history, beginning this week with the earliest records of nursing care. We’ll also consider the key components and trends that impact nursing history.

Let’s begin our journey.

Key Components Impacting Nursing History

According to Judd and Sitzman (2014), “. . . past events (even some that occurred hundreds of years ago) still exert a profound influence on current nursing practice, particularly in relation to seven basic trends: image, education, advancement in practice, war, workforce issues, licensure/regulation, and research” (p. 2). As we proceed in this course, we will see how these components have impacted nursing through the years and how they continue to do so. Consider each of these components and trends each week as you read the Lesson and assigned readings and as you complete the discussions and assignments.

Early Nursing

Humans living in communities have cared for each other for many centuries. Nutting and Dock (as cited in Hood, 2014) reported that care for the sick in community locations has been reported as early as 3000 BCE. In the pre-Christian era, the sick were cared for by men considered pure in spirit, clean, kind, skillful, and clever. Since medications and treatments were not highly developed, nursing interventions were of a more holistic nature.

Reflection

Why were men nurses in ancient civilizations?

Some early civilizations used public health measures such as water and sewage systems, food inspection and prohibitions, and even quarantines (Hood, 2014). Nutting and Dock (as cited in Hood, 2014) reported that many ancient European cultures held women in high regard, especially those who were wise and skilled in treating wounds and attending childbirth. In several civilizations and cultures, women in a community cared for ill family members or neighbors.

Nursing in ancient times was closely tied to beliefs, faith, and special powers. Prior to the Crusades of the 11th century, care was provided by monks to pilgrims who fell ill during trips to the Holy Land (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1995). We will learn more about the influence of religion and faith traditions on nursing in Week 2.

Deaconess Movement: The Foundation for Chamberlain College of Nursing

Early Christian Deaconesses

Nutting and Dock (as cited in Hood, 2014) traced the deaconess movement to ancient Roman times. Early Christians (especially wealthy women) considered it their duty to care for the sick. Phoebe was considered the founder of visiting nursing in 60 CE. Deaconesses of that time sometimes opened their homes to the sick by forming home hospitals.

The term deaconess is derived from the Greek word diakonos, which means “one who is devoted to loving service,” and it is interpreted to mean a messenger, servant, or helper. Rasche (1994) noted that the roots of the Deaconess Sisters date back to the origins of the Christian Church. The Apostle Paul first used the term deaconess to describe Phoebe, a Greek female leader of the early Christian community. If you read his letters, you will find that at the beginning of the Christian movement, women played an essential role as missionaries. Early religious records demonstrate that women functioned not only as preachers, teachers, and leaders in communities, but also as nurses caring for the sick, the poor, and the victimized. As deaconess services became essential to the church, deaconesses acquired an esteemed position and were considered clergy.

After the initial high reputation of deaconesses in early Christendom, their influence declined during the Middle Ages when the role of women in society in general, and in the Church in particular, was significantly diminished. The function of the deaconesses was taken over, to some extent, by Roman Catholic nuns, who sometimes provided care for the sick in their convents. In the 16th century, after the Reformation, many of these places were shut down, especially in Northern Europe.

Deaconess Home and Hospital and the Work of the Fliedners

Theodor Fliedner was responsible for the modern reemergence of deaconess work. On his travels throughout Europe, he had become distressed by the misery of the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the outcasts. The accomplishments of Mennonites, who provided care for the sick in Holland, and especially the accomplishments of Elizabeth Fry, who cared for released prisoners in England, inspired him to serve. With the help of his wife, Frederike, he established the Deaconess Home and Hospital in Kaiserwerth, Germany, in 1836. This was the first deaconess institution of its kind in Europe. Deaconess work became a prime example of inspiration for the deaconess movement throughout the world (Rasche, 1994).

Florence Nightingale visited the Fliedners’ hospital twice and was so impressed that she decided to study there for 3 months in 1851. Her experience with the Deaconess Sisters became the turning point in her life, and the love and devotion that they exhibited inspired her future mission.

Fast Facts!

  • The earliest reference to a deaconess is found in the Bible in the Apostle Paul’s letters.
  • Theodor Fliedner is responsible for the modern-day revival of the deaconess work in Europe.
  • Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern professional nursing, was greatly influenced by the Deaconess work in Kaiserwerth, Germany.

The Fliedners’ project was revolutionary for its time. The Deaconess Home enabled young women to attain a more liberated social status and helped support the reform of nursing practice.

Imagine that you are a candidate for enrollment in the Deaconess Home in Kaiserwerth. Before you make a definite decision, think about what life in the Motherhouse, the home of all deaconesses, might look like. What are your expectations?

The following are some of the distinctive features of the Deaconess Motherhouse (Rasche, 2015).

 

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Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse

In addition to providing nursing care, Deaconess Sisters also spent their time teaching, performing parish work, and serving as missionaries. Above all, however, nursing always took priority in their work.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse

Only single women could become Deaconesses. The 16-hour workdays required a commitment from a Deaconess that was simply incompatible with care for her own family.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse

The Deaconess Motherhouse offered living and working opportunities outside of the family in a company of women of a similar mindset and devotion. This revolutionary situation enabled women to lead emancipated lives, about which other women could only dream. Deaconesses were relieved of the obligations and burdens associated with childbearing and child-rearing, which otherwise constituted an essential role of every married woman of that time.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse

Families in the late 19th century neither wished their daughters to be independent nor expected them to become educated. They wanted them to find suitable husbands. In general, only daughters of wealthy families could receive any education at all, and that was usually limited to an elementary level. However, Deaconesses were provided with a good education.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse

The Fliedners, fully aware of the strong ties existing within 19th century families, insisted on parental consent as part of the admission requirements for Deaconess work.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse in regards to Overview of the Nursing History 

Deaconesses had no “married to the church” obligation as nuns have. They were free to leave their work and go back to their families if they wished to do so. This choice probably helped Fliedner in his recruitment of young women, because it was easier to obtain parental consent if parents retained hope that their daughter would change her mind and soon return to them.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse in regards to Overview of the Nursing History 

Celibacy was a necessary requirement for Deaconesses. The Sisters, however, could leave the organization and marry, as many of them eventually did.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse

Deaconesses received no real wage, only a small stipend for personal needs. They would be unable to save money to support themselves when they reached old age or became ill. The Fliedners, however, practiced what could be called an early type of social security by providing complete lifetime care for Deaconesses.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse in regards to Overview of the Nursing History 

Besides providing care for the in-need segments of the population, the Deaconess Home and Hospital functioned as a training school and a local congregation for Deaconesses. Deaconess Sisters constituted a community of believers and said prayers together at the beginning of each workday.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse in regards to Overview of the Nursing History 

In addition to providing nursing care, Deaconess Sisters also spent their time teaching, performing parish work, and serving as missionaries. Above all, however, nursing always took priority in their work.

Distinctive Features of the Deaconess Motherhouse in regards to Overview of the Nursing History 

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  • Only single women could become deaconesses. The 16-hour workdays required a commitment from a deaconess that was simply incompatible with care for her own family.
  • The Deaconess Motherhouse offered living and working opportunities outside of the family in a company of women of a similar mindset and devotion. This revolutionary situation enabled women to lead emancipated lives, of which other women could only dream. Deaconesses were relieved of the obligations and burdens associated with childbearing and child rearing, which otherwise constituted an essential role of every married woman of that time.
  • Families in the late 19th century neither wished their daughters to be independent nor expected them to become educated. They wanted them to find suitable husbands. In general, only daughters of wealthy families could receive any education at all, and that was usually limited to an elementary level. However, deaconesses were provided with a good education.
  • The Fliedners, fully aware of the strong ties existing within 19th century families, insisted on parental consent as part of the admission requirements for deaconess work.
  • Deaconesses had no “married to the church” obligation as nuns have. They were free to leave their work and go back to their families if they wished to do so. This choice probably helped Fliedner in his recruitment of young women because it was easier to obtain parental consent if parents retained hope that their daughter would change her mind and soon return to them.
  • Celibacy was a necessary requirement for deaconesses. The Sisters, however, could leave the organization and marry, as many of them eventually did.
  • Deaconesses received no real wage, only a small stipend for personal needs. They would be unable to save money to support themselves when they reached old age or became ill. The Fliedners, however, practiced what could be called an early type of Social Security by providing complete lifetime care for deaconesses.
  • Besides providing care for the in-need segments of the population, the Deaconess Home and Hospital functioned as a training school and a local congregation for deaconesses. Deaconess Sisters constituted a community of believers and said prayers together at the beginning of each workday.
  • In addition to providing nursing care, Deaconess Sisters also spent their time teaching, performing parish work, and serving as missionaries. Above all, however, nursing always took priority in their work.

The Fliedners’ innovative approach to the practice of nursing was their most important contribution to the deaconess movement. The model encompassed spiritual, intellectual, and technical aspects of learning. Such a revolutionary method altered the classical image of nursing. Nurses in the 19th century were not viewed as respected professionals, and hospitals were seen as places to die, not to regain health. Thus, the Motherhouse soon became a superior care provider in comparison to traditional health facilities. In all features of their work—spiritual, intellectual, and technical—deaconesses offered reliable, thorough, and loving care.

Fast Facts in regards to Overview of the Nursing History 

The Fliedner model was a pioneer in structured nursing practice.

Evangelical Deaconess Society in St. Louis

The beginning of the deaconess work in the United Church of Christ was associated with the foundation of the Evangelical Deaconess Society in St. Louis in 1889. The Deaconess Society created its board of directors, which included four women with full voting privileges. This inclusion of women in policy-making procedure was a dramatic revolutionary step for women’s rights (Rasche, 1994).

Fast Facts in regards to Overview of the Nursing History 

In the late 19th century in the United States, women could not vote in political elections.

 

The Intertwined History of the Deaconess Society and Chamberlain College of Nursing

Overcoming early hardships, the Deaconess Society began to grow. Expansion brought unexpected difficulties with it, but these problems were soon solved, and the Society began to flourish. The development of Deaconess Societies reflected the demands of social progress. Because of the improvements in medicine and technology that transformed nursing practice into an increasingly specialized service, deaconesses became highly skilled professionals with advanced academic degrees.

Deaconess Hospital opened in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1889 (see photo). In 1890, the School for Deaconesses began there, also. The photo of four women shows the first two Evangelical Deaconess Sisters and the first two probationers at the St. Louis school. This school trained the deaconesses to become nurses. Many worked at Deaconess Hospital (Rasche, 1994; Rasche, 2015).

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First Two Evangelical Deaconess Sisters and Probationers

 

First Deaconess School

 

First Two Evangelical Deaconess Sisters and Probationers

 

First Deaconess School

 

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In 1913, the State Board examination was given for the first time in Missouri. Sister Sophie Hubeli became the first deaconess to pass the state board examination and receive the title “Licensed Registered Deaconess Nurse.” In 1921, with the advancement of women’s rights, which included suffrage, deaconesses for the first time were officially recognized as having denominational standing. In 1943, The Deaconess School of Nursing for lay students was opened to function alongside the school for deaconesses. In the 1970s, men joined the student body of Deaconess School of Nursing. The Deaconess College of Nursing started offering a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 1983 (Rasche, 1994; Rasche, 2015).

Deaconess Society in the Latter Half of the 20th Century

Recruitment into the Deaconess Society was terminated in the 1950s because women gradually acquired access to numerous opportunities in Christian service. In 1952, the Deaconess Society became the Deaconess United Church of Christ. Although young women today are interested in nursing practice, most no longer want to commit themselves to the devoted life of deaconesses. Moreover, the United Church of Christ has begun to admit women as candidates for ordination as missionaries and pastors. Consequently, the need for the parish deaconess sister has been eliminated. Sister Marie Lee, the last surviving deaconess, died in 2010 (Rasche, 1994; Rasche, 2015).

Recent Developments and Care

Deaconess College of Nursing graduated highly proficient nurses for over 100 years. It has had a remarkable ability to expand and adapt to the changing needs of the nursing profession. The College offered its first online CE and BSN courses in 2000. In 2005, DeVry Education Group (now known as Adtalem Global Education), a highly respected North American educational system, purchased Deaconess College of Nursing and renamed it Chamberlain College of Nursing. The name, derived from the Middle English word chaumberlein, meaning a “chief steward,” was selected to exemplify the nurse as the chief steward of patient care and to underscore the solid historical foundation of Deaconess School of Nursing and Deaconess College of Nursing (Chamberlain University, n.d.).

Chamberlain College of Nursing has increased access to nursing education by expanding from a regional to a national nursing program. Now there are tens of thousands of students and alumni collectively building the future of nursing.

If you have not already done so, take this time to read the brief history of Chamberlain on the college website: Our History and Heritage: http://www.chamberlain.edu/about/history (Links to an external site.)

At Chamberlain, “care is what distinguishes us—Chamberlain Care” (Chamberlain University, n.d.). The philosophy and actions of Chamberlain Care flow directly from our roots in nursing history and our deaconess heritage into the future by empowering and educating extraordinary nurses who will continue to impact nursing history.

Summary of Overview of the Nursing History

This week’s Lesson has covered some of the features of nursing during the early years and Deaconess and Chamberlain nursing history. This is just the beginning of our journey into nursing history. We’ll study many more aspects of nursing history in the coming weeks.

History of Nursing

 

  1. Have nurses always been women?

 

View Answer

Deaconess and Chamberlain History

 

  1. What were some characteristics of persons who entered Deaconess facilities?
Overview of the Nursing History

Overview of the Nursing History

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