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Dark Age of Nursing Essay

During the late middle Ages (1000-1500) -the crowding and poor sanitation in the monasteries nurses went into the community. During this era hospitals were built and the number of medical schools increases. Between 1500 and 1860 (A.D.) -the Renaissance all affected nursing. As nursing was not valued as an intellectual endeavor it lost much of its economic support and social status. The nursing conditions were at their worst and have been called the dark period of nursing. New hospitals had been built but quickly became places of horror as unsanitary conditions caused them to be a source of epidemics and disease.

In 1545 -the council of Trent decreed that every community of women should live in strict enclosure. It took over 200 years of resistance for women to overcome this decree. The nursing sisters of France made little or no resistance such that their professional standards deteriorated. In the late 1500’s – several groups began nursing and tending the sick, poor, and dying. These groups were St. Francis de Sales, the Order of the Visitation of Mary, St. Vincent DePaul, the Sisters of Charity, Dames de Charite’, Louise le Gras, Brothers Hospitallers of St. John, Albuquerque, Order of St. Augustine, St. Camillas De Lellis, Jeanne Biscot, and the Nursing Sisters of St. Joseph de La Fleche. Many of these people came from rich and influential families. The dark ages of nursing lasted for three centuries until the mid 2800’s when Florence Nightingale brought about a change.

Nursing during the Medieval Ages

Either done by charitable religious orders or by the poor who worked for the rich. Nuns or sisters in a cloistered order made up the nursing staff in hospitals. Late Middle Ages Repression of women and cloistered orders by the Protestant church for all who followed the churches standards closely affected adversely the standards of nursing that had existed. Protestant Reformation

The closing of monasteries during the Reformation by Luther and his views about the place of a woman caused many hospitals to shut to the sick and poor and further disrupted nursing care and quality. As women tended to hold the positions of nursing how women were treated and viewed strongly affected how nursing was viewed. During the 16th century Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation Religious orders were suppressed causing hospitals to become places of horror and a period of stagnation in nursing and health care followed. Because monasteries and hospitals were shut to the poor the sick were no longer separated from the healthy such that disease and epidemics spread.

The Wars

Florence Nightingale the “Lady with the Lamp” made history with her nursing work in the Crimean War and helped shake up the field of medicine. She is most remembered as a pioneer of nursing and a reformer of hospital sanitation methods. Nightingale pushed for reform of the British military health-care system and with that the profession of nursing started to gain the respect it deserved. Florence Nightingale’s two greatest life achievements–pioneering of nursing and the reform of hospitals–were amazing considering that most Victorian women of her age group did not attend universities or pursue professional careers. In 1854, after a year as a unpaid superintendent of a London “establishment for gentlewomen during illness,” the Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert, recruited Nightingale and 38 nurses for service in Scutari during the Crimean War. Nightingale was able to use the data as a tool for improving city and military hospitals. When Nightingale’s sanitary reform was implemented, the mortality rate declined.

The establishment of the Army and Navy Nurse Corps opened the door for women in the military but ever so slightly. Army and Navy Nurse Corps women served valiantly throughout the war, many received decorations for their service. At least three Army nurses were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nations’ second highest military honor. Nurses were wounded, and several died overseas and are buried in military cemeteries far from home.

Helen Fairchild-the Army nurse (from 1917) Fairchild was one of 64 nurses from Pennsylvania Hospital who had volunteered to join the American Expeditionary Force after the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917. Nurse Fairchild died on Jan. 8, 1918, while on duty with British Base Hospital Alexandra of Denmark – Queen

Queen Alexandra, the queen consort of Edward VII of Great Britain was known for founding Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) Margaret Sanger was birth control pioneer and founder of Planned Parenthood Civil War Nursing Women played a major role in nursing and sanitation efforts during the Civil War, paving the way for their entry into the nursing profession in greater numbers after the war, as well as paving the way for further professionalization of the nursing field. Dorothea Dix – Social Reformer

Dorothea Dix was an activist who served in the Civil War as Superintendent of Female Nurses and she also worked for reform of treatment for the mentally ill. Clara Barton (1812-1912) Clara Barton was a Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross. Harriet Tubman Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who helped others escape from slavery and was known as the Moses of her people. She was also a spy, nurse, and speaker for women’s rights. African American Women Nurses

Black women who have served as nurses, often in wartime. The Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901 to provide a permanent active nursing corps. In World War II, the number of Army nurses by the end of the war was 57,000. The Army Nurse Corps has not only served the military by nursing wounded soldiers and reducing the death rate from disease, but has also served as a route for women to make a difference and build a career.


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