Evolution of Nursing: Florence Nightingale and Modern Issues

Introduction to Nursing Science History

This exploration delves into the timeline tracing the evolution of nursing science from the era of Florence Nightingale to the contemporary period. Undoubtedly, Florence Nightingale's indelible mark on nursing persists regardless of the field's dynamic changes. The discourse encompasses pivotal historical events, complete with dates, that have significantly elevated the field of nursing over the years (Kendall, 2011). Furthermore, it underscores the transformative impact of various theories on nursing, as expounded by Kendall in 2011.

Florence Nightingale's Contributions

Florence Nightingale, renowned for her work during the Crimean War in 1854, holds an enduring legacy as the pioneer who laid the foundation for professional nursing (Kendall, 2011).

Her innovative use of statistical charts and graphs, notably the first nursing theory, supported her advocacy for a positive and clean environment (Donahue, 1996). Nightingale's influence extended to redefining the image of female nurses by establishing the Nightingale School of Nursing in 1860, marking the inception of formal nurse training programs (Brestovansky, 2014). Additionally, her reforms in midwife practices and the establishment of a health visitor service in Britain further solidified her transformative impact on the nursing profession (Brestovansky, 2014).

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Theories in the 1950s

The 1950s ushered in a new era with influential nursing theorists such as Orem and Peplau. Notably, this period saw the integration of psychological theories into nursing, with a pronounced focus on understanding and addressing the psychological needs of patients (Kiikkala and Munnukka, 2006). Peplau's theory, emphasizing nursing as an interpersonal process, highlighted the shared goals between patient and nurse, fostering mutual respect (Peplau, 2011). These psychological theories, rooted in the 1950s, significantly shaped the landscape of nursing practices and patient care approaches.

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Developmental Theories

Delving into the specifics, the self-care theory emerged as a pivotal concept, advocating for individuals to take an active role in their well-being. In situations where self-deficiency exists, nurses assume the responsibility of caring for the individual (Kiikkala and Munnukka, 2006). Simultaneously, a developmental theory unfolded during the 1950s, emphasizing nursing's role in fostering positive interpersonal relationships (Kiikkala and Munnukka, 2006). Peplau's interpersonal theory, centering on common goals, contributed to the establishment of mutual respect between patients and nurses (Peplau, 2011).

Timeline of Nursing Theories (1860-2000)

The chronological progression of nursing theories provides a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of the field. Commencing with Florence Nightingale's focus on manipulating the client's environment in 1860, subsequent decades introduced theories by prominent figures such as Hildegard Peplau, Henderson, Faye Abdellah, Ida Orlando, and Dorothy Johnson (Development of Nursing, 2013). Each theory addressed specific facets, ranging from therapeutic interpersonal processes to the client's adaptation to illness and the delivery of holistic nursing care.

Late 20th Century and Nursing Practice Orientation

Transitioning to the late 20th century, a pivotal shift occurred, emphasizing a practice-oriented approach in nursing. This era witnessed an unprecedented focus on research studies and the continuous expansion of nursing theories (History of Nursing Science, 2013). The profession's commitment to adapt and refine practices in response to contemporary challenges remained evident. Nursing, as a dynamic discipline, continued its trajectory of evolution, fueled by rigorous research and theoretical developments.

Complexity of Nursing Science and Profession Relationship

The intricate relationship between nursing science and the profession itself is multifaceted. According to Lindberg (2005), the complexity arises from factors such as the intricate healthcare system, rapid technological advancements, and the swift pace of care delivery. Despite this complexity, science contributes significantly to nursing care delivery, enhancing the professional relationship (Lindberg, 2005). Active engagement of nursing scholars and leaders in evolving scientific paradigms becomes imperative to glean insights that can elevate patient well-being in this intricate landscape.

Influences on Nursing Science from Other Disciplines

The symbiotic relationship between nursing and various disciplines is crucial for the profession's enrichment. Philosophical, religious, educational, anthropological, social science, and psychological disciplines all exert a positive influence on nursing (History of Nursing Science, 2013). Individuals engaged in nursing practice become beneficiaries of this interdisciplinary interaction, enriching their perspectives and approaches in providing care.


In conclusion, the trajectory of nursing's evolution reflects a continual expansion of roles and the instrumental role of theories in enhancing the quality of care. The historical timeline highlights key events and influential figures, with nursing's commitment to serving healthcare needs at the forefront. The profession's unique nature shines through its adaptability to incorporate insights from various disciplines. Over the decades, nursing has demonstrated its resilience and commitment to positive patient outcomes through the application of evolving theories.


Updated: Jan 17, 2024
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Evolution of Nursing: Florence Nightingale and Modern Issues. (2016, Apr 27). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/historical-development-of-nursing-timeline-essay

Evolution of Nursing: Florence Nightingale and Modern Issues essay
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