100 Years of Nursing

How Technology Has Changed the Way Nurses Do Their Job - Woman

Since its introduction in the mid-1800s, the nursing profession has evolved leaps and bounds. Like other aspects of the medical profession, you might not recognize the nursing practice even as recently as a hundred years ago. So much has changed.

For example, it’s not such a female-dominated anymore; there are plenty of male nurses who take their jobs seriously. The schooling is a lot different, too. Yet, in other ways, much about nursing is the same. A nurse still helps the sick and injured; it’s just the overall science of treatment that has improved.

Let’s look at some of the ways that nursing has transformed since 1920.


In the early 1900s, nursing schools were called “Nightingale schools” after Florence Nightingale. There were less than a thousand such schools in the U.S. at the time. Students spent two to three years in training, but most of it was on the job. The aspiring students took care of actual hospital patients and spent little time in classrooms. Their time in school was more like an apprenticeship than what the modern nursing student goes through.

Today, there are a few classifications of nurses: LVN and RN are the most common. An LVN is a Licensed Vocational Nurse, and the schooling runs for about a year. An RN is a Registered Nurse, and the schooling is much longer. RN nursing programs last two or three years; some RNs pursue bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Gone are the days when a nursing profession 


World War I ended near the end of 1918, and World War II didn’t start until the end of the 1930s. However, during those wars, many nurses were deployed to hospitals near the front lines. They had to deal with horrible sights, but many worked selflessly to help the injured and dying. 

In addition to war hospitals, nurses back in the U.S. a hundred years ago were going through a change, as healthcare began its journey to become what it is today. Before the 1920s, babies were often born at home under midwife care. Some nurses were qualified to administer anesthesia. But standards were being laid down. Hospitals were beginning to look like what we expect a hospital to look like today.


The technology of nursing — like all of medical science–has changed. In the past, nurses could only care for the sick by helping them to feed, bathe, and get out of bed. Nurses now administer medication that didn’t exist fifty years ago, let alone a hundred. Imagine a nurse of a hundred years ago getting into a time machine and visiting an Intensive Care Unit in 2020. They wouldn’t be able to believe their eyes!

Today’s medical professionals use digital tools to maintain patient records. The system is effective and eliminates cumbersome paperwork and errors that come with using manual methods. Nurses also use the internet to search for any medical information that they need. The highlight is that health centers have automated systems such that nurses can know the available beds to admit patients.

Telemedicine has gained ground, thanks to the dynamic technology and its benefits. Nurses can diagnose patients remotely so that they can devise the best treatment options for them. Plus, they can detect serious health problems and prevent them from worsening.

Culture and Norms

The role of nurses in the past was not as important as in the present. In years past, they were just supposed to be presentable and do what they were told. Nurses worked day and night to ensure that patients received the best care. Nowadays, nurses are respected as professionals, and they have time to spend with their friends and families.

Nursing has also become a well-paid profession. Although the salary range depends on the years of experience and qualification, even starting pay for an RN is better than average.

Focus on Patient Care

The aging population has increased, and nurses have become essential personnel who can take care of patients. Baby boomers are retired or will soon be retiring, and they will need medical care at some point in the future. Nurses are in demand for both hospital care and in-home care.


Finally, nursing has become a career with an immense amount of flexibility. The adrenaline junkie can work in emergency services. Someone who craves regular hours and a normal life can find clinical work. Love to travel? Travel nursing is a thing. In fact, travel nurses are hunted by recruiters. This is a far cry from the amenities of the profession a hundred years ago.

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