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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Nursing shortage means opportunities for newcomers;

By Navy Lt. Vicki Jernigan | | August 1, 2002

Editor's note: This article covers a brief history of nursing and how it has evolved from its origin in the recent past to its current role as a crucial arm of the medical profession. In light of the nationwide shortage on nursing professional, this article also offers helpful information to those who are interested in a nursing career.

During the first half of the century, different forms of advertising nursing flourished, along with the forced changes in health care methods and standards of care. Nursing has made numerous changes in education preparation at many different levels that show how the role of nursing can best fit into the hospital setting, the community and the war zone itself.

Examples of some of these different roles range from tasks and duties in the operating room, which became a nursing specialty around 1905-1906. Nurses mastered the technical know-how of operating complicated equipment during the same time. As the profession evolved, so did the symbols that represented it.

The first nursing image of the western civilization was "Hygeia" the goddess of health. She was symbolized by a snake around a wound and a medicine bowl, displaying the message that a snake's venom can be transformed into a powerful medicine.

Another nursing symbol is the "Angel of Mercy." Contemporary nursing includes caring for patients in deplorable conditions and venues - slums, asylums, warehouse hospitals, and battlefields.

"Defending against Disease" is one anti-disease crusade that involved controlling tuberculosis during the first half of the 20th century. The most noted nursing image during this period was that of an Italian nurse in uniform and cap pictured with a serpent, which is believed to have represented disease being warded off by the nurse.

Wartime nursing was supported by more than 21,00 nurses in the Nurse Corps in World War I and on the battlefield, some even losing their lives during their brave efforts.  Because of society's high regard for nurses, the image of nursing has been used to advertise medicines, beverages, shoes, telephone services, and much more.

In 1893, the first known postcard with a picture reflected nursing services. The postcard conveyed the experience and reliability of male and female professional nurses.

Throughout the nation, states have addressed the "nursing shortage" and its possible causes - one of which is the difficulty of balancing nursing school and a family at the same time.

However, the nursing community is working with new partners to make the shortage known to the public, and to have the legislature assist endeavors to reverse the shortage. This allows nurses to make the community aware of their contributions to the health of all communities in all states and countries.

Hospitals and institutions are more committed to improving working conditions of nurses and to assisting with nursing education at many different levels. Many areas of nursing are available to those who want a career in nursing. Nursing students can elect to earn a one-year diploma, LVN or LPN; a two-year associate's degree, RN; a three-year diploma, RN; a bachelor's in nursing, BSN; a master's level, such as clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife; or a doctorate, PHD. One can even choose to work as a nurse in Homeland Defense.

Institutions and hospitals known as "Nurse Friendly Institutions" are available. This type of magnet institution initiative illustrates the importance of excellent nursing and extraordinary patient outcomes.

Refocusing on the nursing profession's positive contributions to the health and well being of a community and its patients and/or clients is an important aspect of nursing history.

You can be a part of that history. If you think you may be interested in a nursing career, talk to someone in your high school or college occupational health/allied health science department.

If you are out of high school, the local colleges such as Darton College and Albany State University, offer several levels of nursing programs. Counselors who can answer your questions or even assist you with the application process are available. Local armed forces recruiters in the Albany area are also available to the public through the telephone service.

Choose a mentor, who can help guide you through the process of making that decision to make nursing your career and watch the positive effect you can have on so many individuals.