Brief History of the Development of Nursing Knowledge

In most cultures worldwide, care for the sick and injured has been widely documented historically to be the assumed responsibility of women family members. In some instances, religious or secular communities are known to devote their service to caring for the sick and injured outside of the home. When nursing began to emerge in the mid 1800s as a distinct occupation requiring skills and knowledge beyond that acquired in ordinary family life, writings began to appear that recorded ideas and insights unique to caring for the sick and injured, preventing illness and injury, and promoting health.  The shift toward nursing as a role requiring specific knowledge and skill was inspired significantly by the work of Florence Nightingale, who not only wrote volumes documenting the ideas on which nursing should be practiced, but also inspired the establishment of schools devoted to teaching these ideas.

Textbooks began to be published in the United States in the early 1900s further establishing the foundational ideas and insights on which to base nursing practice. While the early textbooks emphasized practical “how-to” knowledge, they also conveyed the logical rationale for practical “how-to” – ideas that gradually began to be expressed more formally as conceptual statements of philosophy and theory. Finally in the mid 1900s, books began to appear devoted entirely to the theoretic and philosophic ideas central to shaping and guiding nursing practice.  Baccalaureate education began to flourish, and graduate programs in nursing emerged.  This section of Nurslogy.com is dedicated to providing a roadmap for this historic evolution of nursing ideas – a kind of architectural structure for the many significant writings that have emerged over the decades.


Page updated January 19, 2020