Happy National Nurses Week, everyone! In honor of this week and the noble profession of nursing, we’re highlighting ten nurses who will inspire you (in no particular order).
Whether you’re in nursing school or have years of experience as a nurse, we think these individuals will impress you with their courage, caring, and commitment to those in need.
1. Edith Cavell
A British nurse during World War I, Edith Cavell helped about 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. She was later arrested and executed by a German firing squad. Cavell once said, "I can't stop while there are lives to be saved."
2. Sister Elizabeth Kenny
Elizabeth Kenny is largely responsible for physical therapy becoming a form of rehabilitation. An Australian nurse, she promoted a different kind of treatment for polio in the 1930s that was controversial at the time: exercising muscles to promote healing instead of letting them rest.
3. Mary Eliza Mahoney
Despite the racism of the time, Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first African American registered nurse in 1879. She co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908, which eventually became the American Nurses Association. In addition to being a proponent of African American rights, she also cared deeply about women’s rights and was one of the first women to register to vote in Boston after the 19th Amendment passed.
4. Annie G. Fox
Lt. Annie G. Fox received the Purple Heart for combat for her exceptional efforts as Chief Nurse at Hickam Field during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. She was the first woman to be awarded the honor. Later, Fox was awarded the Bronze Star for her acts of heroism and being calm under extraordinary pressure, which replaced the Purple Heart when regulations changed.
5. Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail
Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail brought modern health care to Native American people and was instrumental in the effort to end abuses in the health care system, such as the sterilization of Native American women without their consent. She was posthumously inducted into the American Nursing Association's Hall of Fame, the first Native American nurse to earn the honor.
6. Clara Barton
Every nurse has heard of Clara Barton. Known as the "Angel of the Battlefield" during the United States Civil War, she later founded the American Red Cross. Clara once said, "I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent."
7. Virginia Avenel Henderson
Virginia Avenel Henderson is known as "The First Lady of Nursing" and has also been called "The 20th Century Florence Nightingale." She authored several nursing textbooks and is famous for her definition of nursing, which states: "The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge."
8. Mary Seacole
Mary Seacole became known best for her efforts aiding wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Hailing from Jamaica, she used her knowledge of traditional herbal medicine to treat soldiers on both sides of the conflict when she learned of their poor medical provisions. Seacole was very well-traveled and cared for people in the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, and Asia. Perhaps she could be considered one of the first traveling nurses?
9. Lillian Wald
Lillian Wald coined the term "public health nurse" in the 1890s. Her work began when she taught nursing classes to impoverished immigrants in New York City. Later she was a visiting nurse to residents on the Lower East Side and founded the Henry Street Settlement, which eventually became The Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Throughout her life, Wald advocated for the rights of women, minorities and children. She was an early member of what became the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Child Labor Committee.
10. Florence Nightingale
This list would not be complete without Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing! Nightingale made a name for herself during the Crimean War tending to wounded soldiers. She was known as "The Lady with the Lamp" because of her routine night rounds. In 1860, she established the first nursing school at St. Thomas' Hospital in London. International Nurses Day is celebrated on Florence's birthday: May 6th. About her success, Florence famously said: "I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse."
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