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Humans have nursed each other since the beginning of the species. In fact, indeed attempts to care for other individuals to help reduce their pain and increase their overall health are seen in a wide range of primates:  Nursing is arguably something that is encoded in our very genes. However, modern nursing can realistically trace its roots only to the 19th century, which is where this paper begins.

Florence Nightingale helped to revolutionize the practice – and profession – of nursing in the middle of the 19th century when she established a series of training schools for nurses that instructed nurses in a range of skills, including basic hygiene, as Dossey (1999) describes.  While many of the problems in 19th-century hospitals certainly were based on the limited medical technology and knowledge that were available at the time, many of the problems resulted from sloppy practices.

Nightingale trained her nurses in the latest medical knowledge, but she also trained them in the organization so that the hospitals in which they worked might take advantage not only of scientific advances but also of fundamental managerial principles.

These were especially important as applied to childbirth, for women often died as the result of infections after giving birth and the Nightingale-era reforms helped provide a safe arena for women in labor, although the changes that were brought during the era of the rise of maternity nursing were not always entirely beneficial to women.

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