As we wrap up Women’s History Month, let’s remember these 8 influential nurses. These women were unafraid to break barriers to do what was best for patient care. Each of these nurses played a vital role in shaping the field of healthcare.
Clara Barton began her career on the battlefields. She provided supplies and surgery assistance and wrote letters for soldiers to send home. Eager to do more, she established the Red Cross. Today, the American Red Cross provides disaster relief to millions of people worldwide.
A champion for mental health, Dorthea was a voice for humanity. She spent her career advocating for better treatment of patients battling mental illness. Eventually, she formed asylums in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Illinois. Her dedication to this cause led to the creation of over 30 mental health facilities in the U.S.
Sojourner Truth was a former slave, abolitionist and Civil Rights nurse. Truth became one of the first to push for formal nurse education programs. She advocated before Congress and President Lincoln. Because of her early efforts, you can find over 996 educational programs in the United States today.
Virginia Henderson believed that a nurse’s job would only be complete if that patient was able to be independent after leaving the hospital. This belief eventually led to the creation of the Need Theory – a checklist of patient care. With this theory, Henderson helped shape an environment where patient care is built upon their basic needs to live.
In the early 20th century, Margaret Sanger fought to give women the right to birth control. To challenge the Comstock Act, she opened the first American birth control clinic. Although she was arrested and the clinic was shut down, it led to law reform. Margaret was free to found the American Birth Control League – or as we call it today – Planned Parenthood.
Mary Eliza Mahoney
As the first African American trained nurse in the United States Mary Eliza Mahoney used her platform to bring awareness to racial prejudice. To accept and support all ethnicities, Mahoney co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. Today, the Mary Mahoney Award is given out to nurses that honor her trailblazing efforts for equality.
Despite her family’s dismay, Florence became a trained nurse and worked in the Crimean War. There, Florence and her team helped drop the death rate to two percent by following better sanitation standards. She continued improving the survival rate of patients by teaching others her sanitation procedures. These lessons are still regularly practiced in hospitals today.
While working in the ER, Virginia realized that nurses were preventing justice for patients who had been victims of crime. This “aha” moment convinced her to combine healthcare and the law. By working with her crime lab director to better secure evidence, Virginia helped to create Forensic Nursing. With this new approach, more victims have been able to find justice.
Using their courage and platforms, these women helped shape healthcare into what it is today. These nurses’ accomplishments remind us that even just one woman can make a difference.
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