History of nursing

History Of Nursing

Nursing has been called the oldest of the arts and the youngest of the professions.

The term ‘nurse’ evolved from the Latin word nutrix which means ‘nourishing’ and the word nursing comes also from the Latin word nutrix meaning to ‘nourish’ or ‘cherish’. Nourish means to ‘supply that which is necessary for life’.

Today nursing emerged as a learned profession that is both a science and art. Science- is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena (it is a body of knowledge). Art- is the application of knowledge and skill to individualized action.

History of Nursing

Nursing originated with the desire to nurture, nourish, to provide comfort, care and assurance to the sick children, the ill family and eventually entire tribes. The 1st known nurse is deaconess phoebe mentioned in Romans 16:1, who was sent to Rome by St Paul as the visiting nurse to take care of the sick, both women and men during the early years of the Christian church.

Before the foundation of modern nursing, nuns and the military often provided nursing-like services.

The Christian churches have been long term patrons of nursing and influential in the development of the ethics of modern nursing. Elsewhere, other nursing traditions developed such as in Islam.

Earlier nursing was not recognized and respected but the declaration of Christianity as accepted religion in the Roman

Empire drove an expansion of the provision of care which led to its recognition.

In 1852, Florence nightingale started nursing in hospital setting due to wars and prevailing unemployment for the women in UK.

In 1853, nightingale founder of modern nursing was associated to the beginning of nursing because she was instrumental in establishing sanitary conditions and reducing mortality rates during the Crimean war at the barracks hospital in turkey from 42.7% to 22% in 6 months.

Florence nightingale believed that nursing was started in 1810s before that there was poor knowledge of medical and surgical infection and prevention. Surgery was confined to emergency amputation and this fad a terrible mortality rate due to poor conditions.

In 1855, she put her theory of nursing and hospital experience into writing so that her system could be continued and therefore nightingale introduced reforms that changed the care of the sick through out the world.

In 1860s, she opened the nightingale training school for nurses in London at St Thomas hospital. She was able to train them with the books and notes she wrote on nursing and hospitals during her experience.

This inspired the opening of the US schools based on her model and all countries adopted the nightingale format. Helped by missionaries, nursing found its way into Africa and to Uganda by Lady Catherine cook.


  • Florence nightingale felt that she was leading a religious movement therefore a nurse must be dedicated in a religious way as it is a calling.
  • She inspired such a spirit of devotion up to now in her followers.

The group was entirely female and so the general public has thought of nursing as a woman’s work ever since.

Male nurses were 1st documented in practicing primitive nursing during the 17th century. It was during this time in history that men and women provided nursing care while serving punishment.

Mrs. Bedford Fenwick realized that there was a distinct knowledgeable body she believed that she could turn into profession. She also believed that those who trained a qualified standard would allow nursing to evolve as a profession. Thus up to today, worldwide one must undergo prescribed syllabus of theory and practical education to be recognized as a nurse.


’’I solemnly pledge myself before God And in the presence of this assembly To pass my life in purity

And to practice my profession faithfully I will abstain from whatever is Deleterious and mischievous

And will not take or knowingly Administer any harmful drug.

I will do all in my power to maintain And elevate the standard of my profession And will hold in confidence. All personal Matter committed to my keeping

And all family affairs coming to my Knowledge in practice of my calling With loyalty I will endeavour to aid The physician in his work

And devote myself to the welfare Of those committed to my care.’’ .


Nursing in Uganda started in 1919 by Lady Catherine Cook, a wife to Dr. Albert Cook.

In November 1896, Sr. Dr. Albert Cook a skillful doctor and other Christians with a party of 12 recruits of church missionary society, set off from port of Mombasa to Uganda. Among the 12 recruits was Catherine Thompson, a nurse whom Sr. Dr. Albert Cook later married.

In 1897,Sr. Dr. Albert Cook pioneered nurse training during the 1914-1918 World War I where he trained dressers and male nurse assistants in Uganda

Sr. Dr. Albert Cook established his healing and training center at Mengo hill under the mango tree (1st hospital in Uganda) later it was built as Mengo hospital.

In 1919, Lady Catherine Cook, a remarkable nurse saw the great need of maternity services and begun midwifery training at Mengo with women without formal education.

In 1920s, the 1st midwives qualified who were trained in Luganda helped by interpreters. They took a tremendous responsibility in district maternity centers and many miles from medical aid with no means of transport for taking patients to the medical aid but were knowledgeable enough to improvise stretchers traditionally which up to-to-date are still helpful in hard to reach areas.

Nursing training of enrolled level was started in 1930 with the 1st class qualifiers in 1933, who had trained under extension of Mengo hospital at Ndeje about 30 miles from Kampala. Later it was transferred to Mengo to run alongside midwifery.

It was a three (3) year course and the qualification at that time was p.4 to p.6 pupils. Examination was managed by the Uganda medical services.

Nursing did not start training in English until 1947 and by 1950 girls of s.3 were being recruited into training. Most trainees at that understood the meaning of discipline and were well known for that.

In 1955, training of nursery was begun at Ssanyu babies’ home in Mengo. Then on 4th December 1956, the Uganda nurses and midwives council was formed and too over the responsibility for training all nurses and midwives.

Nursing training was then extended to 3 years and 3 months but was eventually reduced to 3 years and later on to present is 2 ½ years.


Mengo hospital was the 1st hospital to be built in Uganda.



Is defined as the unique function of the nurse to care and nurture the individual, sick or well in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery or peaceful death, that s/he would perform un aided if s/he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge to do so.(international council of nurses,1973)


Is a person who is qualified in the art and science of nursing and meets certain prescribed standards of education and clinical competence. Or

Is a trained person to look after the sick or well individuals to perform those activities they cannot do on their own.


Is a dynamic state in which an individual adapts to internal and external environment so that there is a state of physical, emotional intellectual, social and spiritual well-being. Or

Is a state of physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, economical and social well-being and not merely in the absence of disease or other disorders (infirmities.)


Is a code of moral principles that govern proper conduct of a profession. The ethics serve to protect the rights of human beings.


These are rules set to govern a specific profession and they vary from one profession to another.



Is a state in which a person’s physical, emotional, intellectual, social, developmental or spiritual functioning is diminished or impaired compared with that person’s previous experiences.


Any deviation from or interruption of the normal function/structure of any part, organ or system of the body manifesting with a characteristic set of signs and symptoms.


Is an occupation with normal principles that are devoted to the human and social welfare. The service is based on specialized knowledge and skills developed in a scientific and learned manner.


Is an organized institution which promotes the comfort and the health of the patients

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4 thoughts on “History Of Nursing”

  1. This information is so good. Actually I want to use it submit part of it as the solution to my course work. I am doing clinical medicine at Clarke international university in uganda. Allow me to copy the work.

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