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Mythbusters: What is Nursing?

  • Myth 1: Everybody, at least all women, can nurse the sick

    Nurses therefore had to fight to obtain vocational training. As you will see in the various videos, they did this in Norway, England, Ireland, Italy, etc. and it was many years before nurses' educational demands were met. The need for knowledge and expertise seems to have been controversial. No wonder, since nursing was the largest professional group in any country's health care arrangements and due to the nurses’ mark on their nations, from north, south, east, and west.

    In Europe, nursing was essential to developing government welfare and health care arrangements. The education of nurses was too important for health and social development to leave it to nurses and their trade unions. Still, even today nurse education incites stronger reactions than other professionals as teachers etc.

  • Myth 2: Professional nursing arose from doctors needing assistants

    Nursing is therefore to be reckoned as assistants to medicine and has no independent basis of knowledge. Nevertheless, as the MOOC highlights, the trained nursing is much older than clinical medicine. When doctors arrived in hospitals, nurses had been there for a long time. When modern treatment hospitals evolved in Europe, nurses had central positions, and worked with head physicians to run the hospitals. It has long gone unsaid that nurses and doctors have been mutually responsible for evolving expertise on treatment and care. Nursing developed through the medical model, and gave nurses a knowledge base for understanding the evolution of decease processes, logical forms of treatment and potential consequences for the patient. But professional nursing was essential to the introduction of modern surgery. Through 24-hour observation, hygiene and organizing daily care, nursing expanded its knowledge basis, and contributed to medical advancements. Nursing and medicine have been mutually dependent.

  • Myth 3: Modern nursing started to give upper-class women a respectable profession

    It is often stated that modern nursing originated as employment for the women of the bourgeoisie. This is not true. Many head nurses were often middle class women, but historians have shown that most nurses in various countries throughout Europe, came from the lower classes, where women worked anyway.

    Importantly, the myths obscure nursing's scientific and social contributions. It is much more fruitful to study how social developments have spurred nursing's evolution as a subject and profession, such as cholera, tuberculosis, and surgery.

    Focusing on nursing's work on curing disease, we see that their contribution was an important part of the basis of modern society. Past practice created the foundation for significant knowledge in today's nursing and medicine. Some of this knowledge is as significant today as a hundred years ago, and the profession did not evolve in a vacuum. But since the discipline was largely conveyed through practice, it is hard to retrace, and with all the surrounding myths one cannot automatically assume that what is said publicly about nursing reflects what nurses actually did.