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The Evolution of Nursing Education

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Have you ever wondered how the term ‘Nurse’ came into existence? Who defined Nursing? Though nursing has always been around us in some or another form since ancient times, still it was Florence Nightingale who gave a new vision and meaning to Nurses in 1857. You must have already heard about this legendary lady who not only introduced the concept of educated nurses but also emphasized creating a healing, and hygienic environment for patients. She was the first nurse theorist who defined nursing as the ‘act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery.’

It was after Florence Nightingale that Nurses started getting their salaries. Before her, nurses were supplied by the churches and monasteries, and their service towards sicks was regarded as an act of devotion or religious obligation. The nursing profession achieved a new milestone in her era. 

Romans were the first ones to adopt the concept of professional nurses in around 300 A.D. which then gained huge popularity and modernity in European countries. The term nurse was linked to the monks and nuns of catholic churches which is why nurses are still referred to as sisters in Australia. Influenced by British traditions and North America’s development, Australia started conceptualizing the Nursing Profession. 

Did you know?  Australia still uses Virginia Henderson’s (U.S.) nursing definition to introduce freshers to the nursing profession.

Australian Nurses are still acknowledged for their role in World War II. Australia has played a major role in the growth of the Nursing profession, and in changing the perspective of the world towards Nurses. Now nursing is valued as a respectable, and highly paid profession in the new era. In this article, we’ll discuss Australia’s history of nursing, the Nursing workforce in Australia, and the role of Australian nurses in WW2.

Keep reading………!

What is Nursing?

Be it Florence Nightingale, Virginia Henderson, or ICN; several definitions & philosophies have been stated about Nursing. Some regarded nursing as an art, a science while others emphasized it is caring, holistic, and adaptive. However, amidst all the varied opinions, the theme and aim remained common behind every statement. I.e. to promote hygiene, and good health, and help restore health. 

Did you know?  ‘’Nurse is a Latin word which means to nourish or cherish the ones who were sick, wounded or need to be taken care of.” 

Over the years, the Nursing profession has evolved and now can be better described as the combination of clinical experience, theoretical knowledge, and technical skills. 

Milestones in Australian Nursing History

Evolution of Nursing Education

Nurses and Australia have a strong relationship and a commendable history of about 160 years. The evolution of nursing in Australia started after 1788 when ‘The First Fleet Boat’ arrived in Sydney from England. The Sydney Infirmary, a temporary hospital was created to provide basic medical aid to convicts. In late 1800, five sisters of charity who were Nightingale-trained nurses arrived from London to work at the Sydney Infirmary Hospital. Impressed by their methodology, and practice, Lucy Osburn established the Nightingale system of nursing in Australia. Check below the milestones achieved by Australia’s nursing system:

  • In 1854, many private hospitals in Adelaide were transformed into Nursing Training Centers.
  • Till the 1900s, most of the Australian hospitals had started offering three-year nursing programs.
  • In the 1920s, South Australia took a successful initiative to pass legislation for declaring Nursing as a registered profession. Following their footsteps, South Wales in 1922, and Victoria in 1924 introduced Registered Nurses training program.

Interesting Fact: The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) was established in 1922 and since then has been working progressively for the well-being of nursing professionals. 

  • In the 1970s, the first-ever diploma for Applied Science in Nursing was introduced by the Royal Nursing College of Australia. 
  •  It took almost three decades for the universities to allow Bachelor’s degrees for Nurses in the late 1990s

Thanks to the great efforts of Merle Parkes, a passionate nurse educator who challenged the education system and brought the nursing profession to the forefront in universities. In 1982, Merle was also appreciated and awarded by the Queen as the Member of the Order of Australia.

  •  1992 was the foundation year of  ANMAC (Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council) which ensured the proper regulation of Nursing training programs.
  • 2010 introduced the new version of NMBA (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia) as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to register Nurses and regulate practices.

At present, Australia has ample Nursing training programs to offer for local, and international students. The diligent efforts of Australia towards Nursing programs have proved Nightingale right who emphasized improving the healthcare system. 

Role of Australian Nurses in World War II

When nuclear attacks and genocides were harming soldiers, prisoners of war (POWs), and civilians in World War II, it was Australian Nurses who risked their lives and provided medical aid to the convicts If the courageous Nurses were not there, the fatality rate of soldiers would have been much higher. They worked in extremely challenging conditions including field hospitals, military hospitals, ship hospitals, and theatres of war worldwide including Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific, and North Africa. Many Nurses even lost their lives in Combat while taking care of the wounded. That’s why the Australian Nurses are still honored for their major contribution, extraditionary compassion, and service during wartime.

Nursing Work Force in Australia

In the late 1990s, there were two types of Nurses in Australia i.e. Registered Nurses (RNs), and Enrolled Nurses (ENs). Registered Nurses had to complete a 3-year bachelor’s degree, and Enrolled Nurses also referred to as second-level nurses had to undergo a 1-year vocational course.

Most of the nursing programs during that time were apprentice-style courses, and students used to get wages from healthcare institutions. 

“According to some Internet resources, there were about total of 265,000 RNs and ENs in Australia during 1998. The majority of the Nurses were female with about 7.8% of Male Nurses.”

The mid-1970s to early 1990s was the era when RNs were transferred to the higher education sector as an opportunity to enhance their skills, and professional status after completing their nursing degree. It was indeed a new milestone for nursing professionals in Australia. 

In a nutshell, we can’t deny the fact that the Nursing profession in Australia has gone through many leaps and bounds over the years. The result is that Nursing in Australia is considered one of the most regarded, reputed, high-in-demand, and highly-paid professions in the modern era. Nursing professionals have many opportunities from RNs, ENs, PNs, and midwives to mental health nurses for career advancement. Undoubtedly, Australian Nurses have made and continue to make significant contributions to the well-being of humanity.

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