“During the four decades between the Civil War and the beginning of the twentieth century, the image of nurses moved from being viewed as somewhat less than honorable to a respected profession” (Doris Weatherford, June 2010). This movement much contributed too by female nurse pioneers, such as Dorothea Dix and Linda Richards who dedicated their entire careers to advocating for nurses, pursuing policy change and advancing the profession. The work of these two nurses lead widely to national and international changes in the world of nursing. Recognition of their contributions and accomplishments has been ongoing since their deaths and are still referred to in nursing schools in 2018. Along with their accomplishments, they along with many other nurse pioneers had a role in establishing some of the Nursing Professional Organizations that are still around today.
Famous Nurse Leaders
One of the most influential heroes in nursing is Dorothea Dix. Ms. Dix contributed greatly to the mental health system that began in America. Although Dorothea Dix never attended a formal nursing school she is well known throughout history as one of the most famous nurses. Even though she had no formal training or any certification as a nurse, she served as superintendent of the Union Army nursing corps during the Civil War. Ms. Dix pioneered mental health research in the 1840s, when she became highly interested in the conditions of prisoners in jail, the poor and their reprehensible conditions. Dorothea spent a great deal of time traveling throughout Massachusetts documenting and detailing what she observed, which she used in her proposition that she presented to the state legislature when pursuing funding for the development of a state mental hospital. In her memorial to the Massachusetts Legislature, Mrs. Dix was quoted to have recounted the following, “I proceed Gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the present state of Insane Persons confined within this Commonwealth, in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rod and lashed into obedience!” (Manon, Parry 2006). Her success in her initial campaign for state funded mental health care inspired her to advocate in other states for the same programs.
Dorothea Dix laid the foundation for mental health care and its humble beginnings, she saw a problem and came up with a solution to fix it. Among other notable mentions, Dix created the Prison reform and went to great lengths to ensure government support and buy in for the mentally ill. In her attempt to secure adequate funding for the mentally unstable, twice her bill to Congress for the government to funded care was denied. Eventually, Dix received approval from Congress for the government funded mental health bill, after a section was added to the bill that proposed you needed to be eighteen years of age to check yourself out of a mental health facility. Dorothea Dix spent her entire career providing holistic care and fighting for the right to proper and sustainable health care for the indigent. Ms. Dix died at the age of 85 on July 6, 1887.
The first professionally trained American nurse was Linda Richards. Ms. Richards began her career in nursing, when nursing had hardly even surfaced in the United States of America. The New England Hospital for Women and Children housed one of the first U.S. nurse schools and Ms. Richard enrolled in it in 1872, graduating a year later. Linda Richards was fortunate enough to train under the renowned Florence Nightingale. During her tenure under Ms. Nightingale, Richards learned about the connection between germs and infection. Ms. Richards also traveled to Japan in 1885 and aided in founding the first nurse training school there. While, in Japan she was also the supervisor at the Doshisha Hospital in Kyoto Japan. When Ms. Richards returned to the United States, she used her skill set to set up nurse training programs in different cities. Ms. Richards served a tenure as the superintendent of the Boston Training School for Nurses and from there she moved on to work at Bellevue Hospital in New York. It is while working at Bellevue, that Ms. Richards made her greatest and most important contribution to nursing and the medical community. She developed a system for tracking the status of each patient, which was widely used in the US and Europe and known today as the medical record. Like Dorothea Dix, Ms. Richards also assisted in the founding of special institutions for the mentally ill. The National League of Nursing elected Linda Richards, as their first president and she was also the head of the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia. Linda Richards retired from nursing in 1911.
Professional Nursing Organizations
National League of Nursing
The National League of Nursing (NLN) originally began as the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools, founded in 1893. The NLN is one of the oldest nursing foundations and probably one of the largest in the nation. As a nursing school student, the NLN was the organization we were encouraged to join. Today many nursing schools and medical organizations offer their students and employees discounted and free membership to NLN. NLN is devoted to the pursuit of nursing excellence, as one of the top nursing organizations it is champion for nurse leaders and faculty in nursing education. The National League of Nursing provides services to nurses on many fronts; networking, professional development, testing services, research grants and most importantly public policy initiatives.
Over 40,000 individual nurses are members of the NLN and 1.200 institutions hold a professional membership with them as well. Membership cost for an individual are $155 annually, $80 annually for a Graduate student and $100 annually for a retired professional. The National League of Nursing plays a prominent role in shaping public policy for nursing, currently they are spearheading the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Bill (HR 959/S 1109) to ensure it is improved by Congress.
American Nurses Association
If you want to make your voice heard as part of a professional organization that promotes advancement and protection of the nursing profession than ANA, American Nurses Association is the organization for you. The ANA was first established in 1896 as the Nurses Associated Alumnae and gained its current name in 1911. ANA offers a variety of benefits for the professional nurse: career and job networking opportunities, a state association newsletter, education and career development. One of the most important benefits of this organization is their desire to not only support nurses in their journey to deliver excellent care, in an advancing technology challenged medical world, but to tackle ethical dilemmas and health care reform on a national and state level. Membership for the ANA is based on the type of membership an individual is looking for. Non- voting members’ dues are just $45.00 a year and ANA national membership for voting members costs $191 a year. Currently the ANA is working on legislation that will impact Gun Violence, Safe Staffing ratios and Home Health.
Dorothea Dix and Linda Richards laid the ground work for the nursing profession to become what it is today. Were it not for nurses in our history like Richards and Dix nursing may have taken a different path. Not only did they make advances in the practice of our profession but both ladies were instrumental in either establishing or being representative of some of the first professional nursing organizations
Professional organizations play a vital role in the advancement and advocacy for nurses across the world. They offer a variety of benefits, some are geared towards meeting the needs of nursing students, some are national and international in scope and others represent nursing specialties. Most of the organizations offer educational advancement, professional development, certification opportunities and networking. When choosing an organization, the nurse should take their own personal goals and specialty into account. All the programs offer a way to stay in touch with nursing trends and best practices. Most of these organizations also offer the opportunity for nurses to get involved on local and state levels in legislation processes and health care reform. Belonging to a nursing organization has many perks for nurses among those belonging to a group of likeminded professionals. Professional nursing organizations are run by nurses and designed for nurses, and who knows better than how to address and meet the needs of the ever-changing nurse profession, then other nurses. If you’ve only given professional nursing associations a passing thought, it’s time to think hard about the benefits of joining one (or even two!) (Daily Nurse, 2018).