Nursing - American Education
The care and treatment of the sick— until the years following World War II, one of the few “professions” (along with teaching) open to women. Virtually barred from medical schools, women interested in careers in health care were forced to enter through “the back door,” so to speak, by training as apprentices to male doctors. By 1920, however, many hospitals had established formal, in-hospital training programs for nurses at the secondary school level. In effect, the programs taught nothing more than the basic hygienic care of the patient’s body and surroundings—bathing, changing sheets and so on—with some training in changing dressings of uncomplicated wounds. As medical technology expanded so did nursing duties, along with the number of hospitals. By the end of World War II nursing education had moved into the post-secondary school level. In the decades that followed, nursing grew increasingly specialized, and nursing education evolved into various mixes of secondary school, community college and university undergraduate and graduate training. Nursing today is generally divided into three broad categories: the registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN) and health-care aides (nursing aides, orderlies and attendants).
Growing pressure from the medical community to require RNs to have four-year bachelor’s degrees encouraged nearly 700 colleges and universities to offer such programs. Although most states still require only two years of community college training, both the four-year and two-year programs qualify graduates for entry-level positions as hospital staff nurses to administer routine medical care. Graduate programs offer master’s degrees and doctorates in nursing and hospital management and administration, plus various specialties such as industrial nursing, community health and nursing education. Training as an LPN, whose duties are limited to nonmedical patient care, such as bathing and bed changes, is generally offered in two-year programs in secondary schools, community colleges and hospitals. One-year training programs for nursing aides and other health-care aides are also available in secondary schools, community colleges and hospitals.