Introduction to Early Graduate Nurse Practice Opportunities
In the beginning - 1872 to 1900 - hospital schools of nursing were few in number; the class sizes were small resulting in a limited number of graduate nurses. After graduation from a school of nursing , the graduate nurse had a limited choice of where she could practice. Hospitals were staffed by students and provided nursing care hospitals did not require the services of graduate nurses to staff the units. Administrative positions such as supervisors and head nurses were employed by hospitals; graduates from the new hospital schools of nursing were hired to fill management positions with educated graduate nurses. Linda Richards, considered the first ‘trained’ nurse , graduated in September of 1873 from the New England Hospital for Women and Children; her first position in October of 1873 was night supervisor in Bellevue Hospital Training School [i].
As the number of hospital schools of nursing increased and the number of more educated nurse increased, management positions were scarce. Thus the majority of graduate nurses earned their living as private duty nurses working in the home of their patient . Hospitals realizing the value of an educated graduate nurse began to utilize the ‘most promising’ graduate nurses as head nurses or supervisors.
Developing a New Path for Graduate Nurses
Meeting the the Health and Social Needs of the Public
In 1893 Lillian Wald and Mary Brewster, graduates of the New York Hospital School of Nursing, moved to the Lower East Side of New York city living and working out of a tenement house to become a part of the community which they served. Lillian Wald, created the term “Public Health Nurse” as she believed that public health nurses must treat social and economic problems - not simply take care of sick people”.[i] In 1895 they moved from their original tenement to a house on Henry St which became the Henry Street Settlement Nurses Settlement. They hired nurses to visit the those in need in their homes leading to the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Association which eventually became the Visiting Nurse Association of New York.
Alternative paths for graduates nurses
Not all graduate nurses remained in the work force, Some married soon after graduation Hospitals did not hire a married woman. Other graduates were called home to care for a sick relative.
[i] Fee, Elizabeth and Liping Bu,. 2010. “The origins of Public Health Nursing:The henry Street Visiting nurse Service”. .American Journal of Public Health July, Vol 100 No.7. pp 1206 – 1207.
[i] https://www.nursingeducationhistory.org/early-days.html. See timeline for Linda Richards r amazing career.