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They look out for you – your nurses

The nurses in your home dialysis centres are essential contact persons for you. Have you ever thought about their other important functions? There is a fascinating history behind their training.

The professional profile of nurses in hospitals and care homes is diverse and demanding. The basic requirements for the job are a vocation and intensive training. Nurses have not always been educated, though. Just over 150 years ago, Florence Nightingale started to standardize nursing care. In our days, she is known as the founder of modern nursing. Many nurses have since tried to emulate her in her diligence and dedication. Due to these qualities, she has been called a ministering angel. The lamp she had with her when she checked on the wounded at night won her an internationally acclaimed nickname.

A historical summary

Historically we can say that people who care for people can be intertwined with the history of humanity itself. The instinct of protection and group, motherhood and fatherhood, caring for the elderly and the weak is intrinsic to the human being. But historically, the attribution of these functions to people who have devoted themselves to them more or less exclusively has varied throughout history. A deep religious conviction drove the first formal caregivers. When risks of infection became associated with care, especially in times of very contagious diseases such as the plague, caregivers were primarily recruited from social outcasts. Later on, occupations in healthcare returned to the religious sphere where it remained until a few decades ago.

As mentioned above, modern nursing begins with the determined contributions of Florence Nightingale. Through changes in behaviour and methodical workflows, including hygiene and infection control measures, she had a significant impact on reducing morbidity and mortality among patients. She also contributed immensely to statistics in nursing care. In her publications “Notes on Nursing” and “Notes on Hospital”, she shared her profound knowledge revisiting the vital concept of “First do no harm” attributed to Hippocrates: “The very first requirement in a hospital is that it
should do the sick no harm.”

Today’s outlook on nursing
The nurse of the present day is a highly trained professional who hasn’t lost what has characterised the profession for so long: being endowed with high compassion and competence, doing good to the “human person”. According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings. Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people. Additional core activities of nursing
are advocacy, development of a safe environment, research, participation in shaping health policy, patient and health systems management, and education.

From the perspective of social recognition, the historical evolution of the profession has contributed both positively and negatively to the image society has of nurses. Therefore, the sometimes difficult task of validating their role is frequently up to the nurses themselves. Not less important, though, is the responsibility of healthcare providers’ organisations. Frequently guided by a high spirit of mission, nurses are willing to make personal sacrifices to provide proper care. Yet, modern nurses base their work on knowledge and evidence. They develop important research activities that are, in some way, the driving force for developing and improving the care they devote to sick people.

References ICN, 2002