Beasley Best Community of Caring

Appreciating Important Nurses From History

The National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) was an association that sought to recognize the work of all outstanding nurses and to eliminate racial discrimination in the nursing community. After Mary Mahoney's retirement from nursing, she turned to women’s equality and advocated for suffrage; she was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote when the act passed in 1920.  Today, the Mary Mahoney Award, established by the NACGN, is still awarded by the American Nurses Association in recognition of significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.  Ms. Mahoney was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993 Lillian Wald (1867–1940) studied nursing at the New York Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1891.  Her studies took her to the city’s Lower East Side of New York, where she observed the living conditions and health care for the immigrant families of its tenements.   Her deep involvement with the community led her to coin the term “public health nurse.”  She later became the first president of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing.  She was also an early advocate for public school nurses.  You can still see her work today at New York’s Henry Street Settlement, which she dedicated to "the right of all people to have quality healthcare at home, provided with respect, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay." Virginia Avenal Henderson (1897-1996) was known as the “First Lady of Nursing” for her development of a fundamental theory of nursing education, saying, “The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge. And to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible.” Her 1939 Textbook of the Principles and Practices of Nursing became a core text in hospital nursing schools across America, and she directed the compilation of a four-volume reference guide to nursing research papers published between 1900 and 1960, called the Nursing Studies Index. She also wrote Basic Principles of Nursing Care in 1972.   For her work as a nurse educator, public health nurse, researcher, and theorist, Henderson was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame. The long career of Dr. Loretta Ford (1920-) touched many aspects of nursing, from beginner aide, to the Visiting Nurse program and the US Army Air Force, but she is best known as an innovative academic, co-founder of the first nurse practitioner program.  She was training nursing students in the Denver Visiting Nurse Service when she saw the decided lack of primary care available to the communities they served.  Dr. Ford recognized that with advanced clinical training, nurses could deliver the needed care. Working with pediatrician Dr. Henry Silver, they launched their first pediatric nurse practitioner program at the University of Colorado in 1965. The program became so successful that the nurse practitioner role has expanded beyond pediatrics to deliver preventive care, as well as diagnostic and managed treatment for all, including rural and underserved populations.   Dr. Ford is a recipient of the Surgeon General’s Medallion, the highest honor granted to a civilian by the U.S. Public Health Service. Adding another educator to the list, Mary O’Neill Mundinger (1937-), Dean of the Columbia University School of Nursing, established the first Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, creating the first clinical doctorate in nursing.   A long advocate for nurses and nurse practitioners, she also contributed to the growing evidence of the cost-effectiveness of these providers of primary care services. When Time Magazine released its 2020 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the world, it included two nurses for their impact on society.  Joining heads of state, entertainers and top athletes, CEOs and other newsmakers, were Amy O’Sullivan and Bonny Castillo.  Registered Nurse and COVID-19 survivor Amy O’Sullivan was an 18-year veteran ER nurse who treated New York City’s first patient to die from the virus at Wyckoff hospital in Brooklyn.  Because safety precautions were still uncertain, O’Sullivan cared for her patient without adequate protection and was infected herself. She came down with the virus only a few days later and ended up intubated, spending a total of four days on a ventilator.  She spent two weeks recovering and returned to the hospital to get back to work caring for patients in the country’s hotspot, where a steady stream of patients kept her busy constantly.  “Amy is just one of the millions of health care workers worldwide who risked everything to serve others,” Katie Couric wrote about the courageous nurse.  Registered Nurse Bonny Castillo, the executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, was called a “visionary” and a “leader” in her tribute.  Known for her nurse advocacy through labor movement and unions, Castillo was among the first to draw national attention to the lack of adequate protection for nurses on the frontlines of COVID.  In addition to her work fighting for PPE, Castillo also fought against the layoffs and pay cuts that some nurses were facing as hospitals and healthcare organizations raced to prioritize emergency and ICU departments over other areas.  “This award is a great honor for all of our nurse members, across the country, and for nurses everywhere, union and non-union,” she said. “This award lets us know that our voice of patient advocacy is louder and more resonant than ever before. It means everything to receive such a prestigious award in confirmation that the world is listening to nurses.” Nurses are making history every day, in hospitals, in clinics, in homes and throughout the community, sharing the stories of their calling.  Ask a nurse their story!

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