Top 5 Most Important Nurses In History (Besides Florence Nightingale)

We have nothing against Florence Nightingale. What an amazing inspiration to nurses everywhere. But can you say overexposure!? She pretty much comes in at #1 on every “important nurses” list known to nurse-kind. So we decided to put together a list of nurses without whom the profession -- and the world -- would not be the same.

These are the creators; these are a the titans of the field who, each in their own ways, forged the profession of nursing into what it is today.

1. Dorothea Dix

Before Dorothea Lynde Dix began her crusade, the mentally ill had few advocates.

She initiated a statewide investigation of living conditions for the mentally ill in Massachusetts. This tour led Dix to craft Memorial, a report of the egregious human rights violations she had found.

She presented the report to the state legislature which led to an expansion of the state’s mental hospital.

She performed similar investigations in New Hampshire, Louisiana, North Carolina, and other states. The end result of her work was an increased awareness across the southern U.S. (and eventually the entire country) that the mentally ill deserve fair treatment, care, and concern. She helped advance the specialty of psychiatric nursing.

Wikipedia/public domain

2. Clara Barton

As the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton is still affecting millions today. She worked as a nurse during the Civil War, attending to soldiers close to many violent battles.

Barton spoke of her war experiences around the country after the war, bringing her recognition that eventually allowed her to speak to Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Chester Arthur. 

Arthur approved the creation of the American Red Cross, which went on to assist victims of  natural disasters around the U.S.

Wikipedia/public domain

3. Hazel W. Johnson-Brown

Starting as a Staff Nurse in Japan and Chief Nurse in Korea, Johnson went on to become the first African American female to become a general in the U.S. Army in 1979. 

She was appointed chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps the same year. 

In total, her military nursing career spanned 26 years.

DOD/public domain

4. Mary Ezra Mahoney

Mahoney was the first African American in the U.S. to graduate from nursing school and work as a professional nurse.

After graduation in 1879, she went on to work as a private care nurse and in 1908, co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. 

Today there are about 440,000 African American RNs and LPNs, according to Minority Nurse, thanks in part to Mahoney’s trailblazing career path.

Wikipedia/public domain

5. Virginia Lynch

Lynch is the mother of forensic nursing. While in nursing school, she met victim after victim of rape. 

Police officers would tell her the rapist would likely not be caught; evidence in the form of the victim’s clothes, personal items, and specimens were often lost or discarded instead of turned into the authorities.

Lynch made it her mission to improve education around keeping the evidence intact, and how to use it to find criminals.

Thanks to Lynch, a new form of nursing was born. Today, forensic nursing is keeping more criminals safely behind bars and women out of harm’s way. profile

These nurses helped lay the foundation to what nursing has become today! Do you know where nurses are in the top U.S. jobs of 2016?


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