Once defined as religious vocation or womanly duty , nursing today emphasizes specialized education to support the work of health care . It remains a predominantly female profession despite an increase in male nursing students : in 1992 only 4 of nurses were male in 1993 , 12 of new graduates were men . Nurses teach preventive care and maintain health , assist medical treatment , aid rehabilitation , and attend the dying . Two-thirds of all nurses work in hospitals with others in public health agencies , nursing homes , offices , schools , and industries . Nurses are also educators , supervisors , administrators , and independent practitioners History In the mid-19th century
History In the mid-19th century
most nursing care was done at home as part of women 's unpaid domestic duties . Hospital patients , mostly destitute , were attended by women in religious s or laywomen trained informally on the job . In the last half of the century changing social conditions supported the development of a more sophisticated system of health care , one that created a place for the "trained nurse " In the United States the Civil War and the Spanish-American War both necessitated coordination of medical and nursing resources . The quickening pace of industrial work in the United States accompanied by the world 's highest rate of injury on the job strained existing hospital resources . Urban growth brought new working-class and immigrant populations into cities , where poverty , overcrowding , and poor urban sanitation created formidable new health problems . For middle-class families traditional unpaid nursing was replaced by a reliance on women paid to nurse the sick . By the end of the 19th century anesthesia and antisepsis had increased the efficacy of medical care , and surgical intervention and hospitalization both became safer
Reform-minded women organized to respond to wartime conditions and growing urban populations . During the Civil War , Dorothea Dix sought respectable and plain-looking women to attend sick and wounded soldiers , striving to overcome the association of nurses with camp-followers . After the war women organized investigations of hospital care and established training programs for nurses , responding to Florence Nightingale 's reforms of English nursing . In 1873 three schools of nursing opened , at Bellevue Hospital in New York City , Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston , and New Haven Hospital in Connecticut . The first school of nursing for black women opened in 1891 , at Provident Hospital in Chicago . Meanwhile , urban reformers concerned about the sick poor began to hire trained nurses to replace the charitable services of genteel laywomen . In 1877 the Women 's Branch of the New York City Mission became the first organization to send out trained nurses for home visiting . In 1893 , Lillian Wald and Mary Brewster established a nurses ' settlement house on New York City 's Lower East Side
The rapid expansion of hospitals spurred the growth of nurses ' training schools . Under the prevailing system of apprenticeship training , students performed most of the work of the hospital . In exchange they received training on the job , some classroom education , room , board , and a small stipend . While Nightingale had developed nursing schools as autonomous institutions with independent control over their budgets , U...