Nursing through the Years: 1900s to 2020
See how nursing in Jacksonville has transformed through the years.
Nursing Then and Now
The field of nursing has changed quite a bit over the years. See how things, such as tuition costs and uniform requirements, have evolved since the early 1900s.
Then: Nurses in the early 1900s were required to do a wide array of duties, including:
- Changing and laundering linens
- Housekeeping (scrubbing the floors)
- Preparing meals
- Ordering supplies
- Caring for patients
- Studying to advance knowledge in the field
Now: Today, modern nurses have hundreds of career opportunities that didn’t exist 100 years ago. Nurses have other options outside patient care, including leadership roles or training in a specialty area, such as developmental disability nursing, home health nursing, informatics nursing, psychiatric nursing, triage nursing and more.
Education and Tuition
Then: In 1904, tuition costs were $1.50 per student. By the 1930s, nursing school tuition cost about $35 per year, and training lasted three years. The cost covered room and board, laundry services and medical care. Students were required to attend daily classes and religious services, provide care to patients and work rotating eight-hour hospital shifts.
Now: Modern nurses can pursue higher education, depending on the career paths they choose. Nurses can earn their R.N., bachelor’s, master’s or even a doctoral degree. Tuition costs vary based on the program and school. On average, nurses in Jacksonville earn $25 – $30 per hour, with the opportunity for overtime throughout the year.
Then: Nurses at the Brewster Hospital and School of Nurse Training wore white, cotton caps that were stiffly starched to stand on their heads. Graduate nurses had wide black velvet bands on their caps. Student nurses had different bands on their caps to distinguish their classifications.
Now: Today, nurses have more freedom in their uniform choices. Depending on work assignments, departments or organizations, nurses may wear traditional hospital scrubs or something a bit more personalized. It’s not uncommon to see nurses in scrubs with fun patterns as well, ranging from floral prints to cartoon characters. The strict requirements to wear white caps and no makeup are a thing of the past.
Nursing Fun Facts
Brewster Hospital and the Brewster School of Nurse Training were established as two of the most-needed institutions in Jacksonville in the early 1900s. It was the first hospital for Blacks in Florida, and one of the two schools of nursing for Blacks in the Southeast.
The Florence Nightingale Pledge pays tribute to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. It was written in 1893, but has been updated throughout the years to reflect modern times. It is often recited at graduations or special programs and events.
In 1916, the Florida Legislative Nurses Registration Act took effect. This required nurses in the state with the appropriate training and experience to take an examination to qualify for registration. They became what we know today as a “registered nurse,” or R.N.
Nurses have incredible tools that didn’t exist more than 100 years ago, which have helped make their jobs safer and more efficient, from latex gloves, protective gear and disinfectant to smartphones, tablets and internet access.
During World War II, the Brewster School of Nurse Training began participating in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. The purpose of the Cadet Nurse Corps was to recruit and train young women in nursing, and to increase the number of nurses willing to serve their country, while ensuring there were still enough nurses to serve the civilian population. Participants were given a stipend, assistance with books and tuition, and special U.S. Cadet Nurses Corps uniforms.
Today, nursing is a field appealing to both men and women. It’s a career that attracts professionals of all races, religions and creeds. It even attracts returning students who may have had gaps in their education or those who want to make a career change.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016 – 2026, registered nursing is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2026. The Bureau projects the need for an additional 203,700 new R.N.s each year through 2026 to fill new positions and to replace retiring nurses.
Technology has transformed how modern nurses work:
RFID-enabled devices make monitoring hospital assets easier, ranging from drugs and equipment to records and patients.
High-tech equipment and web cams that can monitor vital signs make caring for multiple patients much easier, and have changed how hospitals operate.
Electronic records are easily managed, accessed and maintained through tablets and wireless workstations.
Applications like Zoom and Skype can be used in place of some in-person training sessions.
Nurses in 2020 have increased flexibility in their work schedules, compared with those in 1901. For example, nurses in some areas may work longer shifts but fewer days.
The majority of the workforce in most hospitals is composed of nurses.
On average, nurses walk four to five miles every 12-hour shift they work.
Visit History.UFHealthJax.org to learn more about our diverse history.