Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March 12: "I think the nurse's profession is a fine one, and I like it."

Do you know who this is?
-She carried a revolver for protection from the Apache when working in Arizona.
-She essentially created the Red Cross Nursing Service.
-Her efforts provided a prepared nursing corps for wartime service for the first time in our history.

She was an innovative, highly skilled administrator and supervisor who prepared the nursing corps for war – and the saving of lives. Quiet, efficient, professional, she was the founder of modern nursing in America.

Jane Arminda Delano was born on March 12, 1862, in Montour Falls, New York. Her parents were George and Mary Ann Wright Delano, and could trace their heritage back to one of the early settlers of America, Philippe de la Noye – whose name was anglicized to Delano - who arrived on the second Pilgrim ship, the Fortune, in 1621.

Jane never knew her father, who died while serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He died in Louisiana from yellow fever, buried in an unmarked grave.

Jane attended Cook Academy, a Baptist boarding school in her hometown and taught school for a short time. However, she decided to become a trained nurse, so she studied nursing at the Bellevue Hospital School of Nursing in New York City where she graduated in 1886.

Jane once wrote: " . . . I can't say that anything romantic or sentimental determined me to be a nurse. Many young nurses start out with the statement that the sight of suffering impelled them to begin a career of alleviating distress, but please don't say that my career was ever influenced by such sentiment." Her reason for becoming a nurse was simply "I think the nurse's profession is a fine one, and I like it."

After graduating from Bellevue, Jane became a superintendent of nurses at Sandhills Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. A yellow fever epidemic was sweeping the city at the time, and scientists were not positive how the disease spread. Jane knew that some scientists thought that mosquitoes might carry the disease, so she began the innovative practice of placing window screens over the open windows and using mosquito netting in the patient care area and the nurses lodgings.

After the yellow fever epidemic ended, she left Florida, where she wound up as a nurse at a copper mining camp on the Mexican border at Bisbee, Arizona, during a typhoid epidemic. As she later reminisced, life in the wild west could be precarious and exciting: ". . . in those days, the Apache Indians were usually on the war-path and we never dared stir out without a revolver.”

Jane would travel back east in 1891, serving as superintendent of nurses at University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Five years later - in 1896 - she moved to Buffalo, New York, to attend medical school with the ambition of becoming a doctor. She subsequently abandoned plans to become a doctor, and attended the New York School of Civics and Philanthropy, and then continued her nursing career. During the Spanish American War (1898) she became a member of the New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, serving as secretary for the enrollment of nurses.

She moved on to become the superintendent of the House of Refuge – a shelter for wayward girls – and then from 1902 until 1906 was the superintendent of the Training School at Bellevue Hospital. At Bellevue, she would introduce revolutionary ideas for the nursing curriculum, and work to dignify the position of nurses in the medical community. Prior to Jane’s efforts, nurses were not recognized as full members of the medical profession.

In 1906 she would leave that position to move to Charlottesville, Virginia to care for her dying mother.

1908 would find Jane back in New York – and about to take on the jobs that would define her career and contributions. She became the president of the American Nurses Association and the chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Journal of Nursing in 1908. A year later she accepted the chairmanship of the American Red Cross Nursing Service as well as becoming the superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps.

Under her skillful leadership, the American Red Cross Nursing Service became the recognized nursing reserve for the Army, Navy and Public Health Service. She also created other programs that would have a powerful impact in American life. She developed Red Cross courses in Elementary Hygiene and Home Care of the Sick for which she co-authored the textbook. She prepared courses for the training of nurses' aides. She also established the Red Cross Town and Country Nursing Service for delivering health care to rural areas of the country. In 1918, the name changed to the American National Red Cross Public Health Nursing Service. It became one of the most successful contributions to the nation's health care system.

By combining the work of the Army Nurse Corps, the American Nurses Association, and the American Red Cross, she almost single-handedly created the American Red Cross Nursing Service, which became the recognized nursing reserve for the Army, Navy and Public Health Service. She organized emergency response teams for disaster relief, and had over 8,000 registered nurses trained and ready for duty by the time the United States entered World War I. During the war more than 21,480 of her nurses would provide the skills necessary for the health and survival of the soldiers and sailors in the United States military forces.

After the war had ended, Jane traveled to Europe to visit with the nurses she enrolled and to inspect the bases that were still open. While there she fell ill and died on April 15, 1919. She was buried in Savenay, France, and in 1920 the Army Quartermaster Corps exhumed her body, returning it to the United States, and reinterring it in the nurses' plot at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Her last words were "What about my work, I must get back to my work."

She moved to the top of her profession, thanks to her superior executive and administrative skills. She was a woman of incredible energy, and a leading pioneer of the modern nursing profession, and she created a system of disaster relief and military nurses that saved the lives of thousands.


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