DID YOU KNOW: A Timeline of Fun Nursing History Facts | Salter School of Allied Health and Nursing
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DID YOU KNOW: A Timeline of Fun Nursing History Facts

history of nursing timeline nursing students historical facts salter nursingA timeline can get you inspired about your nursing field!

Have you ever wondered about the origins of nursing? Are your curious about the significant historical facts and achievements made in the field? Whether you're a patient care technician, practical nurse, or nursing assistant, nursing is an essential part of the healthcare industry. Nurses of all persuasions offer crucial assistance to the health and wellness of patients with disabilities, illnesses, and the elderly.

Learning about the nursing field can give you a good perspective on its importance.  If you’re a nursing student who is interested in learning more about the background of your area of study, then The Salter School of Nursing & Allied Health offers you a glimpse into several historical milestones in nursing.


Ancient history:

  • 250 B.C.E. — Indian ruler Ashoka constructed pillars with edicts proclaiming that hospitals should be built alongside traveling routes. These edicts mention one of the first recorded references to nurses who were expected to be skilled, professional, and to help administer medicines to patients.
  • 370 C.E. — Several of the earliest cathedrals in Europe offered nursing care for the poor and the ill. Following this date, hospitals with nursing care are adopted into large cathedral towns like in the Byzantine Empire.
  • 50 C.E.— Phoebe is considered to be the first traveling, Christian nurse sent to Rome by St. Paul. She is one of the first nurses written about in Romans 16:1 of the Bible

Medieval history:

  • 476 A.D.-1500 C.E. — Catholic women played essential healthcare roles in medieval society. Nuns offered free healthcare to the sick and poor. Nursing roles were often considered holy or prestigious. Wealthy families often paid dowries for their daughters to become members of convents. 
  • 7th century — Rufaidah bint Sa’ad from the Bani Aslam tribe in Medina (Saudi Arabia) was the first recorded Muslim nurse. A contemporary of the prophet Muhammad, Sa’ad was one of the first of many Muslims to become nurses as a way to manifest their love for Allah.
  • 1066 C.E. — After England was conquered by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings, they brought with them their hospital system. These healing centers became popular and distinctive from hospitals in English monasteries and those of the French tradition. Nurses who worked in these new hospitals distributed alms and medicines.

Modern history:

  • 1851-1856 — Volunteer nurses played a crucial role in the healthcare of soldiers in large wars. First lady Mary Todd Lincoln and celebrated American poet Walt Whitman became volunteer nurses and cared for patients during the American Civil War.
  • 1860 — Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, founded the first secular nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Her legacy includes setting social reforms to improve the healthcare of all classes of British society in the 1860s.
  • 1879 — Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first African American nurse in the United States. Graduating in 1879, she later co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduated Nurses in 1908. The organization seeks to eliminate racial bias in the nursing field. Mahoney was also inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall in 1976. 

Some of these facts may inspire your own nursing career. When you understand the prestigious roles nurses have held throughout history, you could also uphold the legacy of these hardworking and honorable nurses! At Salter Nursing, you can also acquire an overview of nursing history in our three nurse training programs. Why not become a part of this important and compassionate field? Maybe you can leave your own mark on nursing history one day!


Salter Nursing's campus is located in Manchester, NH. For more information on our training programs and services, contact us today or schedule a tour!