It is important to look at the past to see how things developed. This includes looking at our disciplinary origins, which can give us insight into where we are currently. The essay will discuss the historical role of rationalism and empiricism, their relation to nursing discipline, and further implications these ideas have.
The earliest recorded evidences of nursing practice date back between 4500-3500 B.C. These early nurses were looking after people’s health care needs by providing food and clean housing as part of a holistic health care system. It was not until 1792 that modern nursing practice was established in Britain with the establishment of the first official general nurses. These nurses were not only there to provide much-needed care, but they played a big role in medical advancement as well.
In 1799, Florence Nightingale was born and she would later become the founder of modern nursing. During her lifetime, Nightingale decided to pursue an education to be a nurse. She quickly realized that this profession needed improvement from the way it had been handled before her. She looked at this issue from an intellectual perspective by analyzing why nurses were so unsuccessful at their jobs. This led Nightingale to further analyze the problem and develop a plan for change – an evidence-based analytical approach to solving problems.
This line of thinking is what became known as rationalism – using knowledge and reasoning based on logic to solve problems. Nightingale began to make changes in the hospital setting by requiring her nurses to be trained properly for their job, changing the diet of hospital patients, giving them clean clothes and clean rooms, getting rid of old equipment that was not being used, and cleanliness in general. In addition to these practical changes she made an academic change as well – by doing research on finding solutions to the problem she found herself facing. A few examples of this would be finding a solution for bed sores from people staying in hospitals too long and developing a chart for recording vital signs .
Nightingale’s work had a big impact on society at the time. Because of this impact there was a need for more people specializing in nursing and thus in 1874, the first nursing school was established in Germany for university-based education.
At the same time that Nightingale was developing her ideas on nursing there was another nurse making an impact of his own – Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865). He is credited with being one of the fathers of modern medicine due to his discovery of germ theory. Semmelweis discovered a way to stop puerperal fever by following clues he found from previous research done by Louis Pasteur. Unfortunately, this information did not have a large impact on medical advancements until 16 years later when Joseph Lister began using it in his work at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary .
One positive thing that came out of Semmelweis’ work was that he helped influence Louis Pasteur to become a chemist instead of working as a medical doctor . This led to the discovery of germ theory by Pasteur which also had an impact on nursing.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), who is known as the first woman in America to receive her medical degree, worked closely with Florence Nightingale and admired her for developing rationalism. She recommended Nightingale’s ideas to other nurses around the country, leading to more research being done into this field .
This period of time put nursing at another crossroads – there was now more need for knowledge about health care. The use of critical thinking was helping nurses further their education through continued research based on facts, not just theories. There was also a push for more education to be offered in nursing schools because the only requirement to become a nurse at this time was being able to read and write .
With all of these advances in nursing there was still one piece missing – empirical evidence. Empiricism is the main idea behind research-based facts and where this role takes its roots from is through observing patients’ symptoms and reacting accordingly by taking precautions against diseases. A great example of empiricism advancement would be Joseph Lister (1827-1912), who made huge strides into surgery by developing antiseptic surgery, which helped prevent infections during patient treatments .
These two ideas combined with other are what created the basis of modern nursing.
Overall, the main focus of this essay is to show how two different ideas came together to form one profession, nurses. Rationalism was the beginning for this idea because it set the groundwork by creating a direction for nurses to go in – this being proactive research. It also provided a structure for developing ideas and coming up with solutions rather than just doing what had always been done before . Empiricism pushed rationalism even further by providing concrete, observable evidence that these theories could actually make an impact on physical health conditions. The main point here would be that nursing is only successful through both types of thinking working together – not relying on either one exclusively.
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