FUN FACTS: A History of Nursing Timeline

history of nursing fun facts timeline nurse training programA timeline to help you understand interesting facts in nursing history

Nursing is the backbone of the healthcare industry. Nurses of all varieties provide essential care to patients throughout the day. Whether you’re a certified nurses aide or a patient care technician, you play an important part in comforting patients, assisting your local community to live healthier lives, and helping a healthcare establishment run smoothly.

If you are still considering whether you’d like to become a nursing professional, you may want to look into the background of the profession. You could find some inspiring facts and general knowledge that will help you appreciate the practice and its importance more.

The Harris School of Business features a timeline of important historical facts on nursing.


Ancient history:

250 B.C.E. — In India, the ruler Ashoka built a series of pillar with decrees inscribed in them. One of the decrees stated that hospitals should be built alongside traveling routes. It stated that these hospitals should be “well provided with instruments and medicine” by skillful physicians and nurses. This is one of the first recorded references to nursing as a profession.

50 C.E. — Phoebe, a nurse mentioned in Romans 16:1, is thought to be the first Christian nurse mentioned in text. She was supposed to have been sent by St. Paul as the first traveling nurse to Rome.

370 C.E. — Nurses worked in some of the earliest cathedrals which offered hospital care for the ill and dying. After this date, hospitals were incorporated into each cathedral town in Europe and the Byzantine empire.

Medieval history:

476 C.E.-1500 C.E. — Catholic women played important roles in medieval society. Nuns often provided free nursing care to the poor. Their roles were considered prestigious and wealthy families often paid dowries for their daughters to become members of convents.

7th century — The first Muslim nurse is recorded as Rufaidah bint Sa’ad from the Bani Aslam tribe in Medina. The contemporary of the prophet Muhammad, Sa’ad was one of the first of many Muslims to become nurses to manifest their love for Allah.

1066 C.E. — After England was conquered by the French Normans, they brought with them their hospital system. These new charitable centers became popular and distinct from hospitals set up in English monasteries and the traditional French hospitals. Nurses who worked in these new hospitals distributed alms and medicines.

Modern history:

1851-1856 — Former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln and famous American poet Walt Whitman volunteered as nurses at the bedsides of 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.

1879 — Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first African American woman to become a nurse in the United States. She graduated in 1879 and became a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Graduated Nurses in 1908. She was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall in 1976. In 1993, Mahoney was officially inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Why learn about the history of nursing? Learning interesting facts about your career field can inspire you to achieve more. If you enter a nursing training program, you may feel fulfilled to know that your field has a long history of helping others and that you will be joining the ranks of many prestigious people in history.


The Harris School of Business offers nursing training programs like Certified Nurses Aide, Patient Care Technician, as well as allied health programs like Professional Medical Assistant. Learn more about our nursing training programs by contacting us at your earliest convenience.