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Both nursing roles and education were first defined by Florence Nightingale, fol

lowing her experiences caring for the wounded in the Crimean War.[1] Prior to th
is, nursing was thought to be a trade with few common practices or documented st
andards. Nightingale's concepts were used as a guide for establishing nursing sc
hools at the beginning of the twentieth century, which were mostly hospital-base
d training programs emphasizing the development of a set of clinical skills.[1]
The profession's early utilization of a general, hospital-based education is som
etimes credited for the wide range of roles nurses have assumed within health ca
re, and this is contrasted with present-day nursing education, which is increasi
ngly specialized and typically offered at post-secondary institutions.[2]
Practice as a nurse is often defined by state, provincial or territorial governm
ents. As an example, the province of Ontario classifies nurses into the roles of
Registered Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse (general class), and Registered Nu
rse (extended class).[3] In this respect, the title "nurse" is protected by law
within the province, and regulated by legislative statute.[3] Some regions have
legislated different or expanded roles for nurses, generating many potential nur
se careers.
Around the world, nurses have been traditionally female. Despite equal opportuni
ty legislation nursing has continued to be a female dominated profession.[4] For
instance, in Canada and America the male-to-female ratio of nurses is approxima
tely 1:19.[5][6] This ratio is represented around the world. Notable exceptions
include: Francophone Africa, which includes the countries of Benin, Burkino Faso
, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti
, Guinea, Gabon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, and Togo, which all h
ave more male than female nurses.[7] In Europe, in countries such as Spain, Port
ugal, Czechoslovakia, and Italy, over 20% of nurses are male.[7]
Currently, a nursing shortage exists within the United Kingdom, United States, C
anada, and a number of other developed countries.[8] The majority of analysis re
fers to a shortage of Registered Nurse staff.[8] The Canadian Registered Nurse s
hortage has been linked to longer wait times for hospital-based procedures, incr
eased adverse events for patients, and more stressful work environments.[9] As t
he shortage of Registered Nurses increases, it is expected that there will be an
increasing move towards utilizing unregulated healthcare workers to meet demand
s for basic nursing care within hospitals and the community.[10]
[edit] EducationTypically, nurses are distinguished from one another by the area
they work in (critical care, perioperative, oncology, nephrology, pediatrics, a
dult acute care, geriatrics, psychiatric, community, occupational health, etc.).
Bodies such as the American Nurses Association and the Canadian Nurses Associat
ion have both supported a move towards the creation of national specialty certif
ications, in order to support more specialized nursing roles.[11] As nursing rol
es and specialties are continually changing, the International Council of Nurses
states that nursing education should always include continuing education activi
ties; while educational preparation is expected to vary between countries, all n
ursing jurisdictions are encouraged to promote continuing education as an import
ant form of professional education.[12]
Nursing education varies widely, and continues to produce an array of options as
nursing roles evolve and also expand in scope. Educational preparation as a nur
se may include certificate, diploma, associates, bachelors, masters or doctoral
[edit] EtymologyThe English word nurse also refers to the act of breastfeeding.[
13] A wet nurse is considered someone who provides her own breast-milk to infant
s. In other languages, the word for nurse comes from the same etymology as the w
ord infirmary, such as in French (infirmier), or Italian (infermiere).