Nursing began as a helping profession. In Florence Nightingale's day, nursing was a women's job, most nurses were volunteers who learned on the job, and nursing duties were limited to physical care of patients and supplying direct hands-on assistance to doctors.
In the modern, post-Nightingale world, nurses still do those things, but they also do a lot more. Nurses and nurse education programs have worked hard to professionalize the field, and to develop specialties within it. Today nurses have to get through a rigorous training program that includes classroom instruction and clinical rotations. They also continue to pursue further training and education throughout their professional careers.
Nightingale's writings on her Environment Theory laid the groundwork for modern holistic nursing practices. She believed, contrary to common medical wisdom of the day, that the patient's environment was a major factor in his/her regaining health. Nightingale promoted cleanliness, fresh air, and pleasant surroundings. She was one of the first people to propose that proper nutrition was important to the healing process. She felt that nurses, in addition to taking care of the patient's body, should strive to help the patients heal themselves. Before her, healing was seen as purely physical. Nightingale, in introducing the concept of modern nursing, helped to highlight the fact that the connection between the body and the mind is critical to obtaining optimal health; modern nurses strive to incorporate the patient's surroundings, family and friends, and the patients mental state into the healing process.
Modern nursing embodies a concept referred to as holistic care. Holistic care strives to take into consideration every aspect of the patients life as it relates to the current medical problem or disease. In other words instead of treating the patient for the presenting problem or chief complaint (cc), an effort should be made to treat the whole person. This includes a physical assessment, a mental health assessment, a psychosocial assessment, and even a financial assessment. Of course nurses do not delve into a patients finances but they do make appropriate referrals to other members of the health-care team. A referral to a medical social worker is a good example of this type of holistic care.