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August 2012, Volume 42 Number 8 , p 1 - 3


  • Sandra C. Voda MSN, RN-C, ONC


ALL NURSES STRIVE to provide the best care for their patients, but some bring a special wealth of initiative and originality to the profession. This article highlights four such nursing activists who are recognized for their tireless efforts to make healthcare accessible to the poor and underserved throughout the United States. * Lillian Wald, a nursing leader, created a foundation for public health in her urban neighborhood. * Lavinia Lloyd Dock, a nurse educator, improved nursing practice and education. * Mary Breckinridge, a nurse midwife, used her vision to bring homecare and midwifery to rural America. * Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail, a nurse advocate, dedicated her working life to improving living conditions and services on American Indian reservations.Explore how these visionary nurses created the framework that guides nursing practice today. For more information, see Recommended historical reading for nurses.Social reformer and activistFounder of the Henry Street SettlementAfter Lillian Wald graduated from the New York Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1891, she took additional courses at the Woman's Medical College. Wald, a member of a prominent German-Jewish family, became interested in nursing after her sister became ill. In 1893, Wald and Mary Brewster, another nurse, moved into New York's Lower East Side. It was here that Wald became familiar with the poor living conditions of immigrant families in the tenement district of this culturally diverse and underserved neighborhood of Manhattan.1 Both of these nurses offered their services as visiting nurses.With financial aid from a banker, Wald created the Nurses' Settlement. Here she taught immigrant women about health and hygiene. As her community of nurses grew to 250 in 1929, nursing services were increased to include a nurse's training program, community education programs, and youth clubs. The Nurses' Settlement came to be known internationally as the Henry Street Settlement.1In 1902, nursing services

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