5 Influential Nurses from Past to Present


Prominent Nurses in History and Modern Times

  • Clara Barton
  • Dorothea Dix
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Hazel Johnson-Brown
  • Diane Carlson-Evans

There have been many influential nurses from the past to the present who have made valuable contributions to their communities and the nursing profession. Because of these nurses, the nursing profession has evolved significantly over time, and nurses of today are responsible for much more than simple first aid. Five of the most outstanding nurses from past to present are described below.

Related resource: 15 Most Affordable Best Online RN to BSN Nursing Degree Programs

1. Clara Barton

One of the most influential nurses from the past is a woman by the name of Clara Barton. Clara began her nursing career tending to wounded soldiers during the Civil War. After the Civil War ended, she traveled to Europe and worked for an organization known as the International Red Cross. Upon returning to the states, Clara had dreams of forming a similar organization in her home country. In 1881, she helped found the American Red Cross and served as its president until the year 1904 when she retired.

2. Dorothea Dix

Another prominent nurse from the past is Dorothea Dix. An article published on the blog website known as Nurse Buff states that Dorothea began her professional career as a teacher in England. In 1854, she enrolled in the Union Army as Superintendent of Union Army Services. But her biggest accomplishments occurred after obtaining a job with Trenton State Hospital working with mentally ill patients. Dorothea was so concerned with the treatment of these patients that she spent the rest of her life working to improve the care and treatment of the mentally ill.

3. Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger is also among the most influential nurses from past to present. Margaret was a nurse in the early 1900s. She became interested in women’s health rights after watching her mother die from pregnancy-related complications. This led her to fight for women’s rights to contraception and the creation of birth control. As shared by Time Magazine, her legacy is a complicated one: she was a vocal proponent of the eugenics movement, and even proposed a law which sought, in her words, “to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization”, which called to mind concentration camps. Her fondness for eugenics, was, in fact, shared by Adolf Hitler. She ultimately founded the organization known as Planned Parenthood. In 1921, she opened the country’s first legal birth control clinic: the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau.

4. Hazel Johnson-Brown

One of the most influential nurses in the present is a woman by the name of Hazel Johnson-Brown. In 1979, Hazel was the first African-American woman to be appointed as a general in the United States Army. She began her nursing career in 1947 when she enrolled in the nursing program at Harlem Hospital’s School of Nursing. Although she took her first job at Philadelphia’s Veterans Hospital, she later joined the Army’s Nursing Corps and was named General of the Nursing Corps in 1979.

5. Diane Carlson-Evans

Another prominent nurse in the present is Diane Carlson-Evans. In 1968, Diane began her nursing career by joining the Army Nursing Corps and serving in Vietnam. Diane has made many accomplishments to date including helping to create the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project and leading the effort to add the Vietnam Women’s Memorial to Washington DC’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Today, Diane acts as president of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation and speaks all over the country about her experiences in the Army and Vietnam.

Throughout history, many great women and a few men have helped to shape the nursing profession in one way or another. Five of the most influential nurses from past to present are described above along with the valuable contributions they made to help make nursing what it is today.