In the field of psychiatry the most overlooked position would arguably be the psychiatric nurse. While most people don’t realize the importance of this position within the field of psychiatry, these men and women do play an important role. While heroes in psychology are mainly the doctors there are a few notable names in the history of psychiatric nursing.
Linda Richards was born on July 27, 1841 in the state of New York. The youngest of three girls Richards first experience in nursing came with the care of her dying mother. She entered St. Johnsbury Academy when she was 15 to originally become a teacher. However, after her husband died from injuries sustained in the American Civil War she moved to Boston in order to become a nurse. She is known as the first person ever roll in the inaugural class for the American Nurses’ Training School. She is credited with being the first American nurse in history. This means she was also America’s first psychiatric nurse as at the time there was no differentiation and specialties. Nurses worked different wards as they were needed.
Florence Nightingale was a contemporary of Linda Richards. She is known as the founder of modern nursing and came prominently known for her work with soldiers during the Crimean war. She was a healthcare advocate in British society as well as the founder of the first secular nursing school in the world. As nursing training was new at that time, she is also considered one of the first psychiatric nurses in Britain. She worked for forms in healthcare in Britain. She set the standard for compassion and commitment to patient care that is still used today even in psychiatric conditions.
Hildegard Peplau was born in September 1909. She was a German descendent born to immigrant parents. She graduated from the Pottstown Hospital School of nursing in 1931. Peplau’s work with the mentally ill paved the way for her to later be a consult to the National Institute on Mental Health. She also developed the Theory of Interpersonal relationships. Her theories included the roles of a nurse. These roles include stranger, teacher, resource person, counselor, surrogate, and leader. By understanding these roles, she believed that nurses could apply principles of human relations any problem that arose. These theories have helped reshape the mental health system in the United States.
Dorothea Dix was born in Maine in April 1802. She is probably best known for being an activist on behalf of the insane. She created the first generation of the American insane asylum through vigorous lobbying of state legislation and United States Congress. She was also the superintendent and Army nurses during the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, Dorothea Dix noticed that those who were insane and had no family to care for them were being taken advantage of through a system that was under regulated and underfunded. This system was widely abused. This caused her to call for action on behalf of those who could not care for themselves due to mental illness. Her initial campaign resulted in many changes in the way mentally ill were cared for on the state level. Changes from New Hampshire to Louisiana all took place because of her concern. Her efforts were suspended during the Civil War. She resumed her campaign for improved care of the mentally ill, the disabled, and prisoners starting with asylums and prisons in the South. Her care and concern for those who are mentally unable to care for themselves helped begin the reform on the mental health care society during her time.
Psychiatric nurse does as much for her patients as any other nurse. Often times those who are diagnosed with the psychiatric condition will see their nurse more frequently than they will their doctor once a prescription plan has been set in place. These nurses noticed changes and can suggest adjustments to the physician as needed. Each of these historic psychiatric nurses played a part in how nurses help the mentally ill today.