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The professionalisation of nursing

The first nursing schools

Major hospitals had long realised the value of effective nursing and appreciated the contribution of religious organisations, such as St John's House, which had trained and provided nurses to many hospitals.

The first nursing school was set up at St Thomas' in 1860 by Mrs Wardroper and supervised at length by Florence Nightingale. It was followed by others, such as the school at St Bartholomew's. Soon all major hospitals had nursing schools.

Registration and regulation

The professionalisation of nurse training paved the way for discussions about registration and regulation. A 'battle of the nurses' raged over whether a hospital certificate or a national examination was best.

In 1887, the Hospitals Association established a non-statutory, voluntary register. This was opposed by the British Nurses' Association (BNA) which was formed in 1887. Led by Ethel Bedford Fenwick, the BNA sought to align nursing more closely to medicine.

It created its own voluntary register to provide for registration on terms satisfactory to physicians and surgeons. Famously, Nightingale was against registration at the time.


The National Archives.
Saint Thomas' Hospital: Nightingale Training School.
The National Archives; nd.

Rivett G.
The Development of the London Hospital System, 1823-2015.
nhshistory.net; nd.