Nursing Role Models for Your Education and Career

Starting your career as a registered nurse can seem a bit frightening. From your first day of nursing school to your last day as a registered nurse, you will want a support system to keep you focused, energized, and motivated in your career.

Part of this support system should consist of nursing role models, whether they be people you work with or nurses who have improved the nursing profession. The following four nurses have played a major role in the nursing field and should be considered role models for all nursing students.

Nursing Role Models

Clara Barton

Clara Barton. Photo from Wikipedia

Nursing Role Models for Motivation

Clara Barton

Clara Barton, sometimes referred to as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” served as a nurse during the Civil War. She worked to clean the field hospitals, bandage wounds, and help wounded soldiers near many battles, such as the battle at Fredericksburg and the second battle of Bull Run.

However, Barton is best known for her work after the war. Barton’s international relief efforts with the Red Cross aided several different countries, including Germany and France. When she returned to the United States, Barton worked tirelessly to get the United States to recognize the International Committee of the Red Cross and finally succeeded when she argued that the American Red Cross would aid in natural disaster relief as well as war relief. She became president of the American Red Cross in 1881 and served in this role until 1904.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale. Photo from Wikipedia

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is synonymous with nursing. Most well known for her work during the Crimean War, Nightingale worked to improve the hygienic conditions of the medical field. Nightingale’s efforts reduced death rates significantly, helping save thousands of lives. While visiting wounded soldiers at night, Florence was given the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp.” Nightingale worked tirelessly to improve the education of nurses.

In 1859, she wrote “Notes on Nursing,” a general introduction to nursing, and in 1860 she established the Nightingale Training School. Nightingale’s work to improve the medical training of nurses dramatically improved the nursing field.

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney. Photo from Wikipedia

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African-American woman to train and serve as a nurse in the United States. She spent her entire nursing career battling against discrimination in the nursing field.

Mahoney completed her nursing training at the New England Hospital for Women nursing school in 1879 at the age of 33 after working as a private-duty nurse within the hospital. Mahoney was also one of the first black members of the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada, later known as the American Nurses Association.

As a nurse, Mahoney left a great impression with every family that knew her. Throughout her life, Mahone  y fought for equality. She was elected as chaplain for the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, for which she helped recruit nurses, and headed the Howard Orphan Asylum in 1911. Mahoney was also one of the first women to register to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920.

Dorthea Dix.

Dorthea Dix. Photo from Wikipedia

Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix was a prominent nurse and mental-health advocate before, during, and after the Civil War. In 1840, Dix began investigating the treatment of the mentally ill in Massachusetts and discovered rampant abuse, after which she wrote a report to the state legislature that led to a bill expanding the state’s mental hospital. She ran similar investigations in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Illinois, and North Carolina, amongst many others, all of which called for improved mental healthcare.

During the Civil War, the Union Army named Dix Superintendent of Army Nurses. However, Dix and the nurses she employed aided many Confederate soldiers injured in battles as well as Union soldiers, including 5,000 wounded Confederate soldiers left behind after the battle of Gettysburg.


Although these four nurses took on larger-than-life responsibilities, every nurse can make a huge difference in the life of a patient. If you want to pursue your dreams and make a difference in the world, contact an advisor today about earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing in just 16 months.

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