Today we honor Nurse Anna Caroline Maxwell
Also known as the American Florence Nightingale.
When Anna Maxwell first entered the nursing field in 1874 as a matron at New England
Hospital, there were few places to learn nursing skills, other than “On the Job Training.”
She went on to study at Boston City Hospital where she participated in their fledgling training program and qualified as having complete the accepted period of training. – There was no standard Nurse qualifications or registration as we have today.
In 1880, Maxwell was hired by Montreal General Hospital to implement a nurse training program. A year later she was hired as superintendent of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Training School for Nurses in Boston. This was followed by a long list of appointments at Nursing training programs including, St. Luke’s Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital of New York,
and Columbia University School of Nursing.
During the Spanish-American War, Maxwell personally trained and organized 160 nurses for the Army. Her Nurses cared for soldiers at Fort Thomas in Chickamauga, Georgia. The most common ailments were Malaria, Typhoid Fever and Measles – all highly contagious.
Before Maxwell and her nurses took control of the camp and set up a modern field hospital, the conditions were unhealthy and conducive to the swift spread of disease. Maxwell’s nurses fixed that problem and the survival rate skyrocketed.
Maxwell figured out just how, important nursing played in the triage and treatment of patients in the chaos of battle and how an organized nursing program would benefit patients at home as well as in the field. She became very active in the lobbying effort for military nurses to be commissioned as officers and awarded with military rank. As a result, the Army Nurse Corps was established. In 1920, nurses were finally awarded with officers military rank and civilian nurses were given authority as medical officers. As a bonus, Anna Maxwell even helped design the U.S. Army nurses uniform.
She went on to set up Nurse training programs and took time off her regular responsibilities to personally train military nurses during World War I, often spending time at hospitals at the front in Europe. There were not nearly enough Medical Doctors to go around so Nurses filled the void. Maxwell focused her efforts on helping allies set up effective combat nursing programs. Thousands of wounded soldiers were triaged and treated by nurses – without them, the death toll of WW1 would have been considerably higher.
At war’s end, the French people honored Nurse Anna Caroline Maxwell with the “Commandeur Ordre de la Santé Publique,” the equivalent of the Croix de Guerre for Nurses.
The Nursing programs that produce the quality Nurse of today have their origin in Maxwell’s early programs. A pioneer in the field of Nursing, Anna Maxwell helped transform the profession from laymen with some experience to highly trained and educated professionals
Today’s Nursing Trivia –
The most decorated woman in the US military – Was a Combat Nurse.
Col. Ruby Bradley of the Army Nurse Corps was the most highly decorated woman in US military history, receiving 34 medals and citations of bravery for her military service during the WW2 and the Korean War. Her awards included two Legion of Merit Medals, two Bronze Stars, two Presidential Emblems, WWII Victory Medal, U.N. Service Medal, and Florence Nightingale Medal. During WW2 she served under 1LT Josephine Nesbit.
She was one of Momma Josie’s girls – one of the Angels of Bataan.