AskDefine | Define nursing

Dictionary Definition



1 the work of caring for the sick or injured or infirm
2 the profession of a nurse
3 nourishing at the breast [syn: breast feeding]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. In the state of suckling young, lactating.
    The nursing bear wouldn't move far until her cubs were older.
  2. Referring to nurses.
    The nursing staff worked overtime at the hospital.


  1. The profession of caring for patients as a nurse.
    She went into nursing as a career.


Verb form

  1. Present participle of nurse, suckling young.
    The mother sat there nursing her baby.

Extensive Definition

Nursing is a profession focused on assisting individuals, families, and communities in attaining, maintaining, and recovering optimal health and functioning. Modern definitions of nursing define it as a science and an art that focuses on promoting quality of life as defined by persons and families, throughout their life experiences from birth to care at the end of life.

History of nursing

Nursing has existed in various forms in every culture, although the definition of the term and the practice of nursing has changed greatly over time. The oldest sense of the word in the English language a woman employed to suckle and/or generally care for a younger child. The former being known as a wet nurse and the latter being known as a dry nurse. In the 15th century, this developed into the idea of looking after or advising another, not necessarily meaning a woman looking after a child. The religious and military roots of modern nursing remain in evidence today in many countries. For example: in Britain, senior female nurses are known as ‘‘sisters’’. It was during time of war that a significant development in nursing history arose when Florence Nightingale, working to improve conditions of soldiers in the Crimean War, laid the foundation stone of professional nursing with the principles summarised in the book Notes on Nursing. Other important nurses in the development of the profession include: Mary Seacole, who also worked as a nurse in the Crimea; Agnes Elizabeth Jones and Linda Richards, who established quality nursing schools in the USA and Japan, and Linda Richards who was officially America's first trained nurse, graduating in 1873 from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston.
New Zealand was the first country to regulate nurses nationally, with adoption of the Nurses Registration Act on the 12th of September , 1901. Ellen Dougherty was the first registered nurse. North Carolina was the first state in the United States to pass a nursing licensure law in 1903.
Nurses have experienced difficulty with the hierarchy in medicine that has resulted in an impression that nurses primary purpose is to follow the direction of medics. This tendency is certainly not observed in Nightingale's Notes on Nursing, where the doctors are mentioned relatively infrequently and often in critical tones, particularly relating to bedside manner.
The modern era has seen the development of nursing degrees and nursing has numerous journals to broaden the knowledge base of the profession. Nurses are often in key management roles within health services and hold research posts at universities.

Nursing as a profession

The authority for the practice of nursing is based upon a social contract that delineates professional rights and responsibilities as well as mechanisms for public accountability. In almost all countries, nursing practice is defined and governed by law, and entrance to the profession is regulated at national or state level.
The aim of the nursing community worldwide is to develop the profession guided by continuing education based on nursing research, and to regulate standards of competency and ethics. There are a number of educational paths to becoming a professional nurse, which vary greatly worldwide, but all involve extensive study of nursing theory and practice and training in clinical skills.

Nursing practice

Nursing practice is primarily the caring relationship between the nurse and the person in their care. In providing nursing care, nurses are implementing the nursing care plan, which is based on a nursing assessment.


Although nursing practice varies both through its various specialities and countries, these nursing organisations offer the following definitions:

Nursing theory and process

In general terms, the nursing process is the method used to assess and diagnose needs, plan and implement interventions, and evaluate the outcomes of the care provided. Like other disciplines, the profession has developed different theories derived from sometimes diverse philosophical beliefs and paradigms or worldviews to help nurses direct their activities to accomplish specific goals. Currently, two paradigms exist in nursing, the totality paradigm and the simultaneity paradigm.

Practice settings

Nurses practice in a wide range of settings, from hospitals to visiting people in their homes and caring for them in schools to research in pharmaceutical companies. Nurses work in occupational health settings (also called industrial health settings), free-standing clinics and physician offices, nurse-run clinics, long-term care facilities and camps. They also work on cruise ships and in military service. Nurses act as advisers and consultants to the healthcare and insurance industries. Some are attorneys and others work with attorneys as legal nurse consultants, reviewing patient records to assure that adequate care was provided and testifying in court. Nurses can work on a temporary basis, which involves doing shifts without a contact in a variety of settings, sometimes known as per diem nursing, agency nursing or travel nursing.

Regulation of practice

The practice of nursing is governed by laws that define a scope of practice, generally mandated by the legislature of the political division within which the nurse practices. Nurses are held legally responsible and accountable for their practice. The standard of care is that of the "prudent nurse."

Nursing specialties

Nursing is the most diverse of all healthcare professions. Nurses practice in a wide range of settings but generally nursing is divided depending on the needs of the person being nursed.
The major divisions are:-

Nursing by country

For the occupation of nurses in each country, see nurse


nursing in Catalan: Infermeria
nursing in Danish: Sygepleje
nursing in German: Krankenpflege
nursing in Spanish: Enfermería
nursing in Basque: Erizaintza
nursing in French: Soin infirmier
nursing in Korean: 간호
nursing in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Infirmeria
nursing in Italian: Nursing
nursing in Hebrew: סיעוד
nursing in Japanese: 看護
nursing in Norwegian: Sykepleie
nursing in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sjukepleie
nursing in Polish: Pielęgnowanie
nursing in Portuguese: Enfermagem
nursing in Russian: Сестринское дело
nursing in Finnish: Hoitotyö
nursing in Swedish: Omvårdnad
nursing in Thai: พยาบาลศาสตร์
nursing in Chinese: 护理学
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