The Role of a Nurse and Its Evolution

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 2
Words: 661
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Bachelor


Nursing is a caring profession that has undergone many changes in the last few decades. Although nursing theory started expanding at the end of the nineteenth century with Florence Nightingale’s contributions, the nurse’s role significantly grew in the 1980s (Matthews et al., 2020; Vitale et al., 2019). Nightingale’s impact on the profession was the connection between one’s health and environment, meaning that nursing care relied on what surrounded the patient – fresh air, clean water, hygiene, and more (Indra, 2018). Later, other theorists added more factors that impacted people’s well-being while also modifying the role of nurses in people’s health. For example, Henderson defines nursing as “assisting sick or healthy individuals to gain independence in meeting fundamental needs” (Indra, 2018, p. 272). However, the uniting thread between these models and approaches is the patient-centered framework of providing care and supporting patients to care for themselves as they leave the health organization. Advocacy can be considered a central point in modern nursing, as it correlates with nurses’ duties of assistance, health promotion, and illness prevention.

Definition of Nursing

Many descriptions of nursing exist currently; they point to different tasks that nurses perform daily, as well as their values and goals for population health. Henderson’s definition outlined above shows that nursing is a process of care that provides people with autonomy. Another description is given by the International Council of Nurses (ICN, 2022), where nursing includes “autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings.” Additionally, it incorporates the “promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled, and dying people” (ICN, 2022). The ICN (2022) notes that nursing is “advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, participation in shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education.” This definition expands beyond the narrow view of healing and shows that nurses impact health in and outside hospitals. Indeed, nurses make up about half of all healthcare professionals, and they work in managerial, advisory, and front-line roles (World Health Organization, 2022). Thus, this definition demonstrates the range of modern nursing and its significant impact on the healthcare industry and related fields.

Future Vision for the Role of the Nurse

Based on the definition of nursing, one may see that this professional field continues to expand beyond caring for hospital patients. Advocacy and health education gain more recognition as nurses gradually introduce new theories, models, and research into the discipline. Moreover, as nursing presents new education opportunities, nursing leaders and advocates move into new roles in government and private organizations (Wasik, 2020). As a result, the future vision for the nurse’s role is continued participation in legislative change and improving healthcare policy to meet the evolving needs of populations and individuals (Abood, 2007; Ennen, 2001). By training in finance, business, management, legislation, and other disciplines, nurses broaden their outlook and gain more skills to tackle patient-centered care from different angles.

The current threat to this path is that advocacy continues to be an obscure term. According to Abbasinia et al. (2020), not all patients and nurses understand what this activity entails and why it is vital for healthcare improvement. Resistance to change from nurses, other healthcare professionals, and organizations may limit nurses’ growth as change agents (Abood, 2007). To overcome this barrier, education is vital for nurses and communities, in general, to show why nurse values are incremental in improving healthcare policy and the patient environment.


Nursing has evolved with time, becoming an all-encompassing profession of care, education, promotion, and advocacy. The definition by the ICN builds on the traditional theorists’ views of nursing and highlights the role of nurses in advancing healthcare. The future for nurses lies in policy change, leadership, and education based on nursing values and expertise. However, to succeed, nurses have to overcome misunderstandings about the discipline and show why nursing is vital in changing healthcare for the patients’ and professionals’ benefit.


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Vitale, E., Germini, F., Massaro, M., & Fortunato, R. (2019). How patients and nurses defined advocacy in nursing? A review of the literature. Journal of Health, Medicine, and Nursing, 63, 64-69.

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