Men in Nursing Historical Timeline

The world's first nursing school founded in India about 250 B.C. Only men were considered "pure" enough to become nurses.

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Men in Nursing Historical Timeline

Ancient Rome

The term "nosocomial" meaning "hospital-acquired" stems from the nosocomi, the men who provided nursing care in ancient Rome.


In 300 A.D., a group of men, the Parabolani, started a hospital providing nursing care during the Black Plague epidemic.

Early Religious Orders

St. Benedict founded the Benedictine nursing order, while St. Alexis was in the fifth century. Military, religious and lay orders of men including the Knights Hospitalers, the Teutonic Knights, the Knights of St. Lazarus and the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony provided nursing care during the Middle Ages.

The Alexians

The Alexian Brothers began as informal groups of laymen about 1300 A.D., providing nursing care for the poor.

St. John Of God And St. Camillus

St. John of God (1495-1550) devoted his life to serving the ill and mistreated and was canonized in 1690. St. Camillus (1510-1614) is credited with developing the first field ambulance. He was canonized in 1746. The symbol of his order, the red cross, remains the primary symbol of health care. In 1930, St. Camillus and St. John of God were named co-patron saints of nursing.

First American Nurse

Seventy years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, Friar Juan de Mena was shipwrecked off the south Texas coast. He is the first identified nurse in what was to become the U.S.

Crimean War

The Crimean War started in 1853. A biographer of Florence Nightingale, regarded as the first modern female nurse, noted that male "orderlies" provided nursing care prior to and after Nightingale's arrival at the Crimean front.

Jean Henry Dunant

In 1859, Dunant provided nursing care after the Battle of Solferino. He was helped found the International Red Cross and the Geneva Convention. He won the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

U.S. Civil War

During the U.S. Civil War, both sides had military men serving as nurses. Men were the majority of the front line nurses while female nurses were typically restricted to general hospitals in the major cities.

Post Civil War

Both the Crimean War and the U. S. Civil War decimated the male population. Without men to help with the labor, many women were unable to continue farming and moved to cities and became "matrons" in military hospitals. The military continued to primarily use men as nurses.

The Alexian Brothers In The U.S.

In 1866, the Alexians built their first hospital in Chicago, Illinois and in 1869, opened a second hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Today their work continues around the world.

St. John of God and St. Camillus

In 1898 the U.S. fought a brief war with Spain. The Daughters of the American Revolution recruited contract female physicians and nurses during the war.

Nursing Schools For Men

The Mills School for Nursing and St. Vincent's Hospital School for Men were founded in New York in 1888. The Pennsylvania Hospital opened a school for female nurses in 1914 and simultaneously opened a separate men's nursing school.

Army Nurse Corps

In 1901, the Army Nurse Corps was formed. Only women could serve as nurses and military nursing changed from being predominately male to exclusively female.

World War I And World War II

During World War I and World War II there were nursing shortages and women were given tuition, room, board, uniforms, and a stipend to attend nursing school, but were not required to enter the service.

Two Men

In a time when few men were practicing nursing in the U.S., two men worked to promote men in nursing. Leroy N. Craig, superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital men's nursing school, fought for the rights of men to participate in the American Nurses Association. Nurse Luther Christman volunteered to serve on the front if he could serve as a nurse. Christman was turned down for combat duty as a nurse by the U.S. Surgeon General.

Men Again Serve As Military Nurses

Not until 1955, after the Korean War, were men again permitted to serve as military nurses. During the intervening decades, men who were registered nurses enlisted or drafted, but were not assigned as nurses.

Nursing Schools Admit Men

Men were forbidden to attend some state-supported nursing schools until 1982.

American Assembly For Men In Nursing

The American Assembly For Men in Nursing, organized in 1971, supports and promotes men in American nursing. Originally named the National Male Nurse Association, the organization became the American Assembly For Men in Nursing in 1980. Source: Bruce Wilson, Ph.D., RN, associate professor at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, and a former board member of the American Assembly For Men in Nursing.

Two thousand years ago, nursing school was for men only.

Only men were considered "pure" enough to enter what is thought to be the world's first nursing school, which was founded in India about 250 B.C., according to Bruce Wilson, Ph.D., RN, and associate professor at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas.

For the next two millennia, nursing remained male-dominated. It took warfare in the 19th and 20th centuries to transform nursing from being considered a man's job to a women's profession.

One of the biggest shifts in the profession came in 1901 when the military nursing corps was reorganized.

Men were no longer allowed to serve as nurses, furthering the process of the feminization of nursing, said Wilson, who is also the manager of the American Assembly For Men in Nursing's Web site.

Thunderwolf has 32 years experience and works as a Charge Nurse.

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23 Posts

This is very interesting and encouraging.


107 Posts

Thanks, ThunderWolf for the timeline. I just wish someone would write a book about this.

Corvette Guy

1,505 Posts

Specializes in Telemetry, OR, ICU.

Excellent sticky! Mr. Gene Tranbarger mentioned the recent history of men in the Army Nurse Corps. I'd like to add the following;

Men served as nurses in one capacity or another from the Revolutionary War until 1901. Ironically, with the founding of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901 men were excluded by law from such service. It was not until 9 AUG 1955, when President Eisenhower signed into law H.R. 2559, that Male RNs were authorized reserve commissions in the ANC. In 1961, Ohio Representative Frances Payne Bolton introduced a bill to Congress to authorize regular commissions for Male RNs.

However, 11 years passed before Male RNs were to receive regular commissions in the ANC. Due to efforts made by the 12th Chief of the ANC, COL Mildred Irene Clark, on 30 SEP 1966 [Public law 89-609] authorized regular commissions for Male RNs. So, eleven years elapsed between the time the first Male RN was commissioned in the ANC in the USAR & when Male RNs were allowed to apply for a regular commission.

*Source from the book written by Mary T. Sarnecky, COL ®, USA, A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps [iSBN 0-8122-3502-9].

Update 4/23/2006; see link below

Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps: Chronology


35 Posts

Specializes in rehab, ortho, cardiac.

in 1986, jonlvn-np was born. the baby looked like normal human baby, but what was not known was the fact that the baby was destined to be a fanny pack wearing male nurse... to be continued...


1 Post

Who was the first male president of a state nurse's association in 1960? Which state?


14,633 Posts

My father was an RN in the 1930s -- he trained and worked at a state hospital (psych) in NY, and has extremely interesting stories to tell about the state of psych nursing at that time.

Although he went on to attend medical school and spent the bulk of his professional life as an anesthesiologist, he remains, to this day (he's now 93), v. proud of having been an RN and v. interested in what's going on in the nursing profession (esp., I assume, since his daughter (moi) also became an RN). My mother, an RN who met him when they were both in the Air Force during Korea and stationed at the same AF hospital (she was the OR supervisor and he was one of the anesthesiologists), has always said that you could see a real difference between him and the other MDs -- he was much more considerate of the RNs, from the way he talked with them to cleaning up after himself after a surgery instead of just walking away from the mess like all the other docs did ...

Not sure what this has to do with anything :), but figured I'd share it because of the subject of the thread ... :balloons:


156 Posts

Hooray to the male nurses its about time the truth be known


2 Posts

hello, im new here and im looking for an nclex application form and guidelines and requirments for texas nursing. thank you very much for helping.


3 Posts

that was very interesting..


6 Posts

Wow, great compilation. Thanks, Thunderwolf. I was under the impression that female nurses had reigned supreme in this field for centuries. Yeah, it might probably be a good idea to expand that into a book. I'll be one of the first to buy a copy of your book, Thunderwolf.