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GNF President's Message




Why am I a Member of the Georgia Nurses Association?

by Catherine Futch, MN, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, CHC

GNF President





Do you sometimes catch yourself wondering…wondering why you did that thing or took that action? I recently was asked why I joined the Georgia Nurses Association (GNA). So…I asked myself why? Finding the answer to that question took some time.

I have been a registered nurse in the State of Georgia since 1967. For nearly all of that time I have been a member of GNA as well as other professional organizations. I joined because that was what I was taught to do. I graduated in June, 1967 from what was then the Georgia Baptist Hospital School of Nursing. We came away from the School of Nursing understanding we had an obligation to the profession we were entering. Our generation of new nurse graduates and those who would come after us were responsible for helping to move the profession forward. That meant we needed to be engaged with nurses and nursing and we needed to be members of GNA and the American Nurses Association (ANA).

As I progressed through my career, I began to have an increasingly deep respect for all those who came before us. Had it not been for very brave and tenacious women, often supported by strong physicians and others who understood just how important it was to have nurses who were properly trained in the art and science of nursing, we would not have the level of nursing education, nursing practice and nursing research we have today. There were so many who devoted themselves to the advancement of nurses, nursing education, the nursing profession and nursing organizations. These pioneers devoted themselves to the emerging nursing profession and all it entailed.

Go back in time with me as I remind you of those leaders who took the first steps.

• Florence Nightingale: Her work began in earnest during the Crimean War (!854-1856). She and a small band of untrained nurses went to the British Hospital at Scutari in Turkey. She wanted to make a difference in the care provided to wounded British soldiers. Her efforts were not welcomed by some of the British leadership but she persevered. She set about the task of organizing and cleaning the hospital and improving the level of care provided to the wounded soldiers. Her efforts were largely responsible for reducing the wartime death rate of British soldiers from 42% to 2%. She soon became the founder of modern nursing education. A prolific writer, she shared her views about nursing and nursing education in her most well- known publication, Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not, published in 1859. She was the first to talk about the importance of treating the whole patient and the first to state clearly that a unique body of knowledge was required of those wishing to practice professional nursing. Although she never set foot on American soil, her work served as a catalyst for the development of the foundations of American nursing.

• Many African-American women, both free and slave, made contributions during the Civil War. Most famous were Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Susie Taylor. All of whom worked as untrained nurses providing care to the wounded and dying and helping slaves to freedom through the underground railway and other means.

• Clara Barton, a Civil War nurse and later founder of the American Red Cross.

• Mary Eliza Mahoney, who became the first “trained’ African-American Nurse in the United States.

• Isabel Hampton Robb who in 1893 presented a paper at the International Congress of Charities, Corrections, and Philanthropy at the Chicago World’s Fair “protesting the lack of uniformity of instruction in training schools for nurses and the completely inadequate education provided”. Her presentation resulted in the formation of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses. The Society’s name was changed in 1912 to the National League of Nursing Education (NLNE) and changed again in 1952 to the National League for Nursing. In 1896. Mrs. Robb was again successful in her efforts as she founded the Associated Alumnus of the United States and Canada which, in 1911, became officially known as the American Nurses Association (ANA). Over the years, states began to establish their own state nursing associations, in our case, the Georgia Nurses Association.

• In October 1900, after years of dedicated work, Mrs. Robb, Mary Adelaide Nutting, Lavinia Dock and others the first issue of the American Journal of Nursing was published. Nurses now had both a professional organization and an official journal through which they could communicate with each other.

From that moment forward, the profession of nursing began to grow and expand both technically and educationally. Constantly growing stronger, more diverse in membership and clinical specialty, forming new organizations that would be more reflective of their specific areas of practice. As I think about how far the profession of nursing has come and yet how far it has to go, I almost hear those first founding voices…standing firm and resolute in their belief that this thing called nursing was, in fact, a blossoming profession that would be dedicated to the care of the sick and wounded and to the ever expanding need for nurses to be properly educated to take on the role of nurse and to become registered nurses in their respective states.

The history of nursing is rich, filled with struggle, neglect, missed opportunities, vision, courage, and victory. Margretta Styles, a contemporary nursing leader wrote “A Biblical Fable on Our Origins” from which the following is excerpted:

In the beginning, God created nursing. He (or she) said, “I will take a solid, simple, significant system of education and an adequate, applicable base of clinical research, and on these rocks will I build My greatest gift to mankind…nursing practice. On the seventh day, He threw up his hands. And has left it up to us.” (Donahue, 1985, p. 434).

So in answer to the question “Why did I join GNA” the answer is simple. I had to. The health and wellbeing of the profession has been left to us. In my mind’s eye I can see and hear all of those who came before me. It is my profession and so it is my responsibility to do my best to make it better.

Nurses, empowered by caring, commitment, and knowledge, will continue to have a significant impact on the evolution of nursing practice, nursing education, nursing research and the profession of nursing. They can be one of the driving forces in shaping health care in the twenty-first century and improving the quality of life for all humankind. But they can do this only if they make the time (in the midst of very busy daily lives) to join their founding organizations ANA and GNA as well as their specialty organizations. Together we are strong. Together we can make a difference for nurses and for nursing practice. I hope you, too, will hear those voices from the past and will find yourself ready to be a part of GNA. We need you.

Chitty, Kay Kittrell. Professional Nursing Concepts and Challenges, Second Edition. Futch, Catherine J. Chapter One, History of Nursing, pages 1-31, 1997. W.B Saunders and Company.



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