Women’s History Month: Highlighting Change Makers in Healthcare


Women’s History Month is the perfect time to recognize heroines in nursing and healthcare

Honoring the heroines of healthcare

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor 

As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month during the month of March, the importance of recognizing women in healthcare is brought to light. 

Women have played an integral role in medicine since the beginning of time, but many of their contributions have been ignored or overlooked. Today, let’s take some time to remember the healthcare heroines of the past: 

  Florence Nightingale – The founder of modern nursing

Perhaps one of the most renowned female figures in healthcare, Florence Nightingale is known as the founder of modern day nursing. She made a name for herself as the “Lady with the Lamp,” providing care to soldiers and allies during the Crimean war, while also training and teaching other nurses in the field. Nightingale established the first scientifically-based nursing school in 1860—the Nightingale School of Nursing, at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, which is now part of King’s College.

Every year, we honor Nightingale’s contributions to the nursing profession during International Nurses Day, observed annually on May 12. The day was created to commemorate her birth and celebrate the important role of nurses in health care.

  Elizabeth Blackwell - The first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree

Besides being the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States and practice as a physician, Elizabeth Blackwell, MD, dedicated her life to advocating for other female physicians. After coming to the United States from Britain at age 11, Blackwell spent her young life trying to make it in the field of medicine. She was denied entry to several medical schools before being admitted to Geneva Medical College in Upstate New York. Blackwell then went on to have a very successful career in medicine while also mentoring other physicians along the way. 

  Orlean Hawks Puckett - A legendary midwife in Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains

Although Puckett had 23 pregnancies that sadly didn’t result in surviving children, she dedicated herself to helping other mothers safely deliver their babies, earning the reputation as one of the most selfless and successful midwives in history. She practiced midwifery from 1889 until she died in 1939. She was famous for never losing a mother or baby out of the over 1,000 labor and deliveries she attended throughout her career. 

In addition to her unshakable dedication to her patients, Puckett never charged for her services. Her work is a reminder to live with a heart of kindness to others. 

Keeping women’s history alive - Honoring the past and present

It’s important to remember that the past accomplishments of women span far beyond our yearly Women’s History Month. Celebrating women such as Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Blackwell, Orlean Hawks Puckett and others helps to keep their legacies alive and usher in the next generation of female healthcare leaders. 

Yet we acknowledge that history continues to be made by thousands of brave nurses and other healthcare workers across the country who have battled, and continue to battle, through the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As part of AMN Healthcare, NursingJobs.com is proud to celebrate The 2020-2021 Year of The Nurse. What was originally intended as one year celebration in 2020 has now been extended to include 2021, because of the impact of the pandemic and the increased visibility of nurses’ contributions. The theme is “Let your light shine,” in honor of Florence Nightingale. 

The International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they often face, and advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce. 

Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services, as WHO notes on their website, “These are the people who devote their lives to caring for mothers and children; giving lifesaving immunizations and health advice; looking after older people and generally meeting everyday essential health needs. They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities. The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.”



National Park Service: Women in Public Health and Medicine

World Health Organization


NursingJobs.com is proud to honor all of the women and men who make healthcare in America what it is today; we are grateful for your service throughout the pandemic and during every month of the year.

If you are ready to use your skills and experience to start a career as a travel nurse, we invite you to connect with a recruiter and find out more today.

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