Early Christian Era
Nursing in Pre-Christian times, religious beliefs had great bearing on the attitude towards the sick and the mode of caring for the sick and the suffering.
Christianity believed that one should render services of love to humanity without any reward. It was equal to one's sincere love of God. This principle was absorbed in nursing and helped to improve the status of a nurse. Some of examples of such women are as follows:
She was the first deaconesses. She was intelligent and educated and the best nurse who could care fort the sick in their homes. She can be compared to a modern public health nurse.
She was a young, beautiful and attractive woman. She was the daughter of a great Roman Noble. She converted her palace into a hospital and it was the first Christian hospital in Rome. She collected the poor and sick from the streets and cared for them herself, in her place.
Paula was a friend of Fabiola. She devoted herself for the services of the sick. She built a hospital for strangers, pilgrims, and travellers and for the sick. She constructed a monastery in Bethlehem. They gave good nursing care for the sick.
Marcella was a wealthy woman. Since women of high rank had much freedom in Rome, she was able to lead a group of such women and induce them in works of charity.
During the Middle Ages, monks and nuns devoted their life to the care and services of the poor and sick. The monasteries became the places of education, medical care and nursing. The following monks and the nuns devoted their life and services for the poor and the sick.
St. Dominic (1170-1221),
St. Francis of Assisi 1182 -1226.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary 1207 -1231 St. Catherine Sienna 1347 - 1380
The women who assisted in the work of clergy in the church were known as deaconesses. They were matured women, who did teaching, preaching and caring for the sick at the home.
New thoughts and new ideas were introduced in the early Christian era. Even though many religious were fatalistic in their out look on illness and looked upon it as a punishment or a necessary evil, Christianity introduced a new aspect on the subject, thus transforming nursing to a higher level and raising it to a professional standing.
This new aspect that of "altruism" was the highest motive given to mankind. It taught that one's sincere love for God and a desire to be like Him, would be the chief motive for one's selfless and sacrificial service to mankind without any hope of a reward.
This inspired may godly men and women to step forward in the service of the sick, the suffering and the needy. They opened their homes to the sick and in need. Such homes were called "Diakonia". During the time of the persecution of the Christians, people turned to the Bishop of the Church for help.
This necessitated the building of homes cum hospitals where the strangers, the orphans, the aged, the sick and the lepers were cared for.
These homes cum hospitals were known as Xenodochia. One such outstanding hospital was founded at Casearia by St.Basil in 370 A.D.
The Christian church preserved records and from that time till today we have a continuous record of the history of nursing.
Many rich and noble women launched out in groups and organizations in the service of the sick and the ailing and used their wealth for this cause. Monasteries came into being and became a heaven for those who needed help and care. Two notable names of people belonging to this era are worth mentioning.
Celsius, a Greek, studied anatomy and knew how to do surgical operations for cataracts and hernias.
Galen practiced dissection on animals and studied the anatomy and physiology of the heart and circulation, the respiratory and the nervous system. His writings together with his translations of Hippocrates were considered to be the chief medical authority by the Arabs.