Nurses have come a long way since modern nursing was established about 150 years ago. A job that once was limited to applying bandages and changing bedpans has been transformed into a multidisciplinary profession where nurses are not only caretakers, but decision makers.
That transformation couldn’t have happened without pioneers who pushed the idea that the education of nurses is essential to good nursing practice. Florence Guinness Blake was one of those pioneers.
Born on Nov. 30, 1907, in Stevens Point, Wis., Blake was encouraged to become a nurse by her father, a minister, and her mother, a musician. That support led her to the Michael Reese Hospital School of Nursing in Chicago, where she graduated as a nurse in 1928.
Blake quickly became interested in teaching pediatric nursing, so she started studying for her bachelor’s degree at Teacher’s College, Columbia University in 1932. She earned her degree in 1936 and took a teaching job at Union Medical College in China. During her three years there, Blake became convinced that an advanced clinical education was essential to better nursing practice.
Blake returned to the United States and earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1941. She taught at Michigan and then at Yale University until 1946, when she was picked to establish an advanced program in pediatric nursing at the University of Chicago.
For the next 13 years, Blake taught nursing students and contributed to books that trained future nurses. She helped write and later edit subsequent editions of “Essentials of Pediatrics,” a popular textbook for nursing programs.
In 1954, she authored “The Child, his Parents, and the Nurse,” which aimed to give a better understanding of the relationship between parents and children from birth until adolescence. According to Blake, having that knowledge and involving parents in the medical care of children would help pediatric nurses treat young patients in a more effective manner. More than 50 years after the book was published, that idea still has a prominent place in the field.
In 1963, Blake was named director of the graduate program in pediatric nursing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and retired in 1970. She lived in the college town until she passed away in 1983.
She was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1996.
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