Linda Richards America’s first trained nurse
In the 1870s, Florence Nightingale mentored Linda Richards, “America’s first trained nurse”, and enabled her to return to the United States with adequate training and knowledge to establish high-quality nursing schools. Richards went on to become a nursing pioneer in the US and Japan
Linda Richards (July 27, 1841 – April 16, 1930) was the first professionally trained American nurse. She established nursing training programs in the United States and Japan, and created the first system for keeping individual medical records for hospitalized patients
Her experience with nursing her dying mother awakened Richards’ interest in nursing. Though in 1856, at the age of fifteen, Richards entered St. Johnsbury Academy for a year in order to become a teacher, and indeed taught for several years, she was never truly happy in that profession. In 1860, Richards met George Poole, to whom she became engaged. Not long after their engagement, Poole joined the Green Mountain Boys and left home to fight in the American Civil War. He was severely wounded in 1865, and when he returned home, Richards cared for him until his death in 1869.
Inspired by these personal losses, she moved to Boston, Massachusetts in order to become a nurse. Her first job was at Boston City Hospital, where she received almost no training and was subjected to overwork. She left that hospital after only three months, but was undaunted by her experiences there. In 1872, Linda Richards became the first student to enroll in the inaugural class of five nurses in the first American Nurse’s training school. This pioneering school was run by Dr. Susan Dimock, at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston.
Linda describes her nursing training: “We rose at 5.30 a.m. and left the wards at 9 p.m. to go to our beds, which were in little rooms between the wards. Each nurse took care of her ward of six patients both day and night. Many a time I got up nine times in the night; often I did not get to sleep before the next call came. We had no evenings out, and no hours for study or recreation. Every second week we were off duty one afternoon from two to five o’clock. No monthly allowance was given for three months.”