Recognizing the Contributions of Black Nurses
By Medline Newsroom Staff | February 6, 2019
Walking through the halls of Medline headquarters, stories jump out from the plaques outside every conference room, each named after a different distinguished nurse. Some, especially nurses of color, have only recently started receiving proper recognition for their work. “Many times, black nurses weren’t valued or recognized for their contributions. They created healthcare delivery systems in times of segregation and under the conditions of severe material disadvantage,” says Martie Moore, chief nursing officer at Medline. “Today’s nurses stand on the shoulders of these heroes, who broke down barriers while caring for the most vulnerable patients.”
In honor of Black History Month, here’s a look at just a few of the black nurses who advanced their profession, delivered care and made history along the way.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) – Besides being a pivotal force for abolition and women’s rights, Sojourner Truth was also a strong advocate for nurse training programs. At the time, no formal nursing training existed, and Truth pushed to get nurses the education they needed to best treat the patients under their care.
Susie King Taylor (1848-1912) – Taylor became the first black Army nurse when she tended to an all-Black army troop during the Civil War. Her compassion was legendary: Taylor is said to have disobeyed orders in order to care for soldiers quarantined with smallpox. Taylor was also a writer. In fact, she was the only black woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences.
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) – Before she became famous for shepherding over 300 slaves through the Underground Railroad to freedom, Tubman was known as a capable nurse. After the end of the civil war, during which she tending to many soldiers suffering from dysentery and small-pox, Tubman continued to care for others and even helped start a home for the elderly.
Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989) – A pioneer who broke down color barriers for nurses, Staupers successfully lobbied for the inclusion of African-American nurses into both the military and the American Nurses Association. The NAACP awarded Staupers its prestigious Springarn Medal for her work integrating medical settings.
Hazel W. Johnson-Brown (1927-2011) – Despite being told early in her career she would never be allowed into a nursing program due to her race, Johnson-Brown excelled both as a nurse and an educator, training nurses headed to the front in Vietnam on her way to becoming the first black woman to ever reach the rank of brigadier general and leading the US Army Nurse Corps.
Medline salutes black nurses past and present for their individual and combined contributions to nursing and patient care. Learn more about how Medline helps health systems engage and retain nurses here.