After the work of Florence Nightingale early in the 20th century, there was a rapid growth of nursing degree students, and that focus on education continued through the 1940s. The following two decades saw a shift to more clearly defined nursing roles, and starting in the 1970s the focus fell on clinical problems and the roles nurses could play in their solutions.
The first nursing research was done by Florence Nightgingale during the Crimean Wars. Her research on death and disability led to better treatment of wounded soldiers. Her post-war work led to cleaner living conditions and better water sanitation around the world.
The first nursing master's degree program, started at Yale University in 1929, led to the inclusion of nurses into the field of those with the graduate degrees in research projects. As more nurses seek master's degrees, they team with other scientists, more research is being developed and, as a result, more advances are brought to medicine.
As more nurses attained graduate degrees and began to join in scientific research, the first nursing research journal, simply called Nursing Research, was introduced in 1952. Still in publication today, the journal allows for research findings to be widely disseminated and applied throughout the health care community.
In late 1985, the Health Research Extension Act authorized the development of the National Center for Nursing Research. The Center was established at the National Institutes of Health in 1986. Later, the Department of Health and Human Services formed and appointed members to the NCNR Advisory Council, and in 1993, a law elevated the center to an NIH institute.
In 1989, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research published guidelines for application of the latest research findings. Its guidelines married the most current testing results with directives developed by experts in specific areas of health care study. Much of the nurses' research, published throughout the health care community, led to implementation of many standards of practice still in use.