Nursing Ethics: A History of Isabel Hampton Robb

Isabel Hampton Robb is an icon in
American Nursing. She laid the foundation of leadership and innovation for all the
Hopkins nurses that came after her. As the first superintendent of nurses at
Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1889 she was also principal of its nurse training
school. Robb reformed education, she was intrigued and in fact energized by
national and international nursing developments. And was loyal in so many
ways to the nurses that she helped to train. Robb was very much aligned with the
vision of Florence Nightingale and her ability to translate her insights about
nursing practice were really outstanding especially at that time at the turn of
the century. Her impact was not just at Hopkins but throughout the world. Robb was
known for her practical yet very thought-provoking ideas and her firm and
confident leadership ability. So one of the little known facts about Isabelle
Hampton Robb is her contribution cherishing ethics.
She is regarded as the author the very first nursing ethics textbook in the
United States published in nineteen hundred. And her contribution there was
really a very pioneering at the time because at that point in history women
in particular many of them in the profession of Nursing weren’t associated
with discussions like ethical behavior and so in 1900 she was raising those
questions what does it mean to practice ethically as a nurse? Robb knew it was
important to look critically and strategically and how ethical issue
should be handled. She outlined the obligations of nurse, physician, and
institution that were necessary to ensure quality ethically grounded care.
She was one of the founders of American Nurses Association and through her
leadership her foundational work in ethics was actually instrumental in
creating the very first code of ethics for nurses that was authored by the
American Nurses Association. So it’s a really rich history that I
think here at Johns Hopkins in the School of Nursing we’re really
recognizing in a new way and it’s so important as we think about what is the
future hold for nursing.

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