Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Nurse Professional Advisory Committee

Our Historic Momentum

Understanding Who We Are

The history of Federal Public Health Service Nursing (FPHSN) parallels that of the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and reflects the many significant accomplishments which have resulted in the prevention of disease and promotion of improved healthy behaviors for many Americans (See Figure 1).

Created in the late 1700’s, the PHS, originally known as the Marine Hospital Service, was established to provide medical care to the nation’s merchant seamen by the Treasury Department. From the Services’ inception, nurses worked in the Marine Hospital, though early nursing providers were either practical nurses, who lacked formal professional training, or seamen. As the nursing profession gained recognition, more professionally trained nurses were employed by the PHS.

History of US Public Health Service Nursing Image

The changing needs of America during the 1800 – 1900’s influenced not only health care delivery and management, but also the scope of the PHS. With the growing needs for medical inspections and health care of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, the Marine Hospital Service extended their scope of service requiring more professionally trained federal nurses to fill the increasing responsibilities of the Service. By 1902, the Marine Hospital Service became known as the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service and ten years later, the name was simplified to the Public Health Service. Moreover, by 1912, Congress enacted legislation expanding responsibilities of the PHS to authorize investigations into human disease, sanitation, sewage disposal, and water treatment, precursors to activities found today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Page Last Modified on 12/17/2015

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