Lillian Wald, Founder of Henry Street Settlement & Inventor of term ‘Public Health Nursing’

Lillian Wald (1867-1940) is our featured nurse innovator today! Lillian Wald is another nurse pioneer whose efforts have advanced the nursing profession. Lillian received her nursing education from the New York Hospital School for Nurses. From her training and experience, she saw the struggles of the people within the greater New York City community and decided to do something to change the conditions. Initially, her efforts began with founding the Visiting Nurse Service and the Henry Street Settlement in 1893.


Her efforts led to her becoming and/or inventing the term ‘Public Health Nursing’. Wald differentiated the practice of nursing to the extent in which the nursing efforts extended beyond the bedside into the community. She was the first public health nurse in the United States. Today we define public health nursing as ‘the practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social, and public health sciences’ (, 2013).



The efforts of Lillian Wald started in the Lower East Side of New York City to provide nursing care to the public in need. However, her efforts and mission in public health nursing live on and have expanded far beyond what she started. Without public health nurses, we would have a very different health care environment in front of us today.




Sometimes all it takes is for one person to see a gap or need for change in order to benefit hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of other people. We are very fortunate to have had such an innovator who could see the future needs of our nation.


Best Wishes Nurses!