Friar Juan de Mena was shipwrecked off the south Texas coast

Around 1550, Mexican Friar Juan de Mena became the first identified nurse in what would someday be the United States, according to the Male Nurse Magazine website. Shipwrecked off the southern coast of Texas, the friar was shot by an arrow and died shortly thereafter. A revered nurse, Friar Juan diligently tended to the sick before setting sail from Mexico in what would be his final voyage.

Friar Juan de Mena lived in Santo Domingo, Mexico where he was known as Mexico’s nurse.

According to a book by O'Lynn & Transbarger (2007) during the ancient times in Greece, the first known trained individuals to provide nursing care were men supervised by the male physicians" (p.9). Males were the nurses because women's roles back then was to their homes. In 250 B.C.E. the first known formal school of nursing was started in India and only men were admitted to the school because it was believed that women were not considered "pure" enough to serve as a nurse (p. 9). Men had to become skilled in cooking, bathing, bedmaking, physical therapy, caring for patients, and to be obedient to physicians. In ancient Rome, military hospitals were established and male nurses known as "nosocomi" were employed in them (p.10). When the Black Death struck Europe, military and non-military nursing orders cared for the sick and abandoned and bury the dead. The Protestant Reformation period brought significant change to the disappearance of men in nursing. Monasteries, convents, and hospitals that were staffed by various religious orders were closed. Military nursing orders diminished due to lack of funding and political instability with military pursuit, and governments banning their activities. "Although men continued to work as nurses when intimate care for men was needed or when physical strength was required to subdue confused or mentally ill patients, large number of hospitals, such as Maisons-Dieu of France, requested nuns as nurses" (p. 22). Men continued to nurse the injured in hospitals, but they also started working in exploration and colonization of the Americas. The first self identified European nurse to set foot in the U.S. was Friar Juan De Mena. During the Civil War in the US, outbreaks of yellow fever, typhoid, small pox, and dengue fever ravaged the South. Many African American men served as nurses for White residence and in their communities.


The first American nurse is considered to be Friar Juan de Mena; ..

Friar Juan de Mena

Friar Juan de Mena received an arrow in the back; and with otherSpaniards, he died after going a little more than a quarter of aleague. From the time this friar donned the habit in Santo Domingo ofMexico, he lived an exemplary life. Among his virtues, especiallynoteworthy was the humble charity with which he tended the sick. Hewas Mexico's nurse, esteemed and praised for his diligence until thetime he was deceived, along with others, into leaving his provincefor Spain and was led to his death.