Nurse Training in the C19th & C20th

In the past when I listened to my mum describe her nursing training in the 1940’s, it always sounded very Victorian and now I know it was!

This morning the news discussed the variable standards of nursing care in UK hospitals today and we wondered what Florence Nightingale would have had to say on the subject.

Based on her experiences of hospitals in the Crimea, where she witnessed soldiers die of infections of their wounds, rather than the wounds themselves, she resolved to change practices in hospitals at home.

During her time at the Crimea she was accompanied by nurses trained through nursing ‘sisterhoods’, training schools organised through the Catholic church but they brought problems for Florence as they were seen to be attempting to convert soldiers at the sick bed.

Florence wrote copiously about how nursing practise must change to protect patients and using her immense energy and resolve she founded the first secular nursing training school, the ‘Nightingale Training School for Nurses’ at St Thomas’s Hospital in London 1860.

It was a struggle to establish the school, with opposition from people such as surgeon John Flint South who considered it unnecessary for nurses to be any more trained than housemaids, within a decade though the school was established.

Even so, it wasn’t until 1916 that the Royal College of Nurses began to register qualified nurses.

Conditions of training were rigorous and remained in place for nearly a century. Nightingale nurses, as they were called, were the best trained in the whole world and took their training with them and spread it throughout the UK and the rest of the world

The Florence Nightingale Museum in London is well worth a visit, not just to learn more about medicine in the C19th but about social conditions for ordinary people as well.

For more information as to how to find out about the nurses in your family history, register for free at Intriguing Family History

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