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Revisiting the Nurses’ Job Description from the 19th Century

Nurses Job Description


The Internet century is awesome, even for the healthcare community. The norms and practices of the past have been replaced with faster and more efficient ways of helping patients around the world. The approach to medicine and taking care of patients was vastly differently from how it is today. The field of nursing, especially, had a pretty orthodox approach with more physician-centered practice than patient-centered. The nurses’ survival guide consisted of hard work and physical labor, and their lives were spent running between the doctor and the patient.


A brief description of how nurses worked in the 19th century would reveal exactly how hard their professional lives were. Whether they were emergency nurses or regular clinical nurse specialists, taking care of the patients to maintaining the hospital facility was a part of their daily routine. There was no technology to help with their charting; in fact, daily charting wasn’t even introduced. Each one of them had to care for 50 patients, in addition to the following duties:


• Grueling Timetable:

All the day time nurses reported to their jobs at 7AM and left at 8PM except for Sundays when they got their afternoons free from 12 noon till 2PM.


• Mop, Mop, Mop:

Nurses were expected to sweep and mop the floors of their respective wards. They even had to dust the furniture and window sills for the patients because cleanliness is the basis of all health-care.


• Maintain the Lamps:

For accurate observation of a patient’s health and proper treatment of his illness, light is of utmost importance. The nurses filled the lamps with kerosene, trimmed their wicks, and cleaned chimneys every single day.


• Keep An Even Temperature:

Nurses brought in a scuttle of coal everyday in order to maintain an even temperature within the ward so that the patients remained at ease.


• Education Perks:

Graduate nurses had the pleasure of enjoying an evening off for courting purposes each week, especially, if they were in good standing with the Director of Nurses. They could even get two evenings off if they regularly went to church.


• Help the Physician:

The nurses were always supposed to prepare notes for the physician so they too great care of their pens and writing equipment. They had to keep them sharp, clean, and obviously, available, at all times while working.


• The Nurse Barbie:

Nurses were expected to be highly sober, not only in their conduct at work, but in their general lifestyles, as well. Any nurse who used liquor or cigarettes, went dancing, and frequented beauty shops, was considered a person of dubious character.


• Save for the Rainy Days:

Every professional person worries about the days when he would no longer be able to work either because of age or sickness. Nurses, too, had to save the better part of their income for the retired phase of their lives. Almost half of the pay was considered an ideal amount to save.


• Earning an Increment:

It is imperative for the nursing staff to serve the patients wholeheartedly. In the previous century, any nurse who worked hard for the betterment of his/her patients and helped the physicians treat them, got a raise of five cents a day after a period of five years.


If the rules and regulations from that era were re-implemented in this day and age, how would you react to them? Let us know your opinion in the comments!

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