Archive for the ‘Professional Disputes’ Category

More on the often antagonistic relationships between Doctors and Nurses.

In the early years of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, they were at each others throats, as doctors became increasingly convinced that nurses were taking work out of their hands.

In 1908 the Penrith medical union complained that ‘by tending to cuts and bruises, nurses are depriving doctors of work.’  One doctor even went so far as to say ‘it is reversing the natural order of things that the nurse shold send for the doctor, it should always be the other way round.’  He and his fellow doctors decided not to attend cases given to them by nurses.  They were backed by the British Medical Association.

A member of the Queen’s Institute governing body commented that ‘the two bodies – the Queen’s Nursing Institute and the British Medical Association – are not on the same planet in this matter.  The whole object of the Institute is in the welfare of the sick poor, whereas the aggrieved doctors are fighting for their own hand.’

District Nurses of today, what do you think?  Do doctors behave themselves a bit better now?!


Read Full Post »

Sadly, in 1921, one nurse was well and truly caught in the act.  A member of the public complains to the editor in the May 1st edition of the Queen’s Nurses’ Magazine:

‘Since visiting a nursing conference and exhibition, I have constantly had in my mind the figure of a Queen’s Nurse I saw there.  My attention was riveted by the bonnet, the straw of which was almost indiscernable, so caked was it with dirt.  The ribbon had faded to the last possible degree and was broken and frayed.  The whole bonnet appeared to be rotting with age.  The nurse had brown hair, which was lustreless and unkempt, and very dusty.  She wore no collar and the neck of her cloak was greasy and dusty.  I saw her from behind for a few moments only, and moved on, feeling distressed that a District Nurse should so abuse her influence as to appear in such a dreadful state.  I do not see how that nurse could insist on cleanliness in her patience and their homes.’

What do you think?  Would you say this man/woman (it would be nice to blame it on a man!) is in the right?  Maybe the nurse was just having a bad day!  My hair often looks ‘lustreless’ and unkempt, I’m afraid.  But should nurses be held to a higher standard?  Remember at this point that District Nursing was as much about teaching patients about proper hygiene as it was treating illness.  Should a nurse wear her uniform with pride?

Read Full Post »

Though doctors and nurses mainly live in harmony (or do they?!), the occasional, odd disagreement pops up.  Every now and then.  Just once in a while.   Care for some historical examples?!  I thought so!  Read on.

Not always the best of friends....

Here’s one.  In 1879, the Lancet complained about the insistence of the Florences (Lees and Nightingale, respectively of course!) on limiting district nursing to well brought up, well educated women.

‘Such work is better entrusted to strong, properly trained women of the lower class who have been accustomed to dirty work from their youth up….’

Anyone think they just wanted nurses who would be easier to be boss about?

As for Florence Nightingale’s insistence on nurses being public health practioners, teaching the poor about hygiene, a 1876 issue of the Lancet complained, ‘As to her plan for the teaching of cleanliness and hygiene by district nurses, did she not know that the poor disliked interference; the district nurses will soon become unpopular.  How could they possibly grapple with the conditions in poor homes?’

Things had got so bad by the 1890s that doctors in Cornwall, backed by the British Medical Association, went on strike.  They refused to see any patients referred to them by district nurses unless the nurse had referred the patient to them immediately, without seeing them herself.  There can only really be one explanation.  Doctors were charging fees to their patients before the NHS, as were District Nurses (though their poorest patients got treated for free.)  They were losing out financially because of district nurses in their local communities.  And they simply weren’t going to stand for it.

Read Full Post »

Historically, women have been paid less than men and unfortunately continue to suffer from wage inequalities. 

Nurses have been no exception.  In 1918, before women even had the vote, a nurse was writing to the Queen’s Nurses’ Magazine about the unfairness of her wages.  Things were worse back then – without the state-funded NHS, pay for nurses relied on charity.  The charity ran out when the nurses retired and without a pension, many of them were left penniless in their old age.  They didn’t even qualify for a state pension, since they earned over the £21.10s limit needed to qualify under the 1908 Old Age Pensions Act.

‘As a band of workers, we are every bit as worthy of state pensions as the army and navy nursing services, as we are doing state work….in many ways, one is doing national work.  If the local societies could be made to realise the power for good the right woman is in the town where her work lies, she should not have to beg for old age, or to live on less than the poorest curate.  I would suggest that the more interest should be taken in the work, and that members of the Committee or interested people should have a morning round the district in  busy times to learn what district work really means, and to see for themselves whether it is right that we should be paid less than our sisters in other services whose work is lighter.  I do wish the public could be made to take a more active interest in the work and would not allow a lower type of nursing to creep in for want of funds, for that is what it will mean.’

Taken from the Queen’s Nurses’ Magazine, April 1918.

Sound familiar?

Read Full Post »