King's College London
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From Microbes to Matrons

Nurse Education

a black and white printed page of lectures to nursing staff at King's College Hospital, 1893Lectures to Nursing Staff, 1893. King's College Archive, KH/N/FP8/1 Nurse education at hospital training schools consisted of practical ward instruction, demonstrations and formal lectures.

Sisters provided probationers with practical experience on hospital wards, while some physicians and surgeons delivered lectures on a number of subjects, including anatomy, physiology, hygiene and surgery, in order to ensure that nurses understood the underlying scientific principles of their future ward practice.

a black and white photograph of Nurse Murray, c.1920Nurse Isabella Murray with friend, King's College Hospital, c.1920. King's College Archives, KH/NL/PP22/Murrayhandwritten notes of how to make a linseed poultice by Nurse MurrayMurray's notes on how to make a linseed poultice, 1922. King's College Archives, KH/NL/PP22/Murraythe imprint of Watson's A Handbook for Nurses, 1905Watson's A Handbook for Nurses, 1905. King's College Archives, KH/NL/PUB5/8Each lecture course required nurses to study independently with textbooks.

Much of the courses on hygiene and surgery were dedicated to the principles of antisepsis and asepsis and after 1890, bacteriology.

The mix of practical and lecture-based instruction was particularly important as bacteriological knowledge expanded.

Albert Carless, surgeon at King’s College Hospital, and George Lenthal Cheatle, assistant surgeon at the Hospital, were active supporters of providing nurses with the bacteriological knowledge that underlined nursing practice. They delivered lecture courses on surgery to nurse probationers from 1892.

Cheatle, who gave his name to the forceps used for handling clean dressings, delivered specific lectures on antiseptics.

Carless’ impatient nature gained him a reputation among nursing probationers. One recalled him kicking a bucket around the room because something displeased him.

Not all nurses were prepared for lecture and textbook learning, however.

For many, it was the first time they were required to study with textbooks, despite having a relatively high level of literacy for female workers at the time. Some expressed struggling with reading and preferred the more practical ward work.

Yet despite these difficulties, textbooks for nurses increased in number throughout the early twentieth century. Nurses began to purchase their own textbooks and nurse education continues to include both lectures and practical sessions today.

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