Friday, August 27, 2004


"One of the first books I ever knew well was Evelyn Pearce's Anatomy and Physiology for Nurses. My mother's copy stood on the family bookshelves... My mother was a professional nurse, and Pearce was her Bible......

My mother regarded this technical knowledge as necessary to understanding the condition of her patients and communicating with doctors. It was, however, secondary to the main business of nursing, which she defined to be: "Keeping a patient clean and comfortable." How quaint! How old-fashioned! That attitude to nursing is now as dead as the dodo, and is in fact Politically Incorrect to boot, implying as it does that nurses (mostly female) were subservient to doctors (mostly male). Aaaargh - the Patriarchy!

The horrible consequences of this revolution in attitudes to nursing, at any rate in Britain, were vividly described in an article by Harriet Sergeant in the November 29 Daily Telegraph. Sample:

[A] staff nurse who had recently qualified complained to me that her training had not prepared her at all. In 18 months of study, she had spent only one and a half hours learning how to take blood pressure and a patient's temperature. On the other hand, a whole afternoon had been devoted to poverty in Russia.... [A]s an Irish sister of 17 years' experience put it: 'No, I have never felt the lack of studying sociology. Kindness and common sense go a long way.' ... The staff nurse had been astonished to discover how little anatomy or physiology her course contained.... For assignments, her tutors had set her work on social issues and ethics - including patient rights. That patients might have a right to a person qualified in how to look after them did not seem to have occurred to her teachers. She said: 'Theoretically, you could go through the whole three years without anyone asking you about bed sores.' She managed to qualify with only a vague knowledge of the bodies soon to be in her charge.

From my own recent hospital experiences (1996, 2002), I don't think matters have gone quite so far in the USA, but they are headed in the same direction. Given current attitudes on personal autonomy, and the current universal belief that any kind of work at a higher level than fruit-picking requires a four-year college degree, preferably one larded with sociological gibberish and PC pseudoscience, I see no prospect of any improvement here, until robotic nurses come online round about the middle of this century...."


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