Debbie Palmer
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‘The disease which is most feared’
The problem of tuberculosis and its threat to nurses’ health, 1880–1950
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This chapter examines the rising incidence of tuberculosis (TB) among nurses in the 1930s and 1940s. Such was the attention given to the problem by nursing and medical journals that TB was presented as the only occupational health problem nurses faced in the interwar period. Why, this chapter asks, did TB emerge as a health problem for nurses at this point in time and not before? Furthermore, it also investigates how the changing conception of TB as a disease, between 1890-1948, impacted on ideas about nurses’ susceptibility. Despite Koch’s discovery in 1882 that TB was an infectious disease, explanations of risk continued to suggest a range of social factors particularly social class and gender. This chapter questions whether the different class backgrounds of nurses at the case study institutions shaped the incidence of TB. It also identifies why nurses’ experience of TB varied between place and across time.

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Who cared for the carers?

A history of the occupational health of nurses, 1880–1948


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