African nurses and everyday work in twentieth-century Zimbabwe

Using oral, archival and written sources, the book reconstructs the experiences of African women and men working in Zimbabwe’s hospitals in the twentieth century. It demonstrates how African nurses, i.e., nursing assistants, nursing orderlies, medics and State Registered Nurses were the spine of the hospital system and through their work ensured the smooth functioning of hospitals in Zimbabwe. The book argues that African nurses took the opportunity afforded to them by the profession to transform Zimbabwe’s clinical spaces into their own. They were interlocutors between white medical and nursing personnel and African patients and made Africans’ adjustments to hospital settings easier. At the same time, the book moves beyond hospital spaces, interrogating the significance of the nursing profession within African communities, in the process bridging the divide between public and private spaces. The book makes a significant contribution to global nursing historiography by highlighting how Zimbabwean nurses’ experiences within hospitals and beyond clinical spaces speak to the experiences of other nurses within the Southern African region and beyond. Through documenting the stories and histories of African nurses over a period of a century and the various ways in which they struggled and creatively adapted to their subordinate position in hospitals and how they transformed these healing spaces to make them their own, the book suggests that nurses were important historical actors whose encounters and experiences in Zimbabwe’s healing spaces – the hospitals – deserve to be documented.

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