British nursing at the beginning of the Crimean War
in Beyond Nightingale
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This chapter describes the decentralized and inefficient administration of the British army medical department. The department was a civilian, rather than a military department, which meant the doctors had no authority over their patients and orderlies and could only make recommendations to the military High Command. The position of hospital nurses in the British hierarchical class structure placed them at the very bottom; they were very much looked down upon, while their social behavior sometimes merited censure. This made it especially difficult to introduce them into army hospitals. The ideology of the domestic and public spheres in Victorian society, and how this affected the lady nurses, is explored in the chapter. Furthermore, it explains how Nightingale, who saw her government-directed mission to the East as a mystical religious commitment, was placed under severe political constraints. She had to accept women whom she considered unqualified, and 25 percent of the nurses had to be Roman Catholic at a time when anti-Catholicism was rampant. The chapter also describes the impossible situation of the orderlies, who were the principal nurses.

Beyond Nightingale

Nursing on the Crimean War battlefields

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