Bedside Matters

Bedside Matters: The Transformation of Canadian Nursing, 1900-1990

Kathryn McPherson
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 343
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1287r45
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  • Book Info
    Bedside Matters
    Book Description:

    Combining archival records and oral histories, the author shows how nurses, in their work, activities, and social and sexual attitudes, sought recognition as skilled workers in the health-care system.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2798-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. 1 Gender, Class, and Ethnicity: Reconceptualizing the History of Nursing
    (pp. 1-25)

    In the history of women’s work, nursing holds a special place. It is an occupation that embodies the seemingly universal characteristics of feminine healing, caring, and nurturing. The very word ‘nurse’ evokes the maternal caring we often assume to be central to human existence, and to women’s lives. Yet, however long the tradition of women’s ministrations to the sick, this archetypally female vocation also has a distinctive history of change. Once the responsibility of informally trained family, friends, servants, or members of religious orders, nursing was transformed in the late nineteenth century from unpaid care to wage labour. In the...

  6. 2 Nursing Classes: The Second Generation of Trained Nurses, 1900–1920
    (pp. 26-73)

    In 1901, the superintendent of the Nova Scotia Hospital took advantage of his institution’s annual report to applaud the work of its nursing training program. He informed his readers that the school ‘has done a great deal towards bettering the condition of our patients and improving their prospects of recovery. The pupils of the school have devoted themselves to their trying and difficult work with a degree of enthusiasm and unselfishness which is deserving of the highest praise and commendation.’¹ The benefits accrued to Nova Scotia’s mental health facility were not unique. In the first two decades of the twentieth...

  7. 3 Rituals and Resistance: The Content of Nurses’ Work, 1900–1942
    (pp. 74-114)

    Central to nurses’ collective sense of self were the skills they brought to sick room, ward, and clinic. Learned by apprentices during their three years on the wards and perfected or adapted by graduates on duty as staff or private-duty nurses, the many rituals and routines that constituted nursing practice shaped nurses’ workplace experiences and their position in the community. The various components of nursing work were designed by doctors, hospital administrators, and nursing educators to meet the needs of the evolving hospital and medical care system, and this they did. But nursing practice was not only a reflection of...

  8. 4 An Occupation in Crisis: The Third Generation of Graduate Nurses, 1920–1942
    (pp. 115-163)

    The rituals and routines of nursing practice helped second- and third-generation nurses define the parameters of their work and defend their position within the health-care system. The composition of the work-force and the content of nursing practice united practitioners across generations, strengthening the powerful occupational identity that had emerged in the early decades of the century. Yet for all the commonalities in the content of their work, nurses of the inter-war generation plied their trade within a very different political economy of health from that of their predecessors. By the 1920s, nursing and non-nursing commentators were noticing that, in spite...

  9. 5 ‘The Case of the Kissing Nurse’: Femininity, Sociability, and Sexuality, 1920–1968
    (pp. 164-204)

    Throughout the economic and political dislocation of the inter-war years, the bonds of gender bridged the gulf developing between nursing leaders and the occupation’s rank-and-file and bolstered leaders’ efforts to maintain occupational unity. Just as their experiences as disenfranchised women had united nurses during the early twentieth-century battles for registration legislation and suffrage, in the inter-war years a particular sexual and social image of femininity, created and endorsed by nurses, was critical to their self-definition and public profiles as respectable working women. As the political economy of health was reorganized in the years after 1942, nurses’ occupational image was realigned...

  10. 6 Contradictions and Continuities: The Fourth Generation of Canadian Nurses, 1942–1968
    (pp. 205-247)

    When nursing leaders and historians reflect back on the period from 1942 to 1968, they frequently characterize that era as one of resolution and progress, in which the problems of institutional reliance on student labour, the uncertainty of private-duty work, and the lack of professional recognition were solved.¹ In these years, nursing education was released somewhat from its subordination to hospital staffing needs and as a result, permanent hospital employment became the dominant subsector of nursing work. Professional advancement of this kind was not the only force shaping nursing in the post-war era. A contradictory impulse of proletarianization was also...

  11. 7 ‘The Price of Generations’: Canadian Nursing Under Medicare, 1968–1990
    (pp. 248-262)

    In the spring of 1989, the fifth generation of Canadian nurses was writing a new chapter in its occupation’s history.¹ Frustrated with inadequate staffing, an intensified pace of work, insufficient salaries, and dramatic outmigration of their co-workers from the province and the occupation, nurses in British Columbia went on strike. On 14 June, when negotiations between the British Columbia Nurses Union (bcnu) and the Health and Labour Relations Association (hlra) broke down, nurses took action, shutting down all but essential services of the health-care delivery system.² Allied workers in the Hospital Employees Union (heu) soon joined the walkout.³ Within two...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 263-328)
  13. Suggested Readings in Nursing History
    (pp. 329-334)
  14. Index
    (pp. 335-343)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 344-345)