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Essential Rules For Nurses In 1887

I’m a big fan of nurses.  My wife is a nurse and so is her mom.

I really believe they are the unsung heroes in our medical system.  They carry huge workloads and enormous responsibility while bringing warmth and humanity to the healing process.

While modern nursing is tough, the job has gotten somewhat better since the late 19th century, based on a nursing job description from 1887 recently published by Scrubs Magazine.

In addition to caring for 50 patients, nurses were required to:

  1. Sweep, mop and dust the ward.
  2. Keep the fireplace supplied with coal.
  3. Maintain the lighting by filling and cleaning the kerosene lamps.
  4. Maintain meticulous notes in good handwriting.

Day shift work hours were 7am to 8pm, except on Sunday when there was a break from Noon to 2pm.  Nurses “in good standing” received one night off per week for “courting” – a second night was given to those who attended church regularly.

Five years service earned a 5-cents-per-day pay increase – this at a time when a dozen eggs cost about 20 cents.  Smoking, drinking, getting your hair done, and frequenting dance halls were potential firing offenses.

Crazy stuff.

But I do pretty much agree with one of this hospital’s rules:

“Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years, so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month, you should set aside $15.”

Saving intentionally for retirement – an idea that never goes out of style.


Image via Affordable Nursing Schools

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