A widespread superstition exists that some women are "born nurses," as if they possessed inherently, or naturally, a knowledge of one of the most difficult professions in the world. It is true that certain women possess such qualities as tact, kindness, and unselfishness, which are necessary to anyone who wishes to be a fine nurse:
At the same time, the fundamental necessity in nursing, as in everything else, is sound knowledge. A woman may have a gentle touch, a soft voice, a tactful personality, and at the same time prove an exceedingly bad nurse. Nursing is a business, just as doctoring or typewriting or shopkeep-ing are businesses which call for definite knowledge, hard work, and common-sense. The routine of hospital training makes good nurses out of what is often poor material, because of the discipline and work that hospital life enforces. The amateur nurse, on the other hand, has not the opportunity of discipline and training, and has to pick up her knowledge bit by bit, and utilise it to the best of her ability.
It sometimes happens that a case of sickness in the home brings out latent qualities and ability in one member of the family, and an amateur will nurse a case so well that everyone who comes in contact with her realises what a magnificent ward sister she would have made in a hospital. This series of articles is to be practical and complete. It will deal in detail with the facts that every nurse must know. It will describe the duties of the sick-nurse, and teach as much of the theory of the work as is necessary and useful. The first thing the amateur nurse should make up her mind to when she takes charge of a case is that she will be obedient. The nurse who is disobedient and untrustworthy in little things is hopeless. There are professional nurses who pride themselves on getting the better of the doctor. They encourage the patient in little petty acts of disobedience, and curry favour with the friends by allowing the patient to do what the doctor has forbidden.
From the beginning of a case a nursing-book should be kept, in which the doctor's instructions and all necessary notes on the case should be recorded
This type of nurse is, from the doctor's point of view, untrustworthy, and unfit for the high calling she is qualifying for. The right sort of nurse is obedient in every detail, faithful to the doctor she is working under, and trustworthy in every respect. She takes her work seriously and honourably. The amateur nurse must cultivate order and punctuality, method, and attention to detail, and she is responsible for the neatness and cleanliness of the sick-room. The bed, the patient, the medicines, the food are all attended to carefully, methodically, and thoroughly. Nothing is slipshod. Nothing is out of order. Without fuss or noise or ostentation the well-trained amateur nurse performs her duties and prepares her patient for the doctor's visit.
Next to obedience, perhaps the best quality of a good nurse is the power of intelligent observation. The untrained person fails to see signs and symptoms which tell a great deal to the trained mind. The colour of the skin, the expression of the face, the appearance of the eyes indicate the condition of the patient to a considerable degree. The nurse who knows her business observes if the patient is restless or quiet, whether the breathing is hurried or laboured, without touching the patient or asking a question.
Even during the course of a few weeks' illness the intelligent, capable woman will learn a great deal concerning the business of nursing, by simply following the orders of the doctor, using her eyes, and studying the case before her.
Accuracy and exactness are two of the first things the amateur nurse must strive to acquire. It is difficult for a woman who has not had any definite training in work to get out of casual ways and a bad habit of inaccuracy and carelessness about details. By keeping a nursing-book from the beginning of a case and jotting down in it all instructions given by the doctor, a good beginning is made. This same book serves for notes made regarding the case day by day.
The patient's diet, the patient's temperature at definite times, the pulse, the respiration are all noted in writing. It is very difficult for the untrained nurse to remember every detail about a patient's sleep, appetite, temperature, pulse, and a well-written report shows all necessary information in the fewest words. One of the greatest fail-ings of the ordinary amateur nurse is slovenliness, and a good habit of taking accurate reports from day to day is the best method of learning accuracy and exactness. When a professional nurse is not available in any case of serious illness, it is far better for one person in the house to take absolute charge of the patient.
Dressed in a short washing-dress, with a white apron, low-heeled, noiseless shoes, the nurse is prepared for her work. She arranges the sick-room on the lines suggested on page 982. She must, moreover, arrange matters so that she has definite hours off duty for exercise and rest. If the patient is too ill to be left alone, another member of the family must take charge for so many hours, and in bad cases, of course, a night and a day nurse will be necessary.
If the nurse has complete charge of the patient her duties are thoroughly comprehensive. She must learn how to wash and dress the patient, how to change the bed, how to prepare and serve the meals. The making of poultices, fomentations, and plasters has to be mastered. The taking of temperature and counting of the pulse are part of her work. These duties will be considered in detail. When she rises in the morning she may have to get her patient a cup