This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
Then there is the fussy nurse, and there are many of this sort. Her zeal to benefit the patient is so great, that she sadly overdoes it: she bustles in and out of the room every few minutes, wearies the patient by persistently asking him if he cannot eat something, which she would willingly walk miles to get if wanted, raising him up, tucking in the bed clothes, drawing up and lowering the blinds; one, in fact, who is perfectly miserable if she is not constantly on the move. The fussy nurse is generally a kind-hearted, loving creature, and it is her very goodness which makes her weary the patient, who congratulates himself on the relief gained whenever she vacates the room.
Then we have the careless, slovenly nurse. Doctors are always suspicious of this person; they can never feel sure that their patients really had the right quantity of medicine; if she happened to remember it they would get it, but if not, she would make up for it by giving a double dose next time. There is no clean glass or cup when wanted. Food is taken to the patient, and if he cannot eat it, it is left there for hours. There are so many crumbs of bread in the bed that it feels to the patient like lying on a gravel walk. Cinders cover the hearth all over, and the fire is black. The slops, which should have been removed in the evening, are hid under the bed, filling the room with bad smells. Those bits of meat, crumbs of bread, and other matters which have fallen on the floor are left there; the consequence is that being winter, the mice and perhaps rats finding a warm room and something to eat, think it a comfortable place, and use it accordingly. No one can imagine the degree of comfort these scampering animals afford to the helpless creature in bed.
Next we have the cruel nurse, who does her duty, but not from love; she carries out the doctor's orders exactly. In matter of duty she is inflexible; if the medicine has to be taken at a certain time, she brings it to the minute, and worries the patient into taking it on the instant. Her law in all things is like that of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. She may be perfectly honest in her dealings, but the utter absence of tenderness and compassion makes her an undesirable nurse.
And lastly, we have what I trust is a very rare character, the dishonest nurse. She drinks all the wine, and partakes pretty freely of the food intended for the patient, and tells the doctor that the patient ought to get better according to the quantity of nourishment he gets through. She is also dishonest in another way: she finds it a great deal of trouble to make the patient take his medicine, so she just empties it away, a regular dose at a time, so that when the doctor calls he may see that the bottle is gradually emptying.
All these characters are to be met with, and doctors find one or more of them in various sick-rooms every day. Now, it is not well to be too exacting in such matters, but as a good nurse is, next to a good physician, necessary to properly combat disease, it is will to object to what are positive faults.
A good nurse should be tender and compassionate, and ought to have all her five senses in a healthy, active condition. Sight, that she may be able to read directions, or read aloud to the patient, and watch the change of countenance. A quick-sighted nurse will not need to wait for the sufferer to make his demands; she will see in a moment what is wanted from the motion of the eye, or the lips, or a finger. Hearing, that she may be able to catch the faintest whisper, and not oblige a weak patient to exert the voice or repeat his requests. Feeling, that she may readily detect the temperature of the skin of the patient, and not use any application which will either scald with heat or chill with cold. Smell, that all impurities in the atmosphere of the room may be readily detected. Taste, that she may not offer food unfit to be used, or improperly cooked if good in itself.
She need not be highly educated, but she should be able to read writing, so that she can fully understand the directions on the labels. She ought to have a knowledge of common and every-day affairs, and possess the qualification of "common sense." But she must not place too high a valuation on her own opinion or skill, as that may cause her to use either in opposition to the wishes of the doctor. She must do everything for the patient that she can, and deal with the doctor fairly.