This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Family Doctor" book
Exactness in carrying out the orders of the physician is the first duty of a nurse. The doctor is responsible for the treatment of the case, and the patient and family are responsible for the choice of the doctor. The nurse, whether man or woman, who thinks he or she "knows better than the doctor," is a very dangerous and unsuitable person to have about the house.
Sleeping heavily is a weakness from which some suffer when in care of ill patients at night. It is a good thing to learn to wake with a sound or a touch. By fixing it strongly on the mind, most people can do this. A break-down may come, just at a critical moment, then the family is left under a calamity which might have been prevented by proper consideration from the start.
Watchfulness in everything is the duty of a nurse. Without it, a patient may get out of bed in a delirium, and perhaps fall down stairs or out of the window. Or, the clothing may be thrown off, and a deadly chill will follow. In a thousand things the life of the sufferer may be in the hands of the nurse, as the safety of the passengers and cargo of a ship is in that of the pilot at the helm.
When many doses of medicine or portions of food have to be given through the day and night, it is best that the times and quantities shall be written down, instead of trusting to memory, And then, a mark of record of some kind being made when each thing is given makes ready a report of the treatment for the doctor to see when he comes.
Quietness is very necessary in the sickroom. Stamping around in heavy or creaking shoes, talking loud, swinging in a rocking-chair, slamming doors or windows, or even much rustling of garments; all noises are utterly inadmissible and injurious. Yet whispering, and creeping on tiptoe in sight of the patient, are about as bad, because they attract his attention unpleasantly, and that is always to be avoided.
Never ask a patient whether he would "like to eat or drink" such-and-such a thing. Prepare and bring, under the directions of the doctor, what will be best and most likely to be taken, and offer it quietly.
What are the qualities that make a good nurse? They are kindness, good common sense, carefulness, quietness, neatness, handiness, cheerfulness.
Kind a nurse must be, or mere professional skill and obligation will fail to effect all that is needed for the best welfare of a patient. Sympathy is worth much to a sufferer. Patience is often called for in attendance upon the sick, and selfish people do not have a large stock of this, which can not be bought with money; it must come from love, or, at least, from genuine kindness of heart.
Common sense, that is, intelligence such as most people, not particularly deficient, possess, will enable any one to learn what is necessary in nursing, and to do it respectably, at least.
Carefulness is indispensable. One who will give a dose of medicine without looking at the label on the bottle; or will spill out twenty drops when ten were ordered; or will upset a breakfast tray on the bed; or leave a vessel under the bed for hours uncovered: or oversleep when the patient should have food or medicine, or let the fire go out; such an one is entirely unfit to have charge of a sick person.
If not taken in a little while, remove it out of sight. Keep no food or medicine in sight of a sick person.
Neatness is a very similar quality to quietness. Nothing should be allowed to be slovenly, much less dirty around a sick person. Yet " fuss" and much movement in clearing up are to be avoided. A wet cloth will be better than a brush or broom in cleaning furniture and carpet.
Handiness is an excellent quality in doing all sorts of things, in the sick-room, as well as everywhere else. While it is not absolutely indispensable, its opposite, clumsiness or awkwardness, may cause much discomfort. I have known one or two men who, in a surgical ward of a hospital, could hardly go near to a patient without somehow hurting him.
Cheerfulness is an excellent attribute in the sick-room. It is as pleasant as sunshine, and wholesome like it, without any of its glare. A long face or a whining voice should never enter where there is suffering enough already. Let every one endeavor to make the best of all things, and the most of hope. When there is doubt, leaning toward the brighter side is well; as the proverb says, " while there is life there is hope,"
Speaking of a patient's symptoms in his presence (unless when needful questions have to be asked) is to be avoided. Also, there must be no discussion or mention there of other people's illnesses or deaths. Much talking of any kind is out of place in the sick-chamber; it interferes with that rest of brain which, in all kinds of illness, is important.