Home Nursing

23661eWhile sorting out some old family belongings recently, I came across a  little handbook of nursing, titled  “Home Nursing – The Authorized Textbook of the St. John Ambulance Association“. This book was first published in June 1932 and contains some wonderful gems on patient care. These were the  days when patients were literally ‘nursed’ back to health.


“Beverages may be refreshing, nourishing or stimulating”.

a. Refreshing.

Beverages for this purpose should be taken in sips, and the patient urged to hold the fluid under the front of the tongue or at the back of the throat. The effect will be a refreshing sensation of coolness, whereas a large draught does not so well allay the thirst and may induce flatulence.  Rinsing the mouth with cold water will often effectually allay thirst.

Teas made from Jam – Blackcurrant tea is especially suitable. Add a tablespoonful of jam to a pint of boiling water and allow to stand; strain.

Toast Water – Soak a slice of well toasted bread in a pint of boiling water; stand till cold; strain.

Apple Water – Slice thinly an apple without peeling or coring; pour over it a pint of boiling water; stand till cold; strain.

nurseb.  Nourishing.

Barley Water (thin) – Add half a pint of boiling water to a teaspoonful of washed pearl barley, with a pinch of salt: stand by the fire for an hour, stirring occasionally: strain through fine muslin: allow to cool.

Albumen Water – Stir the whites of two fresh eggs in half a pint of cold boiled water, to which a pinch of salt has been added; leave for half an hour.

Gruel (Oatmeal) may be made with mild or with water. Mix into a paste with water two tablespoonfuls of fine oatmeal or groats in a saucepan; add a pint of milk or water, as ordered, and boil gently for half an hour, stirring frequently. Flavour with salt or sugar.

Egg Flip – Remove the speck; beat up a new-laid egg with a teaspoonful of sugar; add half a pint of milk and, if ordered, a tablespoonful of brandy; stir well.

c. Stimulating.


Beef Tea (quick) – Remove the fat and skin from half a pound of gravy beef, which should be cut in small pieces and placed in a saucepan; add sufficient water to cover the meat and a little salt; while warming over a moderate fire, press out the juice of the meat for ten minutes; removed the meat and boil the liquor for one minute.

Those were the days! Do you think the  HSE could learn any useful tips from this book? More to follow…

12 Responses to Home Nursing

  1. Ian says:

    The HSE could indeed learn. I was visiting a man in a major hospital last week, and for his breakfast he had been given a little carton of orange juice – with the straw wrapped in cellophane stuck to the side – and a pot of yogurt with a tear off foil top. I think they had been to a garage to buy their catering supplies!

  2. Steph says:

    Ian – The St John Ambulance nurses would turn in their graves if they saw the food doled out in our hospitals today.

    I was once in a ward next to a lady with terminal cancer. She was terribly underweight and required a special high calorie diet which was monitored by a dietician. The lady was a real fighter with a great sense of humour but no matter how hard she tried to gain weight, she was defeated by the hospital. Whenever her ‘special’ menu did actually arrive, it was usually inedible and she was left go hungry. I well remember the two of us cheering one day when she succeeded in getting a boiled egg for her breakfast. It seemed like such a triumph over a system in chaos. That poor lady has since died.

  3. Grannymar says:

    Toast water????? Never heard of it.

    I often had beaten white of egg with sugar added and a spoon of brandy. It was like uncooked meringue and I eat it with a spoon.

  4. Cathy says:

    I could do without toast water forever, I think…:) But, that Jam tea sounds pretty tasty. I can imagine that it would be good for an ill person. I had to laugh at the “Fresh laid egg” part. I wonder just how old these things are we bring home from the grocery in cartons? Speaking of toast water, my Dad use to eat bread milk all the time. He would get a glass of milk and tear up a couple slices of bread and put it in with the milk and eat it with a spoon. No sugar, no nothing, just bread and milk.

  5. Grannymar says:

    @Cathy, My father was very fond that milk bread. In our house it was made with sweetened hot milk poured over bread cubes in a cereal bowl! I can still smell that milk and to this day it turns my stomach!

    In the days before ‘Ribena’ Blackcurrant jam in boiling water was produced at the first sign of a cold!

  6. Steph says:

    Grannymar and Cathy – Thanks!

    I think I’d happily skip on the toast water, albumen water and gruel!

    My hubby had a tradition in his family of ‘poorly’ egg for whenever someone was under the weather. He made it up for me once but I’m afraid I sent it back to the kitchen!

    Poorly Egg: Soft boil an egg. Break up a slice of bread into a mug/cup. Pour warm milk over it, add seasoning and then chop warm egg into mixture.

  7. Bendy Girl says:

    Wow, what a great book! I don’t know if you see Panorama in Ireland (it’s on iplayer) but I’m thinking this book should be sent out to all home care companies! HAppy Easter Steph, BG x

  8. Steph says:

    Hi! Bendy

    Happy Easter to you too. I hope the Easter Bunny came your way 😀

    This little book is a real treasure. It really brings home how much patient care is compromised by today’s conveyor belt style of hospital care.

    We do indeed get Panorama. I chose not to watch that ‘special’ last week as we have enough scandals in our own healthcare system to keep me busy!

  9. Baino says:

    Oh no not soggy toast! I remember barley water though my grandma swore by it. I’m not sure what it was supposed to do but she considered it a vital tonic! Nothing, I repeat nothing can be worse than hospital food!

  10. Steph says:

    Baino – There is also a ‘thick’ version of the barley water.

    Boil slowly a heaped tablespoonful of washed pearl barley with a pinch of salt in a quart of water until a quarter has boiled away; allow to cool. May be flavoured with a little lemon rind.

    I feel sick just thinking about this stuff! I’m happy with bottled water when in hospital and I can never understand why people think that fizzy drinks are a prerequisite when sick?

  11. jacinta says:

    do you know where i could get a copy of this book?

  12. Steph says:

    Hello Jacinta

    This little book is 77 years old so I don’t imagine there are too many of them still around but you could always make enquiries at somewhere that specialises in old books and manuscripts. I treasure my family copy and I’ve no intention of letting it go.

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