In the first decades of the 20th century, wealthy households employed trained professional nurses to care for seriously ill family members. These nurses stayed in the patient’s home, carrying out the doctor’s instructions, monitoring the patient’s condition and providing general care – making beds, bathing the patient, giving medicines and keeping the sickroom in good order. The role of the private nurse was not an easy one: she had an ambiguous social position – above domestic servants but below family members. Private nursing slowly died out after 1918, at the same time as did the live-in domestic servant.
Here’s another gem I found in my little book of Home Nursing from the 1930’s, on the precautions taken against the spread of infection. The HSE would do well to take note!
The following rules should be observed whenever a case of infectious disease is being treated at home:-
1. At the outset of the disease soak a sheet in disinfectant and hang it outside the sick-room door, allowing the lower end to remain in a bath containing disinfectant.
2. Immediately pour a strong disinfectant over all excretions, cover the bed-pan with a cloth, remove and empty it at once unless the doctor desires it kept for his inspection. After emptying the bed-pan scald it out and cleanse with a disinfectant.
3. Burn in the fireplace in the sick-room all rags, cotton-waste, tow or cotton-wool used for discharges, also all dust taken up in the sick-room.
4. Place in a pail of disinfectant for one hour at least, all soiled bed linen, including handkerchiefs, before boiling them.
5. Keep a basin of disinfectant in the room but out of the patient’s reach, in which to wash your hands every time you have done anything for him.
6. When the patient is declared free from infection, give him a bath to which disinfectant of the appropriate amount has been added, not omitting to wash the head. Put him into a dressing-gown which has not been kept in the sick-room, move him into another room, and dress him.
Disinfecting the Sick-Room to follow.