Whole Earth Review

Notes on Nursing.

Notes on Nursing. – book reviews

Wendy Hermance

This 160-page, leatherette-bound centennial edition of Florence Nightingale’s 1859 work is really two books in one. The original text bursts with deceptively simple observations on health that are often overlooked even by today’s health practitioners, Nightingale had little patience for “medical men” and recognized nursing as the distinct science of promoting a holistic human health. She understood humor, sunlight, human touch and pet therapy to be as important as maintaining a clean, germ-free environment, This volume is introduced by passages from twelve influential nurse theorists whose diverse thoughts and theories are sometimes radically redefining — or reclaiming — nursing, away from the medical model introduced in the 19503, Unabridged Nightingale is worth reading by anyone interested in whole-organism health.

Every woman, or at least almost every woman, in England has, at one time or another of her life, charge of the personal health of somebody, whether child or invalid, — in other words, every woman is a nurse.

To have pure air, your house must be so constructed as that the outer atmosphere shall find its way with ease to every corner of it House architects hardly ever consider this. The object in building a house is to obtain the largest interest for the money, not to save doctors’ bills to the tenants. But, if tenants should ever become so wise as to refuse to occupy unhealthily constructed houses, and if Insurance Companies should ever come to understand their interest so thoroughly as to pay a Sanitary Surveyor to look after the houses where their clients live, speculative architects would speedily be brought to their senses. As it is, they build what pays best. And there are always people foolish enough to take the houses they build. And if in the course of time the families die off, as is so often the case, nobody ever thinks of blaming any but Providence for the result. Ill-informed medical men aid in sustaining the delusion, by laying the blame on “current contagions.” Badly constructed houses do for the healthy what badly constructed hospitals do for the sick. Once insure that the air in a house is stagnant, and sickness is certain to follow.

There is no better society than babies and sick people for one another. Of course you must manage this so that neither shall suffer from it, which is perfectly possible. If you think the “air of the sick room” bad for the baby, why it is bad for the invalid too, and therefore, you will of course correct it for both. It freshens up a sick person’s whole mental atmosphere to see “the baby.” And a very young child, if unspoiled, will generally adapt itself wonderfully to the ways of a sick person, if the time they spend together is not too long ….

A small pet animal is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially. A pet bird in a cage is sometimes the only pleasure of an invalid confined for years to the same room. If he can feed and clean the animal himself, he ought always to be encouraged to do so.

It is a curious thing to observe how almost all patients lie with their faces turned to the light, exactly as plants always make their way towards the light; a patient will even complain that it gives him pain “lying on that side.” “Then why do you lie on that side?” He does not know,- but we do. It is because it is the side towards the window. A fashionable physician has recently published in a government report that he always turns his patients’ faces from the light. Yes, but nature is stronger than fashionable physicians, and depend upon it she turns the faces back and towards such light as she can get.

Notes on Nursing (Centennial Edition) Florence Nightingale, 1859, 1992; 160 pp. $24.95 postpaid from J.B. Lippincott Co., P.O. Box 1580, Hagerstown, MD 21741; 800/441-4526

COPYRIGHT 1993 Point Foundation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group