Fever Hospitals and Fever Nurses: A British Social History of Fever Nurses: A National Service

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  3. Nurse Training at Plaistow Fever Hospital
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The wisdom of creating fever hospitals and then disbanding them is questioned in the light of changing disease patterns, international travel and the threat posed by biological warfare.

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Nurse Training at Plaistow Fever Hospital

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Who Cared for the Carers? Science and Modern Thought in Nursing. Child Workers and Industrial Health in Britain, Oxford Handbook of Clinical Diagnosis. Bacteria in Britain, — Health Information - E-Book. Fever Hospitals and Fever Nurses: For some years now, academic historians of medicine have viewed the history of nursing with concern as an important area of the discipline in need of professional treatment.

This is not because nursing history does not exist, but rather because it is largely the province of amateur historians with a professional nursing background. Enthusiastic as it is, much of this history falls short of the analytical approach and critical historiographic engagement that give point and purpose to scholarly historical inquiry. Margaret Currie's well-intentioned Fever Hospitals and Fever Nurses falls into this category, her aim apparently being to explain and justify fever nursing to the wider profession, and to argue for its continuing relevance in the twenty-first century.

Currie's account of the fever hospitals themselves adds little to what is already known.

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She does not, for example, attempt any systematic inquiry such as might enable us to map the location and distribution of these institutions across the country. Historical interpretation can be confused: Outside of London, many fever hospitals were in fact very small, and as a facility they were never a match for the number of infectious cases occurring annually in England and Wales.

Founded, funded, and independently operated by local authorities except in London, where they were under the auspices of the Metropolitan Asylums Board , they never in any sense constituted a national service, and the services they provided were somewhat variable.

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Currie's account of fever nursing is of greater originality and interest, drawing attention to the neglected issue of specialist nursing practice in relation to general nursing. It is something of an irony that fever nursing as a specialty only emerged around , when the toll of fever cases was already falling. Much may be mined from Currie's chapters on the nursing aspects—her account of practices in the care of smallpox patients is fascinating—but the inclusion in the text of raw [End Page ] primary-source material in the form of nurse testimonies, and of several case-study nurse biographies, detracts from the strength and cohesiveness of the wider story.

She makes much of the skill and dedication of these nurses, but the underlying themes are of exploitation, even of ghettoization, and reflect little credit on the leaders of the profession. Fever nurses began their careers in fever nursing at the age of seventeen. It was a dangerous and underappreciated occupation.