For a person to be accepted for training in the School of Nursing, a standard of health was required. As early as 1886, applicants “must bring a certificate signed by a duly-qualified medical man that they are in good health and not liable to any constitutional disease.”
By 1927 more specific requirements were included: “…they should see that their teeth are in good order, and have any eye, ear, nose or throat corrected.”
Successful applicants were medically examined by the Medical Superintendent as soon as practicable after entry.
By 1932 chest X-Rays were done if there was any suspicion of chest complaint. Students were re-examined at the end of the first year of training.
By 1940 all new entrants received chest X-Rays on admission, and routine medical examinations and chest X-Rays were repeated annually or more often if deemed necessary. Mantoux test were carried out on all and repeated 6-monthly. If tests were negative, student nurses were not posted to the Tb wards. All nurses were weighed monthly. The administration of these routine checks was the responsibility of the Nurses Health Clinic. This was staffed by a nursing Sister and a visiting senior physician. The service catered not just for student nurses but for the total nursing staff. (By the 1950s the Health Clinic was renamed Staff Health reflecting a much wider responsibility.)
By 1969 all new entrants were immunized against typhoid, smallpox and tetanus.
In the first 50 years or so of the School of Nursing, sickness amongst student nurses and trained nurses was common. There were a number of factors at play here – long hours of work, exposure to others with infectious diseases (whether patients or staff members) and the absence of antibiotics to treat various infections. Immunisation against many infectious fevers was yet to be available or in widespread use.
Periodically both student and trained nurses developed measles, mumps, chickenpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, tuberculosis and influenza. Typhoid fever occurred occasionally. Skin infections including boils, and ‘swollen glands’ were mentioned in the records available.
Such illness resulted in time away from studies, missed examinations and in some cases a need to give up nursing and return home. There were occasional deaths.
Records for individual probationer and trained nurses who started at the hospital between the late 1890s and around 1920 often recorded details of both nurses’ examination results and any sickness and time off that occurred. These records have been deposited with Archives NZ. Below are listed infectious fevers recorded for student nurses only between 1898 and 1915.
|1898||JT||32||typhoid fever||6 weeks|
|1902||F S||28||measles||2 weeks|
|1902||BH||23||scarlet fever||4 weeks|
|1902||MP||27||typhoid fever||6 weeks|
|1907||F E||26||influenza||4 days|
|1907||F E||26||diphtheria||3 weeks|
|1907||E M M||27||measles||5 weeks|
|1907||JJ||24||scarlet fever||8 weeks|
|1907||FMW||25||scarlet fever||4 weeks|
|1908||AB||25||scarlet fever||5 weeks|
|1909||J McC R G||23||diphtheria||6 weeks|
|1909||E M M||28||influenza||1 week|
|1910||LMM||30||scarlet fever||8 weeks|
|1910||L d'OT||24||scarlet fever||6 weeks|
|1913||JIMacL||23||typhoid fever||6 months|
|1915||CLMcK||24||scarlet fever||6 weeks|
Management of sickness in the nursing staff posed logistical problems. Where to look after sick nurses?
From earliest time sick nurses were housed in general wards, often in side-rooms.
Around 1900 some were cared for in the Plague Hospital (Berhampore).
There was provision for sick nurses in the Nurses Home erected in 1904
Nurses requiring isolation were nursed in the Seddon Shelters (erected in 1906)
Nurses with infectious diseases were later isolated in the Infectious Diseases Hospital – renamed Ewart Hospital, erected in 1910.
In 1915 a new building was erected over the remaining ‘private suite’, between the main entrance block and wards 5 & 6. Included in this new building was a nurses’ sick bay.
From 1919 ill staff were housed in the new Fever Hospital, though those with tuberculosis were housed in Ewart Hospital.
Another example of the frequency of nurses becoming ill was documented in a diary kept by Nurse Marie Farquhar in 1926: (Names of ill nurses have been replaced with initials)
“April 12 3 nurses with scarlet fever
14 Nurse Ky now with scarlet
21 Nurse Pi with scarlet
24 Nurse Sc ill
Nurse Ga ill
May 3 Nurse Do* sick measles
6 Nurse Br with rash
18 Nurse Do* now with scarlet
22 Nurse Q Th sickroom
June 6 Nurse R A Far with sore throat
14 Nurse M I Far sickroom, paracentesis, ?mastoid
Nurse Fai sickroom, mastoid operation
21 Nurse Br with chickenpox
24 Nurse Be with chickenpox
28 Nurse Mu ill
July 4 Nurse Jo ill
Nurse Mu ? scarlet
5 Pro. Co abscess behind ear
7 Sister at Fever Hospital ill
9 Nurse Br ill
11 Nurse Ba ill
12 Nurse Ma to sick room
18 Nurse Co still fairly ill
Nurse Dr still fairly ill
25 Nurse Ma and Nurse To coming out of sickroom
Aug 5 Nurse A Th ill, ? diphtheria
25 Pro. Au month’s leave, sore feet
25 Pro. McG month’s leave, sore feet
28 Nurse Mu in sickroom
Nurse Gr in sickroom
Nurse Ta in sickroom
Nurse Jo in sickroom
Nurse Wi in sickroom
Sep 15 Nurse McK in sickroom
20 Nurse Ja in sickroom
21 Nurse Ha Gi in sickroom
Oct Nurse Ed in isolation, mumps
16 Nurse Je ill
17 Nurse Ivy Ol taken to sickroom
Nov 26 Nurse Q Th in sickroom
Dec 4 Nurse Marie I Farquhar with mumps, in isolation
From the above diary list it is seen that nurses were getting sick, continuously, keeping “Father” Wilson very busy.
Scarlet fever was a six-week illness in isolation.
Mumps were three weeks in isolation.”
For this period at least, the number of ill probationers was small.
Below are the deaths for nurses – student and trained – listed in available records. In only a few instances is the cause of death recorded.
|1886||A M B||Typhoid|
|1904||G B||Malignant Scarlet Fever|
|1908||A M S||Scarlet Fever|
|1915||A E F||?|
|1915||F P||Diabetes, meningitis|
|1915||C B P||Diphtheria|
|1918||J M E||?|
|1928||G S L||renal failure post Scarlet Fever|
|1934||N E G||?|
|1936||M C L||?|
|1938||J I P||?|
|1943||L M R||?|
|1944||B N S||?|
|1944||E M L||?|
|1953||S M K||Fatal accident|