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Health

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.

 

Sickness

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.

Sick probationers
yearnameageillnesstime off
1898JT32typhoid fever6 weeks
1902F S28measles2 weeks
1902BH23scarlet fever4 weeks
1902MP27typhoid fever6 weeks
1907F E26influenza4 days
1907F E26diphtheria3 weeks
1907E M M27measles5 weeks
1907JJ24influenza1 week
1907JJ24scarlet fever8 weeks
1907FMW25scarlet fever4 weeks
1907FMW25measles3 weeks
1908JJ25pleurisy4 weeks
1908JJ25influenza2 weeks
1908OLL24influenza1 week
1908OLL24chickenpox1 week
1908AB25scarlet fever5 weeks
1909J McC R G23diphtheria6 weeks
1909E M M28influenza1 week
1909FMW27diphtheria6 weeks
1910LMM30scarlet fever8 weeks
1910L d'OT24scarlet fever6 weeks
1913JIMacL23typhoid fever6 months
1915CLMcK24scarlet fever6 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.

 

Deaths

Below are the deaths for nurses – student and trained – listed in available records. In only a few instances is the cause of death recorded.

Year InitialsCause
1886A M BTyphoid
1902M SMeningitis
1904G BMalignant Scarlet Fever
1908A M SScarlet Fever
1915A E F?
1915F PDiabetes, meningitis
1915C B PDiphtheria
1918J M E?
1918A S?
1919E M?
1921I M?
1927E S?
1928G S Lrenal failure post Scarlet Fever
1929V H?
1934N E G?
1936M C L?
1938J I P?
1943L M R?
1944B N S?
1944E M L?
1953S M KFatal accident

 

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Last updated 14 April 2019.