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Nursing Tales – Personal Reminiscences of Sexual Health Nursing in the Twentieth Century

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Title: Nursing Tales – Personal Reminiscences of Sexual Health Nursing in the Twentieth Century.

Author: Madelaine Ward

Publisher: Bound Biographies

Reviewer: Kerry Bloodworth, assistant director of nursing, Nottingham University Hospitals

What was it like?

This book is describes perfectly what it “says on the tin”, Reminiscences of the development of sexual health nursing over the course of the last 50 years, by Madelaine and her colleagues.

It starts in around the First World War and this section of the book is a collection of research from the time, (before the start of Madelaine’s career). Sexual health was much disregarded and was not even a medical or nursing speciality, and the treatments patients had to go through before the use of antibiotics.

The book starts to go into much more detail when Madelaine and her colleagues start to share their own experiences. This includes the hours they worked, their working environments (usually in poor accommodation not attached to hospitals) and their pay usually on a sessional basis. Family planning and how women had to deal with this fundamental right to project their bodies against unwanted and frequent pregnancies. Patients had to confirm they were married by taking their marriage certificate with them to clinic, or a letter from the vicar confirming forthcoming nuptials.

The book goes through the decades and at certain points there is a particular interest, the swinging sixties and “free love”, how abortion became legal and accessible (some shocking examples to read to what extent women went through to terminate pregnancy). The challenge of the 80’s when AIDS was first identified and how nursing challenges changed towards this disease and the associated stigmas for patients. Interestingly towards the end of the book, the author describes how supporting patients through sexual issues have proven to be so beneficial and developed yet another sphere of practice for these specialist roles.

Reading the history of sexual health nursing through the decades the progress is unrecognisable, not just the liberation of men & women about their own sexuality, the ability of patients to plan their pregnancies, supporting patients through their sexual issues and the huge public health agenda, which now isn’t hidden away. Sexual health nursing has moved from the “back street” into the 21st century with nurse prescribing, implanting devises and performing procedures that year’s ago was the domain of the medical profession.

What were the highlights? 

This is a fascinating book, which I really enjoyed reading. It would be a good read for nursing staff, who are also looking back at their careers like me or for student nurses, midwives & health visitors  who are just embarking on their careers. The book deals with sensitively about contraception, abortion, AIDS and how areas of practice had developed over 50 years.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The strength of this biography is about all the experiences of nurses, learning skills, sharing experiences, being a patient advocate over the last five decades. It describes current practice at the time as well as the issues affecting the current public health agenda. The book also shares many personal stories, of colleagues, friendships and the challenges of working with this sensitive area of practice.

Who should read it?

This book can be read and enjoyed by anyone, especially staff who are currently working within GU medicine. It doesn’t have any clinical impact in the 21st century healthcare setting but is really interesting to read about nursing and personal experiences of work.

Nursing Tales


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Anonymous

    A bit of editing would have made the review an easier and better read! I picked up on 'wasn't not' and 'her colleagues's start to' as real howlers but there are non-sentences and all sorts in there. Shame, really, as the reviewer was clearly enthused by the book.

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  • Thanks for letting us know. The errors have been changed now.

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