Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Nursing traditions are a mixed blessing

  • Comment
Every morning, as I enter my hospital, I pass a portrait of one of the old matrons. She’s rather fabulously turned out – a white bonnet, ruffled collar and blue cape.

She looks every inch the old-fashioned nurse, right down to the rather severe glare she’s giving the artist and, consequently, me.

Sometimes I admire her outmoded dress and everything it stands for; sometimes I think rebelliously that the hangover of her Victorian matriarchal values is the reason why nurses are not accorded the same salary and professional respect as other, comparable professions.

When I started nursing I was taught how to make a bed: pillowcases always facing away from the door. Curious, I asked why.

‘It’s in case there’s a bomb. That way the dust and dirt from the explosion won’t fly into the pillowslip,’ I was told.

I was flabbergasted. Had no one told this nurse that the Blitz was over quite some time ago now? In any case, I couldn’t imagine diving for cover from a bomb and then finding time to break into a sweat about a grubby pillowslip.

Nursing and traditions are bound as tightly as the warp and the weft. And I think that’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because there are generations of dedicated and single-minded people – particularly women – behind us who were passionate about caring for those who are sick. And a curse because the traditions of those who gave birth to us – religion and the military – do not necessarily support a profession of the 21st century.

I have a love-hate relationship with the image of nursing but I’ll try not to glower at that long-dead matron. It seems, after all, a little unfair to heap such a multitude of charged emotions on what is, after all, only a portrait.

Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a staff nurse in Devon

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.