25,466 were returned, at the census of 1851, as nurses by profession, 39,139 nurses in domestic service,* and 2,822 midwives. The numbers of different ages are shown in table A, and in table B their distribution over Great Britain.
To increase the efficiency of this class, and to make as many of them as possible the disciples of the true doctrines of health, would be a great national work.
For there the material exists, and will be used for nursing, whether the real “conclusion of the matter” be to nurse or to poison the sick. A man, who stands perhaps at the head of our medical profession, once said to me, I send a nurse into a private family to nurse the sick, but I know that it is only to do them harm.
Now a nurse means any person in charge of the personal health of another. And, in the preceding notes, the term nurse is used indiscriminately for amateur and professional nurses. For, besides nurses of the sick and nurses of children, the numbers of whom are here given, there are friends or relations who take temporary charge of a sick person, there are mothers of families. It appears as if these unprofessional nurses were just as much in want of knowledge of the laws of health as professional ones.
Then there are the school-mistresses of all national and other schools throughout the kingdom. How many of children’s epidemics originate in these! Then the proportion of girls in these schools, who become mothers or members among the 64,600 nurses recorded above, or schoolmistresses in their turn. If the laws of health, as far as regards fresh air, cleanliness, light, &c., were taught to these, would this not prevent some children being killed, some evil being perpetuated? On women we must depend, first and last, for personal and household hygiene—for preventing the race from degenerating in as far as these things are concerned. Would not the true way of infusing the art of preserving its own health into the human race be to teach the female part of it in schools and hospitals, both by practical teaching and by simple experiments, in as far as these illustrate what may be called the theory of it?