Dr Claire Jones (King’s College London)
Hygiene, Antiseptic and Aseptic Pedagogy and Practice in British Nursing, c. 1870 – 1900
Paper given at the symposium, ‘Medical training, student experience and the transmission of knowledge, c.1800-2014’, organised by Laura Kelly, at CHOMI, UCD, October 2014
The introduction of sanitary standards, antisepsis and asepsis into British hospitals following Florence Nightingale’s and Joseph Lister’s celebrated innovations has been long discussed by historians in terms of the changes they brought about in operative and post-operative surgical practice. Rather less attention, however, has been paid to the consequences of this introduction for nurse training and practice. Indeed, the history of nurses’ everyday practice is only beginning to be uncovered. This paper aims to readdress the imbalance by exploring the extent to which sanitary standards, antisepsis and asepsis within the late nineteenth century nursing curricula at two London hospitals associated with Nightingale and Lister – King’s College Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital – can be identified and tracked archivally and by assessing how the ideas of Nightingale and Lister penetrated hospital practice and daily ward routines in these institutions. It draws on the extensive archival sources of these hospitals, including lectures to nursing staff, case notes and students’ ward diaries, in order to demonstrate that nursing staff played a more significant role in late nineteenth century hospital infection prevention and control than has hitherto been discussed.