Nurses as observers and monitors: an Australian experience 1930-1950.

  • Wendy Madsen
  • Published 1999 in International history of nursing journal : IHNJ


During the time of nursing reforms being advocated by Nightingale in the 1860s, the medical profession was also undergoing considerable change and reform. Scientific developments were beginning to make an impact on the world of medicine, and health reformists were campaigning for public health initiatives. As part of this health reformation, nurses took on the tasks of observation and monitoring of patients (formally delegated to trainee doctors) within the wards of the general hospitals. This was a significant alteration in responsibility for nurses, when compared with the almost exclusive domestic duties they were responsible for prior to these reforms. However, this monitoring role did not remain solely at the bedside, and over time, nurses engaged in a number of ward monitoring activities as well, such as counting cutlery and crockery. This paper explores this monitoring role of nurses and how it related to the activities of doctors and hospital administrators. The material contained in this paper is based on research conducted into the general nursing practices of trainee nurses at the Rockhampton Hospital during the 1930s and 1940s. This paper focuses on the years 1930-1950 because this era witnessed many changes with regards to both the medical and nursing professions. These changes included an increase in the influence of medical technology and the role of the hospital as the primary location for the treatment of ill-health.

Cite this paper

@article{Madsen1999NursesAO, title={Nurses as observers and monitors: an Australian experience 1930-1950.}, author={Wendy Madsen}, journal={International history of nursing journal : IHNJ}, year={1999}, volume={4 4}, pages={19-25} }