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‘Always remember that you are in your senses: from keeper to attendant to nurse’

Chatterton, Claire (2014). ‘Always remember that you are in your senses: from keeper to attendant to nurse’. In: Knowles, Thomas and Trowbridge, Serena eds. Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century. Perspectives in Economic and Social History (36). London: Pickering and Chatto., pp. 85–98.

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In the large, expanding Victorian asylums with a small number of medical staff, ruled by a powerful but often remote Medical Superintendent, it was the nursing staff that played a crucial role as intermediaries between the everyday life of the institution and contemporary theories about insanity. Pioneering Medical Superintendents relied on nursing staff to carry out their instructions and implement their theories, as the latter occupied the middle ground between doctors and patients.
In this chapter the working lives of the nineteenth century predecessors of today’s mental health nurses will be examined. Long and comprehensive rule books gave detailed instructions about every aspect of asylum life and towards the end of the Victorian period, textbooks had also began to appear for ‘attendants on the insane.’ How large however was the gulf between rhetoric and reality?
By examining Victorian rule books and textbooks, and comparing these with staff records, asylum annual reports and contemporary journal articles and debates, the question of how wide this gulf was and how great was the dissonance between the theoretical base of the nineteenth century asylum and its lived reality is discussed and analysed.

Item Type: Book Section
Copyright Holders: 2015 Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Ltd., 2015 The Editors
ISBN: 1-84893-452-1, 978-1-84893-452-8
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
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Item ID: 42762
Depositing User: Claire Chatterton
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2015 10:25
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 08:08
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