In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

59 January 30th, Tillie and I had the afternoon off. Miss Whittaker, superintendent of nurses, talked to us at one P.M. She accepted us—no longer a probie but a nurse—kissed us and so forth, thrilled! —St. Luke’s Trainee, 19291 n her first day at St. Luke’s, Muriel Young, a “probie,” was up with her roommate at 6:00 A.M. She still felt tired from the previous day’s train ride to St. Paul, from her hometown of Wells, Minnesota . As instructed earlier by the superintendent of nurses, however, she dressed in her uniform and walked the short distance from the nurses’ home to the hospital chapel by 6:30 A.M. Although the five-minute service was over before she could focus on what was being said, she was not concerned . After all, the service was led by Reverend Pinkham, an Episcopalian , and she was a Methodist.2 Following chapel, Miss Young went to breakfast with the other probationers and nurses. In the midst of getting to know one another, their conversation most likely veered toward the chaos that seemed to grip the world outside the hospital. It was 1918 and the St. Paul Pioneer Press was emblazoned with headlines of the Great War in Europe: “ITALIANS GAIN ADVANTAGE BY SURPRISE ONSLAUGHT” “U.S. AIRMEN VICTORS IN FIERCE HALF HOUR FIGHT” “AMERICAN TROOPS IN FRANCE”3 No doubt, at least one of those present in the nurses’ dining room commented on the well-publicized, urgent need for nurses in France. On the homefront, area women were chided under the headline“MOTHERS HERE LACK PATRIOTISM.” The charge was that mothers were being “negligent or indifferent in the matter of having babies and children weighed 4 The Limits of Duty O Olson_CH4_2nd.qxd 1/13/2004 2:33 PM Page 59 and measured.”4 In addition, stern warnings were being made to all Minnesotans about the new party, “known as the Interallied Socialist and Labor League . . . (that) may invade the state.”5 So much unsettling news probably contributed to a“condition of lawlessness”that even touched the countryside familiar to so many of the St. Luke’s trainees. A short distance from Miss Young’s home, unruly crowds became such a concern that “for the first time in the history of the state military law overruled civil law,”as Governor Burnquist ordered members of the First Minnesota Infantry to close all saloons in the usually sleepy town of Blooming Prairie.6 There was little time, though, to dwell on such matters. The immediate responsibilities of work and training could not wait. Nurses and probationers alike had to eat quickly in order to be “ready for duty” and in their assigned areas by 7:00 A.M. Miss Young eagerly awaited her duty on the first-floor ward. If she looked unusually confident as she reported to the ward, she probably explained, as she did in her application, “Four of my friends are nurses at your hospital now.”7 On Duty As soon as training began, the amount of time that Miss Young and the other women spent“on duty”was painstakingly recorded on their monthly record, the most important document in their files (see figures 5A–5B). On duty, the “practical” side of training, meant that a nurse was assigned to work in a part of the hospital or occasionally (during the earliest years of the program) in a private residence. Most of the nurses were on duty from their first day at St. Luke’s. Throughout the 1890s, individuals were required to spend two years, or 730 days, completing their practical training. Days spent only in classes were not credited toward meeting this total. Training school and hospital officials closely adhered to this requirement, neither exacting a large number of extra days from the nurses nor allowing them to finish early. Analysis of the women’s work records revealed that they were on duty for a mean of 2.04 years, exceeding the specified number by less than fifteen days.8 Although close accounting of days on duty remained the rule at the hospital , a dramatic change in the length of training after 1900 led to greater flexibility in the proportion of time consumed by practical training. Before considering what such flexibility in practical training meant in terms of specific numbers, however, we first need to look more closely at the larger issue of length of training. Since 1893, nursing leaders had been working to...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.