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Mental health nursingThe working lives of paid carers, 1800s-1900s$
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Anne Borsay and Pamela Dale

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719096938

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719096938.001.0001

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Mental health nursing

Mental health nursing

the working lives of paid carers from 1800 to the 1990s

(p.1) 1 Mental health nursing
Mental health nursing

Anne Borsay

Pamela Dale

Manchester University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the working lives of paid carers over two centuries. The emergence of modern nursing is usually dated to the mid-nineteenth century. Its complex evolution and international variations were shaped by the relationship between nursing and the state, religious influences, economics, a concern with social welfare, class and gender issues, scientific innovation, the reform of hospitals, and the development of a distinct body of nursing knowledge. Such analysis tends to prioritise the experiences of the general nurse while the asylum attendant/ psychiatric nurse tends to be either overlooked or described in a way that suggests inferiority. A narrative of catching up and falling behind imbues these debates with general nursing serving as an exemplar. This perspective neglects to consider the appropriateness of general hospital attitudes and practices to the care of the mentally ill, the special qualities and specific skills that might be demanded of the asylum attendant/ nurse, and the distinctive problems presented by their working environment. The idea that nurses’ needs and experiences can shape their responses to patient needs, and thus wider care regimes, is only just gaining credence but is the starting point for this collection of essays.

Keywords:   Asylum, Carers, Class, Experiences, Gender, Nursing, Patients, Skills

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