Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences
Chapter XXV. — School of Massage
School of Massage.
In 1912 the question of establishing a School of Massage was discussed by the New Zealand Branch of the British Medical Association and was taken up by the Otago University, the Council conferring with the Chief Health Officer, Dr. Valintine.
In session members of Parliament also discussed the registration of masseurs. The school was established in July, 1913, at the Medical School of the Otago University. The course was to be for 18 months. For the first six months the curriculum was lectures, demonstrations in anatomy and physiology and massage instruction, to be followed by twelve months practical work in a public hospital under instructors appointed for the purpose. The course to be followed by an examination set by the Government.
In the July number of Kai Tiaki a full outline of the course and the fees thereof, is given.
I was given the work of drafting a Bill for the registration of masseurs, an interesting piece of work, for which I used as model, the Nurses' Registration Act. Eight students had passed their examination and, of course, were anxious for registration. So also were the practitioners who, under a concessional clause for those already practising, would be eligible for registration. I had much consultation with Mr. Christie, the Government Law Draftsman, over the Bill. I could not get it quite to page 119 the ideal standard arrived at, that is work only under medical direction, owing to great opposition and the impossibility of getting too strict a measure passed. However, owing to the outbreak of war, this legislation was postponed until 1921, when an Act was passed which gave fair satisfaction; a board was set up on which a qualified masseur, as well as a medical practitioner were members. Sister Brandon, A.R.R.C., was the masseuse chosen. She is a registered nurse and was one of the first nurses sent away with the Samoan expedition and did splendid service throughout the war. Owing to the great need of masseuses for work with the wounded soldiers, both returned to the Dominion and in hospitals in England, the Defence Department made arrangements with the Otago School of Massage for a special course to be given to selected women. These women it was my duty to select, and there were many applications. The terms were favourable for girls who would otherwise have been unable to afford the course. Their fees were paid, and pocket money. Some fine women went through the course and were sent away to the Trentham Military Hospital, King George V. Hospital, and Rotorua, where a special orthopædic section had been opened for children who had suffered from the infantile paralysis epidemic, in addition to the wards for soldiers. Some were sent on hospital ships and some to our New Zealand hospitals in England. A number of nurses on active service were also seconded for massage training in England.
After the Registration of Masseuses Act was passed, the masseurs and masseuses started an Association, the first branch starting in Wellington with Miss Brandon as President. After this, the Auckland masseuses got to work, then Christchurch and Otago.page 120
Only registered masseuses and masseurs joined this Association. There were quite a number of men practising, and some did not quite approve of the rules proposed, but quite a number came into line and a strong organisation was built up. Conferences are held in the different centres periodically. The Association elects a president each year. I was elected an honorary member of the Association, and while able, I enjoyed going to the meetings and attending the lectures which were given by different members of the B.M.A. There are quite a number of general trained nurses who have taken their massage certificate either in New Zealand or in England, practising in the different centres.
Of course the need of the wounded soldiers was what gave a special stimulus to massage treatment, and methods of treatment became developed and extended owing to the very varied needs of the terrible war injuries inflicted on the soldiers.
Another stimulus to massage and electrical treatment was their application to infantile paralysis and to the deformites caused by that disease. An epidemic occurred in New Zealand in 1914–15 which was very wide-spread throughout the Dominion. There has been isolated cases of the disease before, from which cripples remained as evidence. While the epidemic raged, a curious incident occurred; the Health Department received a letter from Adelaide, Australia, from a Miss Bevilaqua, a trained nurse masseuse, offering her services to come to New Zealand and demonstrate the methods of treatment carried out by Dr. Robert Jones, of Melbourne, who was a specialist and had a great success in the treatment of such cases. There happened at the time, to be no specialist in such treatment in New Zealand and after consultation page 121 with the Minister of Health, Dr. Valintine wrote accepting the offer of Miss Bevilaqua, guaranteeing her expenses to and from New Zealand.
The lady arrived, and in Dr. Valintine's office demonstrated on his young daughter, who was lame from the effects of the disease, her method of treatment by special splints and massage. I was present at this demonstration; Dr. Valintine was much impressed by the personality of Miss Bevilaqua, as well as by her treatment. She was evidently a keenly religous woman, and seemed to consider that she had a special mission. She had a clinic in the city of Adelaide where she practised massage, and had treated many cases of infantile paralysis or polio-myelitis.
The next step was for Miss Bevilaqua to be taken to the Wellington Hospital, where a number of children with infantile paralysis were in isolation. I remember going up with her; several doctors were present. Before commencing with any demonstrations of treatment Miss Bevilaqua knelt by the cot of the first child and prayed. This she did each day before commencing her work.
The result of her demonstration was that the Government agreed to send her to the various centres, paying all her expenses and she was, for some time, in New Zealand travelling from place to place. There is no doubt that her services were very valuable in showing what could be done for the unfortunate children suffering grave disability from deformitism caused by infantile paralysis. Miss Bevilaqua was well acquainted with the different splints needed and gave instructions to the splint makers at the hospitals.
I have heard nothing more of her since her return to Adelaide, but have a vivid recollection of a forceful personality keen to do all she could, a crank in some ways, but isn't it cranks who bring about great results?