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Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences

Chapter XLVII. — Red Cross Nursing

page 230

Chapter XLVII.
Red Cross Nursing.

Partly as a development after the influenza epidemic, a system of instruction in home nursing was started by the Health Department, and several appointments of nurses were made to travel through the country and lecture and demonstrate to the people the methods of dealing with sickness. Miss Janet Moore was one of these teachers, Miss West another, and they did very excellent work in interesting the people who gathered eagerly to hear them. The epidemic had brought home to them the need of some preparation and knowledge to deal with sickness.

The Red Cross, as one of its peace-time activities, then took up the matter and sent several nurses Home to England to take a special course in health work, to return and work for at least two years in whatever district they could be assigned to. The Red Cross Committee undertook to have ready for an occasion such as the epidemic, a body of women who would, under trained nurses, be able to assist. A sister was appointed in Wellington to be in charge of the movement, and to lecture and carry out instruction in the district. Miss Lewis, then at Trentham Hospital, was appointed, and is still in charge with an assistant.

Large classes are instructed, most of the private school pupils join, and after the course of instruction all are examined. There are classes of older women in the various suburbs, and lectures are given at the headquarters page 231 rooms. So far there has been no opportunity of testing the usefulness of the movement, or the amount of knowledge of home nursing which can be gained without practical knowledge. I consider the curriculum laid down is too advanced for such elementary and theoretical teaching, and likely to lead these unqualified women and girls to think they really have had some training as nurses.

It was somewhat regrettable that when recently a need arose for a well-organised body of women, both fully trained and partially trained, to work under the qualified staff, the proposed organisation of the Red Cross was not quite ready. I refer to the disastrous earthquake in 1931 at Napier. This event does not really come within the scope of these reminiscences and must be left to those who may carry on this brief history of Nursing in New Zealand to record fully. There was no lack of medical or nursing aid. The Health Department took the part which the Red Cross desires to be able in future to fill, and through its medical officers, Director of Nursing, and Sanitary Inspectors' staff, quickly organised temporary hospitals, food depots, sanitation of the stricken towns and detailed nurses who flocked to offer their services to their several duties. The Red Cross staff, of course, were also ready and took their part in relief and other work, but in any future great disaster hope to be able to take the chief part in the organisation.