ISBN 978-0-987223-70-8
Paperback, 210x148mm, 78pp
RRP $20 + P&H


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Oh Florence

Early Australian Nursing

Pat Walker

Edited by Cerian Griffiths.

With its title as a dedication to Florence Nightingale who was committed to the care of wounded army personnel during the Crimean War in the 1850s, and who was an inspirational figure to the author, Oh Florence enlightens the reader as to what was required in trauma nursing care before the development of the sophisticated drugs and surgical methods available in modern times. In a world without plastic and very little by way of synthetic material, the methodical recycling of linen, glass, and rubber was taught religiously. The achievements of the medical profession were remarkable under those conditions and these practices could go a long way in teaching our current society about reusing, recycling, and making the absolute best of what is available.

Set towards the end of World War II, and commencing with descriptions of the time and how a medical revolution was in its early stages throughout the western world, this book depicts the life of a trainee nurse during the mid 1940s in country New South Wales, Australia.

Author Pat Walker underwent nursing training in a small regional Australian hospital in the 1940s, and is now in her eighties. She has, for some time, wanted to share her experiences of early nursing. The result is this memoir, which gives a perceptive account of her experiences, and underlines the great many differences between early nursing practices and those of modern times.

From her first apprehensive days in her chosen vocation, the author describes the environment and experiences at the small hospital where a young nurse called Jane embarks on a lifelong career of caring for others in need.

The author takes the reader on a journey with Jane through real life examples of many of her experiences in the most humane of professions, from the first time a young nurse is confronted with watching another human die to the many revelatory moments at the wonder of human existence.

Outlining the responsibilities and duties in each of the four years of training, the reader is provided with a wonderful insight into the thoroughness, resourcefulness, dedication, in depth study of pathology, anatomy, physiology, meticulous attention and care to detail in all activities, common sense and the level of care required in a pre-drug and pre-technology era, where the quality of nursing determined the recovery potential and survival of patients.

The author's ability to mix an accurate description of the day-to-day practicalities of nursing and hospital life in the nineteen forties with a heart touching account of personal experience, makes for an enjoyable reading experience to people from all walks of life, not only those from a medical background, as it is all of us who are at some stage in our lives touched in a unique way by the care of a dedicated nurse.

For many years, Pat Walker recorded the incidents of her past nursing experience, with memories of older nurses telling of having to pay to do a nursing course, and then later given very little in the way of salary. (Many nurses came from well-to-do families and did not require payment for their services.)

This account of early Australian nursing, reminds us of our gratitude for the gift that life is and its immeasurable value, and an appreciation for the kindness and unwavering dedication of those who have chosen to work tirelessly to preserve life and enhance its quality.

The Nightingale Pledge was composed by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and was first used by its graduating class in the spring of 1893. It is an adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians.


I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavour to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.