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Nursing Issues in the 1940's

Nurses are devoted to the children and the children are devoted to them


This excerpt is taken from an article titled "Nursing Care for Migrant Families" from Journal of Nursing, Vol. 41 No. 9, September 1941.  The physician who wrote this article addresses the special health issues and resource disadvantages met by the nurses employed in migratory camps.  It demonstrates that being lice and nit free was as important to people then as it is today, even in the face of a multitude of other health concerns.

Besides checking on malnutrition and assisting the doctor in the clinic during his visiting hours, the nurse holds weekly conferences to teach mothers prenatal and postnatal care, personal cleanliness, and home sanitation.  Under the supervision of camp doctors or the health department, she may also immunize families against typhoid, smallpox, and diphtheria; otherwise, the doctor gives these immunizations to all families in the camp.  Persons with venereal diseases are treated at the camps or referred to the nearest public health clinic.

...the nurse must campaign to teach families personal cleanliness.  The migrants are used to dirt and flies and vermin, because they either could not pay for cleanliness or because they were too worn out, too discouraged to do much about cleaning up their former homes of makeshift tin or their tents.  The cleanliness of the FSA camps encourages families to raise their standards and keep their surroundings attractive, but inevitably, children have to have "nits" removed from their hair.  In one camp, a nurse reported they were so happy at having them eliminated, they told her of other children who had "bugs."  The children are singularly devoted to the nurses and learn in numerous ways what is expected of them...

Sometimes it is a slow process to get families to come to the clinic which is the health center of the camp.  They hold back, until they realize that the nurse is there to help them.  It is up to the nurse to win the families' confidence, and to get them to come for needed treatments.



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