The Nurse Apprentice, 1860-1977

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The British apprenticeship model of nurse training, developed under Florence Nightingale's influence from 1860 at St Thomas's Hospital, gained national and world-wide recognition. Its end was heralded with the publication of the last national syllabus from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales in 1977. This apprenticeship model, a crucial part of the history of British health care for over a century, is the subject of this book. Primary evidence, much of it original, is gained from Parliamentary debates and reports, syllabuses, long neglected nursing textbooks, major governmental and professional reports, and the voices of nurses themselves expressed through their professional journals. Primary sources are systematically re-examined and contextually interpreted in the light of new evidence. The study in particular interprets the contemporary attitudes and moral values underpinning the apprenticeship system, especially the place of vocation. The reasons for the ending of this system, arising in part from the cultural shifts of the 1960s, are explained in relation to this historical moral context. The reader sees how the self-understanding of the profession shifts, with much tension and disagreement, as mores change. The book fills a major gap in the history of nurse training, by giving a sustained account of the apprenticeship model of nursing in context, and charting changing values away from the historic vocational tradition. Its copious use of primary sources will make this a key text for nurses, historians and policy makers.