An Introduction to the Social History of Nursing

By Robert Dingwall; Anne Marie Rafferty et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter six

The Nationalization of Nursing

The introduction of registration and the educational policies of the GNC failed to unify the occupation because they left the existing divisions in the health care system unaltered. Once the confusion of the First World War had dissipated, the voluntary and public sectors went their own ways. Their managers could see no particular gains to be made from change and the civil service did not expect the conditions of wartime to recur. The protectionist employment strategies of the pre-war period were revived, to discourage the free movement of nurses and the consequent pressure on wage rates. Now they even had a statutory backing in the compartmentalization of the nursing workforce by the supplementary registers. While this had strengthened the hand of general nurses in defining their work and concerns as the core of the occupation, the continuing fragmentation of the register and the proliferation of employers perpetuated foci for alternative occupational identities among other groups of nurses. These divisions were reflected in the sheer variety of trade unions and professional associations which attempted to organize nurses during the 1930s. It was only with the imposition of order on the health care system under the renewed stress of wartime that any more homogeneous definition of nursing was established.


Drifting through the 1930s

The policy initiatives of the 1930s demonstrate the lack of state interest. There was widespread dissatisfaction over pay, conditions of service and standards of education which were seen to combine in depressing recruitment and encouraging industrial militancy by nurses. But the remedies proposed by the various factions within the system were vulnerable either to the limited perspective of their advocates or to the combined weight of their opponents. No

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