History of Nursing in Pacific Canada

The Influence of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Nursing Education; The Gentle Art of Being a Foreigner Johns, Ethel 1933

Item Metadata


JSON: etheljohns-1.0051556.json
JSON-LD: etheljohns-1.0051556-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): etheljohns-1.0051556-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: etheljohns-1.0051556-rdf.json
Turtle: etheljohns-1.0051556-turtle.txt
N-Triples: etheljohns-1.0051556-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: etheljohns-1.0051556-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

 /WVAV    seizes Qtven   via** ^> **^
fhe  Influenee of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Hursing Education
by I* Johns
fhe subject assigned for discussion this evening la Tlie Influence
of Latin Ideals and fradltions on Nursing Education.  Before
plunging Into it a little explanation Is needed®  Perhaps when
that has "been given, yon will give me as kindly a hearing aa your
natural disappointment in not hearing Miss Beard will permit•
fhis topic was to have come third in a series on International
Aspects of Hursing Education.  It should have been preceded by
Mies Beard1• address, ^Some Contrasting Systems of Hursing Edu~
cation as Seen by a traveller in Europe, Asia and America e
Unfortunately, Miss Beard was unable to fulfil her engagement
and I sm unhappily compelled to stage my little performance wlth~
out the rich and varied background of her world experiencee
Furthermore, the subject assigned me seems to be in need of defi~
nition and certainly of limitation.
Iiatin ideals and traditions i supposing that ideals and traditions
are possessed in common by the widely differing types of humanity
loosely grouped together as the Iiatin peoples, how is one to de~
fine themt  fhose vast and subtle influences of language, of
national sentiment, of climate, of the very soil itself, cannot
be caught in a butterfly net and stuck on a pin for inspection.
All one can do is to indicate that they are there, that they are
powerful and that they influence nurses and nursing just as pr#*
foundly as they Influence all other groups of men and women, no
matter what their vocation in life, who together constitute a
race or a nation.  It happens that I have lived and worked in
three countries in which the so-called ffLatin Influence11 colours
the stream of national life - Roumania, Canada and France.  Beu«*
mania is here to speak for herself.  So is Italy, that source
of Lstlnlty of which I know nothing.  I shall therefore refer
briefly to Canada and devote most of my time to the only Latin
country I can claim to know anything about, Prance.
French influence In Canada is powerful in politics, in religion,
In national thought*  In nursing it makes itself felt through
the relatively narrow channels of the hospitals and schools of
nursing conducted by the religious orders of the Soman Catholic
Church.  In other words, this influence Is much more religious
and Catholic in character than it Is French©  Until compara*
tively recently, the nursing sisterhoods held themseliri^ somewhat apart from the current of nursing life and thought out,
partly as a result of the International Congress in 19S9 and other
influences which 1 have not time to describe, there has been a
marked rapprochement©  It now seems probable that, before long,
the French influence as distinct from the religious Influence
will affect nursing in Canada much more than in the paste fhe Influence of Latin        t Traditions on lursing Education - 2
fuming now to France, what influence may we expect the Latin
spirit as expressed in French thought, character and temperament,
to exert on nursing?  In passing, may 1 point out that 1 am
choosing to speak in terms of nursing and not in terms of nursing
education since the broader more inclusive term seems better suited
to any study of international influences.
By way of introduction it Is proposed to refer briefly to nursing
developments in France during the last fifty years•  Time will
not permit of any discussion of the ma^iificent contribution to
nursing made in the early centuries by the nursing sisterhoods,
one can only refer to their successors which, some authorities
think, may play an increasingly important part in French nursing
in the years to comae
In 1878, hospital authorities not only in Paris but in other large
cities In France* held conferences with a view to improving nurs*
ing service in the public hospitals where, it was freely admitted,
conditions were exceedingly bad.  As a result of this agitation
attempts at re-organisatlon and reform were made in several of
the larger hospitals in Paris and in the famous Hospices de Lyon.
Some improvement did result, but in 1901 further official investigation took place with the result that Schools of lursing modelled
more or less on the work at La Salpetrldre in Paris were organised
in Lyon, Rouen, lentpellierf Le Havre, St© Itlenne and Bancy.
In 1921 a competent and sympathetic American investigator, herself
a nurse, made a survey of nursing in France and found conditions
much the same aa those disclosed by the official report of 190S.
In other words, there had been relatively little Improvement in
nursing practice or education over a period of twenty yearse
The reasons for this lack of development were summed up as follows t
1. The inferior social status of lay nurses as compared with that
enjoyed by the religious nursing sisterhoods who had been driven
out as a result of the antl-clerlcal movement.
Ee Failure of the medical profession to understand or to appro®®
elate the work of professional nurses.
3. Inability of the few existing private schools of nursing to obtain ■ sufficient clinical opportunity for their students in the
municipally controlled hospitals.
The report of this investigator together with the offer of financial aid came at the psychological moment.  War, as it always does,
had stimulated interest in national healthe  An'energetic campaign
against tuberculosis was under way. The need for nursing was felt
and the response of devoted young French women was immediate and
enthusiastic.  As a result of the impetus thus given the nursing
scene in France is such brighter today than It was in 1921.
latlonal registration of nurses and inspection of training schools
is centred under an appropriate governmental department.  Bxaiain- The Influence of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Hursing Education - 5
ations are held at stated Intervalse  Public health nursing services are slowly but surely being built up not only in ?aris but
in the provinces.  The French nurses have formed a National Association, they publish a magazine, in 1935 the International Council
of Burses will meet in Paris and an exceedingly able Frenchwoman,:
Mademoiselle Chaptal, In her capacity, aa President will direct
its deliberations.
Unfortunately, this fine record in the public health field and t©
a less extent in the educational field has no counterpart as yet
in th* hospital field*  The quality of nursing service in most ef
the large municipal hospitals in Paris and in the provinces la
still below the general level in England or in this country.  Improvement is going on but at a discoursglngly slow pace.  Why?
Is It perhaps here that the Influence of national character, national temperament, In a word the Latin spirit manifests itselff .
Outstanding success in two fields of nursing, relative failure in
the third.
Perhaps the best way to indicate the underlying difficulty is to
give you the reaction of a French nurse to nurse training methods
as she observed them In England®  She admired the quiet homelike
wards, the amiable tyranny of the ward sister, the well carred
for patients*  lf!t Is*1 she said, flall very English, but It could
not exist anywhere else - certainly not In France®  fhe English
nursing system reflects English character and temperament®  Respect for authority, devotion to duty, kindliness, patience, common sense.  But it'is authoritarian, we French are democratic®
It is sentimental, we French are realistse  Worst of all, it is
not intelligent.1' '  There you have it In a nutshell.  To the
Latin mind, the French mind especially. Intelligence is the criterion by which systems should be judged*  Devotion, obedience,
deference to authority - all very good - but intelligence first.
It came with a shock to me, as an Englishwoman, this Idea that
the devotion to the patient which Is so strongly emphasised in
our system of education could ever be interpreted as sentimentality. Warn  relative lack of intelligence I was willing to admit after having seen and heard a few good French minds in action.
But devotion - that was another matter.  1 pointed out to my
French friend that this so-called fl sentimentality1* was the very-
influence which seemed painfully absent in many French hospitals •
lo one can say that the medical treatment of patients in French
hospitals is not intelligent.  It is - highly so*  To the British
observer it is the humanities which are lacking.  rfVery true*1,
she replied, flbut to me as a Frenchwoman, it does not seem likely
that there is anything to be gained by attempting to follow the
English pattern.  Tour nightingale system is not the last worif*
We shall take what we want of it but intelligence and not devotion
will be the controlling force in our developmentn.  She admitted
that French nurses face a tremendous task in building up a good
service In the large Paris hospitals of L1Assistance Publique,
but she did not think that the proper way to do this is to follow The Influence of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Rurslng Education * 4
the nightingale plan of having wonen of education and refinement
enter these hospitals as part of the ordinary working force.
^Th&t11, she said ^would be sentimental, not Intelligent/!  I asked
her what she thought the forces of reform would be.~ She replied
that the nursing personnel of the municipal hospitals is steadily
improving and that some leadership will be developed within the
ranks.  Furthermore, it appeared to her probable that the religious sisterhoods will take over an increasingly large share of hospital direction and will bring back to the wards the atmosphere of
dignity and decorum.
I enquired what would be done about the rank and file?  The sister-■
hoods may supply direction but they cannot furnish nearly  enough
workers.  rrMd 1 not tell you% said my friend, "that we French
are realists? Wm  face the situation, not as W6 would like it to-
be, but as it is.  We know that there is a need for a subsidiary
nursing worker, a servant nurse, if you will.  That is what you'
and the Americans will not admit.  You are not realists - you are
sentimentalists*  The servant nurse - you will not admit that she
is there - that she is needed, and that the professional.nurse
must govern herself accordingly.  You say that the professional
nurse can and should meet all nursing needum      That is sentimentalise*  "r@ propose to face the actual situation in the light of
There la a force at work in the great hospitals in Paris which is
not religious or Catholic in character*  I refer to that remarkable organisation, Le Service Social a lfHopital.  From vary
modest beginnings this organisation now maintains a hospital social
service in more than forty divisions of the hospitals of Xi'Asslst*
ance Publlque.  learly all of its personnel are nurses possessing
a diploma which corresponds to registration in this country*
Their function is similar to that of a hospital social service
woigker as we understand the term.  The influence these women have
been able to exert on nursing in the hospital is out of all proportion to their numbers and their intelligence is equalled only
by their devotion.  1 can best illustrate their attitude by the
following personal experience*  One morning I had the privilege
of making hospital rounds with one of the great French authorities
on tuberculosis.  In hfts train were the usual satellites, medical
students, interns, chief nurses, and the social service worker.
The chief nurse knew her eases thoroughly and reported their progress intelligently to the professor.  He paused at the bed of
an advanced case to examine a chest* The  patient painfully tried
to adjust his gown, and to assume a suitable posture*.  The chief
nurse continued to report his symptoms to the doctor but made no
move to helpe  At that moment the social worker unobtrusively
©suae to the patientfs assistance, supported him while he was examined and re-adjusted the bed coverings before leaving him*  The
lesson was not lost*  At the next bed one of the younger nurses
copied the good example she had just seene  Ferhaps the French
are a little sentimental after all* The Influence of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Hursing Education - 5
It is interesting to speculate how far the Latin influence, Freneh
ideals in nursing, may in their turn, be influenced by the impact
of internationalism.  The Freneh are notoriously resistant to
foreign influence.  For instance, there is possibly not a single
nation in Surope which has, so far, resisted the American doctrine
of mass production so successfully as have the French.  Weverthe-
less* whether Freneh nurses realise it er not, they have been
greatly influenced by American nursing methods e  Lflcole Florence
flghtingale at Bordeaux is a case in point.  English influences
at first predominated, but later re-organisation was, broadly speaking, based on an Aaerleam version of the lightingale system.  In
this school another interesting influence has found expression -
that of French Protestantism.  While non-sectarian in character,
the work of this school is inspired by religious Ideals which, as
in the case of the Catholic nursing sisterhoods, may eventually
affect French nursing profoundly.  Protestantism appeals to a
type of French mind which nay be expected to take a vigorous part
in any scientific and humanitarian undertaking.
To sum up then - what are the influences which we may expect the
Latin spirit to exercise in the international sensef  Where are
these influences likely to be most potent?  Certainly they will
show themselves in the French possessions abroade  The French
sisterhoods are already on the ground and are to some extent, receiving governmental support and assistance.  As I have already
said, French influence on nursing will probably increase in Oanadae
It will be exerted on all French speaking nurse students who visit
France for study from foreign countries.  I submit however, that
it will be most strongly felt in our international organisation
So far we Anglo Saxons, including the derail group, have had things
pretty much our own waye  This will not be the case when we meet
in ParlSe
ferhaps it is time that another Influence, the Latin influence,
should make itself felt*  For my own part, as a result of nursing
experience In several European countries, I am convinced that this
influence is salutary*  As liss Lloyd Still, Matron of SteTboaas^e
Hospital has so wisely saldi **Io one country, no matter how good
its nursing system, has any right to impose it on any other countrye
So country as yet has attained perfection.*  It may well be true
that we Anglo Saxons, even on this side of the Atlantic, would do
well to allow the search light of the Latin mind to be turned on
our methods for awhile.  Intelligence, willingness to face realities, hatred of sentimentality - in so far as these are Latin <juali-
tles ** who shall say that we do not need them?
Speaking for the British, who alast are neither intelligent in the
Freneh sense nor efficient in the American, I think we ought to expose ourselves to such influence until it hurts*  There is no danger of this going too far*  There is still the English Channel.
However, no one who has had the privilege of living and working in
France is ever Quite the same agalne  The influence of this old and
exceedingly sophisticated civilisation, the beauty and precision of The Influence of Latin Ideals and Traditions on lursing Education - 6
its language, the wealth of Its literature, makes Itself felt,
casts its spell even over the resistant Briton.  I once heard
British and French life and thought c^mpe^eA  in this waye  The
British mind Is like an English garden, full of color and life
and beauty, but no set order, nothing in Its place, roses and
cabbages all mixed up.  The French mind is a formal garden with
long alleys of carefully clipped hedgese  Everything in Its place,
nothing too much - the tinkle of a fountain in the distance and -
admirable perspective•  After the careless profusion of the English
garden the French may seem cold and formal •  But it is just possible that some such sobering influence is what we most need*
Intelligence, detachment and that admirable perspective which alone    I
sets things in their place and determines their real values®
That, at its best, is the Latin influence. TSa^v^q    Oo       ^frVuijKM, .
do   Q^>-
I was employed by a body which, while essentially American is
nevertheless truly international in its scope, - the Rockefeller
In two only of the countries in which I worked was English the
official language.  In the others my complete ignorance of Hungarian, Roumanian, Croat and Polish was decidedly embarrassing.
In France, Belgium and Austria my slender stock of French and
German, by grace of my courteous and patient listeners, tided me
over.  In the Irish Free State, though the official language is
Erse there are still plenty of kindly folk who speak English -
with an Irish accent of course.
It was borne in upon me with considerable force what it feels like
to be a foreigner, ignorant of the language, of the customs, of the
character and temperament of the people with whom one must nevertheless work and live for a time.  Believe me it is a salutary if somewhat painful experience.  If I may venture to say so it is an experience which any official who has to do with immigrants in any
country should undergo before he or she is considered fit for his
Before I went overseas, during the time that I was superintendent of
the Children*s Hospital in Winnipeg, I had had to deal with the strangers within our gates.  You have only to walk into your own hospital
here in Regina any busy morning to see just such a group.    The
foreigners, you know.  All kinds of them, but mostly from Central
Europe brought their youngsters not only to the hospital but to the
out patients1 and social service departments. What a good thing it would have been for me and for those strangers
if only that chastening experience of "being a foreigner11 had come
to me before instead of after*  It was my job to deal with those
men women and children few of whom had been in the country very long
or spoke English fluently, though they might and often did, speak
three other languages*
As it was, all our medical and nursing staff leaned rather heavily
on a folish fireman down in the basement who had the gift of tongues
and who was dragged away from his fire-box far too often to suit our
stern Yorkshire engineer.  Even the fireman1s linguistic resources .
were not always adequate to the occasion.  I well remember his vain
efforts, made in several dialects to assure a highly temperamental
lady of doubtful national origin that we had no intention of cutting
off her little boy*s broken leg because we had neatly encased it in
a plaster cast.  He tried all he had without effect.  Finally I
said to him wIs she a Hungarian do you think?n  Whereupon the harassed man wiped the perspiration from his brow and said - ftNo,mafam,
I think she is a damfool*1 - and went back to his fire shovel in despair.
Since then I have changed places.  I have been that temperamental
lady - not it is true under the strain of personal grief and anxiety
that she was - but I know how she felt.  When, for example, one has
to change trains in the middle of the night on the Polish-Czecho
Slovakian frontier at a place called Deczidza, run the gauntlet of
custom officers, frontier police with clashing swords, and tall feathers in their hats, porters with mustaches which would do credit to
bandits.  To find oneself helpless^ armed only with a few stock
phrases written out in three languages which I could not read, explaining that I was a pilgrim and a stranger and, though probably
a "damfool11, really quite harmless.
I would like to acknowledge here my deep appreciation of the kindness, patience and courtesy with which I was treated.  Nobody tried
to make me understand a foreign language by shouting it at me.  If,
in Central Europe, there are equivalents for our atrocious terms
"wop11, "dago" and "hankie" I did not hear them.  In peasant homes
in Hungary, in Roumania and in Yugoslavia I have been welcomed with
native dignity and courtesy because I was a foreigner, not in spite
of it.
In short I have been made to blush for my earlier failure to understand the psychology of people who must adjust themselves to a new
environment, a foreign language, a different climate, strange food
and stranger manners and customs.  Yet any country which accepts
and even encourages immigration on a large scale exacts just that.
That the foreigner adjust and adjust quickly.  That on the face of
it is a reasonable and just demand.  In practice however it is sometimes well to temper justice with mercy.
The process of adjustment is not easy.  There may be some in this
room who know how hard it can be, either from their own experience
or from that of others with whom their work brings them in contact.
Nationality, love of onefs own soil are subtle things.  Their roots
go deep.  !,01d, very old are we menrf even when we live in a new
Speaking of new countries, Canadians travelling in Central Europe
are always a little surprised to hear Poles, Yugoslavs and Roumanians speak of their land as "new countries".  Yet that is just
what they are.  The changes resulting from the war, the sense of
victory, have brought about a renaissance, a re-birth of national pride and energy which has sent a flood of new sap circulating
through every branch of those old trees, Poland, Serbia, Roumania.
They feel close in spijbit to Canada and the Canadians.  They are
new countries, young nations.
What about the defeated countries?  We know well enough in Canada
how strong the bond was which held the Empire together during the
dark days of the war.  Such ties do not loosen even in defeat.
For a good part of the time I was overseas I worked and lived in a
fair sized country town, Debrecen in Hungary, not far from the Roumanian border*  It has a University and there is a good deal of
interest in outdoor sport..
One day in October I happened to be walking near the war memorial
statue.  A memorial to defeated men.  Two figures - one showing
the Hungarian soldier of Kossuth's time, - the other the Hungarian
soldier of the Great war.  Here they stand with bowed heads, on a
little square of grass shadowed by great trees.  On the pedestal
there is no inscription - simply the dates 1914 - 1918.  All of a
sudden I heard military music and along came the regimental band -
a fat pony gay with garlands, drawing the drum.  A procession
followed.  Everybody grouped around the statue.  A row of slim
lads shivering a little in their running shorts drew up smartly in
line before an officer.  A speech was made, a silver trophy cup
was handed to one of the young athletes.  He took it and gravely
raised it high towards the stone soldiers, defeated men, looking
down at him.  As he did so his companions laid a great wreath of
autumn flowers at the foot of the statue.  A band of crepe stretched across the wreath had the word Trianon on it.  You will remember that it was the treaty of Trianon which took away from Hungary
more than a third of her former territory.  Land which had been hers
for a thousand years.  After a moment or two of silence the band struck up a wild gay Hungarian march and everybody marched briskly
away.  The boys very proud with their silver trophy.
Nothing was left in the green square but the soldiers in stone, looking down at the mourning wreath.  Did I say nothing?  Yes there
was something.  The spirit of an old nation proud in defeat, renewing itself in an unconquerable youth.
Why am I telling you these things? To re-open old war wounds now
healing fast?  No - but because people are coming to Canada from
all these countries.  From the victors, from the vanquished. They
all look upon this country as a land of promise - and it is that.
They do not understand our ways but neither do we always take the
trouble to understand theirs.  There is the bar of language, there
is the difference in religion, there is the failure to comprehend,
on both sides.  They bring us their art, their music, the very
things we need but it Is only lately that we have been willing to
look at what they have to offer.  It is a rich gift - that peasant
culture.  Just as honorable is their pride in and love of their
own land.
Nothing so heartened me overseas as when I read of the national
festivals now being held from time to time in the Canadian West.
A splendid beginning has been made.  That is real Canadianization.
There is no danger that such things will Balkan!ze Canada.  No
thinking man or woman wants to perpetuate old feuds or to encourage
a Babel of languages in this country.  Two official languages in
any country are enough - although Switzerland has three and gets
along very nicely in spite of it.
Canadians are not upset by native costume when it takes the form of
a Scotch kilt nor affronted by a homesick Welshman who sings Ar hyd
y nos.  They are no worse Canadians becuase they hark back to their beginnings once in a while.  Neither is a Pole, a Roumanian, a
German, when he sings of "old, far off, unhappy things and battles
long ago".  It does not mean that he is not a good peaceable
Canadian citizen and it certainly does not mean that he doesn't
know that he is better off in the country of his adoption than he
was at home.  If a few common sense third generation Canadians are
stimulated by these strange lyrics to struggle with a foreign tongue
and to go oversees and look at the places young Canada is coming
from so much the better©  Not as a condescending tourist, but as
someone who must do his daily job and at the same time cultivate
the gentle art of being a foreigner.
If I dared I would ask you to deal patiently even with those strangest foreigners of all - we English.
One of my American colleagues oversees always groaned when his job
took him to England.  His usual stamping ground was Macedonia
where he really felt himself at home.  He liked the Macedonians
very much.  One day I found him plunged in gloom, getting ready
to cross the English Channel.  Fresh from a horrid struggle with
French irregular verbs I tried to comfort him by saying - "well -
anyway - you can speak your own language in England".  "No I can't",
he said gloomily, "they speak nothing but English".  "You expect them
to understand you and they don't, - I'm an American you know".
Just at that time the disastrous experiment of bringing over large
numbers of harvesters to this country was getting a good deal of
publicity in the English press.  It made anyone who, like myself,
is English by birth and Canadian by adoption, feel a bit sick.  One
wonders whether there may not be a bar of the common tongue.  It Is
not always a bond.  "Yo\i expect them to understand you and they don't".
Perhaps both Canadian and English have to learn the gentle art of
being a foreigner - and in a hard school too.  Perhaps they have to learn to speak each other's language with mutual forbearance and
What can Canadian women do to foster this mutual understanding
between the various national groups?  A very great deal.  They
can encourage their children to learn and to speak at least one
foreign language, preferably French or German since these are commonly the "second language" of most European countries.  When I say
speak a language I mean talk coherently In it, understand what people round about you are saying.  A different thing to the usual
"pen of my aunt" and "dog of the gardenSbkp.
Most people plan to go to Europe sooner or later.  Why not leave
the beaten path and take a look at the countries young Canada is
coming from?  Travel in Poland, in Yugoslavia, in Austria, is
pleasant and, if you speak a little German, not unduly expensive.
You will not feel lonely.  There are parts of Poland so much like
the Saskatchewan prairie that one expects to see a grain elevator
or a Ford car at any moment.  The Hungarian Puzta, some of it, is
very like the Brandon hills except that men and women have been
born, have lived and have died there for a thousand years.  Does
that fact affect the quality of a landscape?  I venture to say
that Is does.  But go and see for yourselves.
Canadian women take an active part in politics©  They might do
worse thajf study immigration policy.  Indeed they are doing so
already.  For all I know you may have a study group in Regina like
that in Winnipeg which has done some clear constructive thinking
along these lines.  May I make a suggestion - invite a few foreigners
to join such a group.  You can't study people from the outside.
Continue above all with the good work of enco\iraging the foreign
groups to self expression in their native arts, in music and in
dancing. - ,h     <^t^ r    fir   ^    ^^^ •
<e-^ " t!\eC R "^
\(f^ After all women are more concerned than men  with the weaving of the
social fabric in any country.  This fact was made abundantly clear
during the pioneer days in Canada when life was far less complex
than it is now.  It is your privilege, the high privilege of the
women of this western country to do your part in weaving the seamless web of a true national life.  Many threads, strange bright
colours, must go Into the warp and the woof, and the pattern of it
whether we will or no.  There will be snarls and tangles, knots
and broken threads.  But in spite of that we can say, and say
truly of Canada "They shall bring the honour and the glory of the
nations into it".


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items