History of Nursing in Pacific Canada

The Influence of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Nursing Education Johns, Ethel [1931]

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Th®  Influenee of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Burslng Education
by I* Johns
fhe subject assigned for discussion this evening la Tlie Influence
of Latin Ideals and traditions 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 fursing Education©  It should have been preceded by
Mies Beard1 if address, ^Some Contrasting Systems of Nursing Edu-
cation as Seen by a traveller in Europe* Asia and America *
Unfortunately* Miss Beard was unable to fulfil her engagement
and I am unhappily compelled to stage my little performance wlth~
out the rich and varied background of her world experience*
Furthermore, the subject assigned me seems to be In need of definition 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 thetmt  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
Churche  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 past*
 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 come*
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 reorganisation 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 years*
The reasons for this lack of development were summed up as followst
le 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♦
2* Failure of the medical profession to understand or to appre-
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 momenta  War, as it always does,
had stimulated interest in national health©  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
enthusiastica  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 Burslng 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 to
a less extent in the educational field has no counterpart as yet
in th* hospital field*  The quality of nursing service in most of
the large municipal hospitals in Paris and in the provinces ia
still below the general level in England or in this country*  Improvement is going on but at a dlscoursglngly 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 Frances  The 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 realists*  Worst of all, it is
not intelligent•"'  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*  l*he relative lack of intelligence I was willing to admit after having seen and heard a few geod 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 lackinga  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 worn*
We shall take what we want of it but intelligence and not devotion
will be the controlling force in our development*1*  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 refer® 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 a  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 decorume
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?  flte 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
nursJng worker, a servant nurse, if you wills  That is what you'
and the Americans will not admit a  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 le 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 l*Hepital*  From vary
modest beginnings this organisation now maintains a hospital social
service In more than forty divisions of the hospitals of TA^selst*
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 postures  The chief
nurse continued to report his symptoms to the doctor but made no
move to help*  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 seen*  Ferhaps the French
aire a little sentimental after all*
 The Influence of Latin Ideals and Traditions on Hurslng 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 t©
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 or not, they have been
greatly influenced by American nursing methods*  Lflcole Florence
llghtingale at Bordeaux Is a ease 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 abroad*  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 Canada*
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 way*  This will not be the case when we meet
in Paris*
Perhaps 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 S^Tboaas^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 country*
So country as yet has attained perfection*fl  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 d® 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 again*  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
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its language, the wealth of its literature, makes Itself felt,
casts its spell even over the resistant Briton*  I 011m heard
British and French life and thought c^mp^tmA  in this way*  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 hedges*  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*


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