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Monday, May 6, 2013

Guest Post by Carol Santos


Character As Skill: The Ideology of Discipline
A person who wants to study in order to be a nurse, teacher, or other field needs to go to school and be organized. Florence Nightingale was a woman who influenced the model for the training of American nurses in the nineteenth century. As Susan Reverby notes, Nightingale believed that character was the skill… “critical to the ‘reformation’ in both nursing and hospital care.” [Susan M. Reverby, “Ordered To Care: The Dilemma of American Nursing, 1850-1945 ,(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 41.] This was very interesting because in order for a woman to be a nurse, skill was not that necessary; instead, character was important and that was the skill a woman needed to have. Another strategy for women to enter in the field of nurse was “discipline” because they were carefully trained for homes and hospitals. One of the biggest reasons why Nightingale started a model and disciplined nurses was the fact that she faced disasters in the military and civilian health care. She fought for the training of “proper” nurses. Nightingale did not wanted to see this again and because of her ideas and contribution to a better change in the world of health she wanted to see character as a skill.
“The ‘Nightingale model’­ thus emphasized character training and strict discipline, a distinct field of work for nurses separate from physicians, and a female hierarchy with deference and loyalty to physician authority.” [Reverby, 43.] If a woman truly wanted to be a nurse, she would need to be serious in this field and not mix in feelings or problems while getting trained. Nightingale was very serious in training nurses and perfecting them because nurses were needed in homes or hospitals. She really wanted women who truly wanted to be nurses and were passionate about it.
Also, behavior was very important while taking classes in order to be a nurse. Behavior was expected from every student because as in any family or institution, behavior is widely from the expected norms. Since behavior was important, they also needed to have spirit in order to become a nurse. They needed to be passionate about being a nurse so the students could graduate and get recommendations letter from physicians or nurses. At the same time, lessons were very crucial and strict by physicians and nurses. This was to teach students a lesson and once they graduated, they would change the way they were before. An example of this is when a teacher told her graduating students, “You have become self- controlled, unselfish, gentle, compassionate, brave and capable- in fact, you have risen from the period of irresponsible girlhood to that of womanhood.” [Reverby, 58.] Students would become well educated, even though teachers were really hard with them.
Many physicians and nurses followed the Nightingale model that taught the students the proper ways, manners, and character to have as a nurse while working in homes or hospitals. Character was expected from students because that was a skill a person needed to have. Even though rules were very strict in medical schools, students were graduated with different personalities. Students would differentiate work, way of conduct, and character as skill.   

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