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A Nurses Role - Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott

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A Nurses Role- Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott

What is a nurse? According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary a nurse is defined as a person who cares for the sick or infirm (Miriam-Webster, 1). In the 1860's numerous wars and battles were occurring through out the world which resulted in many injuries and deaths and thus requiring the need for female medical personnel such as nurses. In the chapter "A day" of the book titled Hospital Sketches published in 1863, author Louisa May Alcott writes for all readers of the world especially those who were not in battles, to tell of her personal experiences as a nurse during the Civil War. Louisa May Alcott was an inexperienced nurse who worked as a volunteer at a Union Hotel Hospital in Washington, DC. The main idea of Alcott's chapter three titled "A day" is to provide detailed viewpoints of the depressing conditions and lives that soldiers experienced at hotels during war times as well as to tell of the roles that women had.

The topic of nurses plays a very significant part in American history for many different reasons. For example, during the 1860's the roles of women were very limited and had little responsibility compared to roles of a man during that time period. Many women both young and old volunteered their time and services to help the wounded soldiers. This act of kindness led to a growth in the roles, responsibilities and respect of women. "The war also allowed women to dominate the profession of nursing (Davidson, 322)." "Their service in the hospital wards reduced the hostility to women in medicine (Davidson, 322)." Many women had to fill in the duties of their husbands who were either gone at war or who died while at war. "Beyond the farm, women filled approximately 100,000 new jobs in industry (Davidson, 321)."

In the chapter "A day" by Louisa May Alcott, she presents many vivid examples of both the conditions that injured soldiers experienced and of the tasks that nurses encountered during war times. For instance, Alcott wrote " In they came, some on stretchers, some in men's arms, some feebly staggering along propped on rude crutches, and one lay stark and still with covered face, as a comrade gave his name to be recorded before they carried him away to the dead house" (Alcott, 35). Compared to today, soldiers did not have a great deal of access to medicines and medical equipment to help ease their pain, many died instantly while others survived through the torture of the loss of body parts. The pain that they endured both physically and emotionally must have been a dreadful experience. During the 1860's many of the injured soldiers showed great appreciation to the female nurses. For example, Alcott wrote "the matron's motherly face brought more comfort to many a poor soul, than the cordial



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