Nurses’ Duties 100 Years Ago
following job description was given to floor nurses in
to Athens’ Lunatic Asylum (circa
addition to caring for your 50 patients, each nurse will
follow these regulations:
Daily sweep and mop the floors of your ward,
dust the patient’s furniture and windowsills.
Maintain an even temperature in your ward by
bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day’s
Light is important to observe the patient’s
condition. Therefore, each day fill kerosene
lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks. Wash the
windows once a week.
The nurse’s notes are important in aiding the
physician’s work. Make your pens carefully you
may whittle nibs to your individual taste.
Each nurse on day duty will report every day at
7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m. except on the Sabbath
on which day you will be off from 12 Noon to 2
Graduate nurses in good standing with the
director of nurses will be given an evening off
each week for courting purposes or two evenings
a week if you go regularly to church.
Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a
godly sum of her earnings for her benefits
during her declining years so that she will not
become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a
month you should set aside $15.
Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any
form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop,
or frequents dance halls will give the
director of nurses good reason to suspect
her worth, intention and integrity.
The nurse who performs her labors and serves
her patients and doctors without fault for
five years will be given an increase of five
cents a day, providing there are no hospital
Other Interesting Facts:
Along with the listing of guidelines and chores,
nurses at Athens Lunatic Asylum were responsible
for helping with the harvest bounty in the fall,
and also tending to the gardening and orchards.
During the population explosion at the asylum,
one nurse could be responsible for tending to
the needs of up to fifty patients in a given
ward. Where patient conditions seriously
worsened, ten to twelve patients would be
allotted to a given nurse for care.
At a time when staff was scarce and when
monetary benefits couldn’t lure in anymore
attendants, many hospitals around the country
‘employed’ Conscientious Objectors. They would
be treated as any other hospital employee with
the exception that they would have to reside at
the hospital and receive an allowance of only
$15 dollars a month, plus board, room and
Athens State Hospital School of Nursing was
located at the Ridges. The nurses were trained
and schooled on site and also had the
opportunity to live in special apartments in the