Originally posted on the MA Character animation course blog, published May 25th 2015.
For the last project of the year and the first of Unit 2 everyone in class is going to make a micro short, a one minute movie, for the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret for their 800 years anniversary. The old operating theatre was once a part of the St Thomas Hospital and we have been given different time periods to cover from the middle ages to 1862, when the hospital moved to it’s new location. I got 1822-1862 to work on, the last years before the move. After consulting with Julie, one of the historians we have to help us out, I decided to make a story about the change in nursing at the time.
I was surprised when Julie could tell me the history of nursing and how short time ago nursing changed into what we associate it with today. Before Florence Nightingale the people set to “take care” of the patients where old, drunken, often mean, widows. They where even paid in alcohol and where known to abuse patients and take advantage of their relatives, charging them money to take a bit more care of their loved ones. They where also dirty, nasty, not liked by almost anyone at the hospital and feared and avoided by patients and people outside the hospital. People where willing to risk dying at home in pain rather than go into hospital to be treated because of them.
Then Florence Nightingale and some matrons (head of nursing) decided to change this by offering the job to young, unmarried women instead, giving them uniforms, more responsibility and also including education before being allowed to take care of the patients. This would take some time to do though, the Florence Nightingale school of nursing weren’t set up until the hospital had moved to it’s new location and until then what they where most able to change quickly was their appearances. The wards where cleaned up, the nurses looked and acted nicer towards the patients and slowly people’s impression of staying in hospital changed and they where willing to seek help.
The education where pretty lousy though and it would still take several decades, even with the nursing school, before nurses where able to really take care of patients.
In my movie I’m focusing on this transformation of appearances and trying to also show that although the new nurses where much better than the old ones, they where still clueless. I wanted to work with this part of history though mostly because of the old nurses, the fact that these people where even considered to take care of seriously ill patients is crazy and I still wonder who came up with that. I’d also never heard about this and thought that since nursing started with nuns taking care of people it was only nice people that where allowed to take care of patients in hospitals. We where also told when starting the project who we would have been and what connection we would have to the hospital if we where living in that time period. And considering my age and gender, if I wasn’t a patient, I would probably been one of the new clueless nurses.