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British Army sisters and soldiers in the Second World War

Negotiating nursing explores how the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.s) salvaged men within the sensitive gender negotiations of what should and could constitute nursing work and where that work could occur. The book argues that the Q.A.s, an entirely female force during the Second World War, were essential to recovering men physically, emotionally and spiritually from the battlefield and for the war, despite concerns about their presence on the frontline. The book maps the developments in nurses’ work as the Q.A.s created a legitimate space for themselves in war zones and established nurses’ position as the expert at the bedside. Using a range of personal testimony the book demonstrates how the exigencies of war demanded nurses alter the methods of nursing practice and the professional boundaries in which they had traditionally worked, in order to care for their soldier-patients in the challenging environments of a war zone. Although they may have transformed practice, their position in war was highly gendered and it was gender in the post-war era that prevented their considerable skills from being transferred to the new welfare state, as the women of Britain were returned to the home and hearth. The aftermath of war may therefore have augured professional disappointment for some nursing sisters, yet their contribution to nursing knowledge and practice was, and remains, significant.

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men in readiness to return to battle. Nursing sisters thus created a space for themselves in front-­line duties. The chapter demonstrates that the use of humour to support healing helped to dispel anxieties about impropriety in the ­encounter between young single women and vulnerable male 94 Nursing presence soldiers and to further support nursespresence in the masculine world of war. The chapter then examines the morale-­boosting presence of nurses outside the hospital ward as they became dance partners, dinner guests and potential wives for healthy male

in Negotiating nursing
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Nursing work and nurses’ space in the Second World War: a gendered construction

hospitals and casualty clearing stations (CCSs) were situated. The construction of these spaces of safety demanded ingenuity and improvisation on the part of the nursing sisters as they developed wards into homelike places. The importance of the nursespresence in war zones and the contradictions inherent in their position as women in places of danger are explored in Chapter 3. Military success depended on men sustaining a determination to fight. Persuading men to continue or returning men to combat after illness or injury depended on maintaining their morale. On active

in Negotiating nursing