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Minerva Medica 2008 April;99(2):223-30

language: Italian

The new hospital model established at the end of 19th Century and the professional nursing schools

Bargoni A.

Storia della Medicina Dipartimento di Fisiopatologia Clinica Università di Torino, Torino, Italia


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The historical research in hospitals organisation began in Europe only after the II World War. In particular, studies regarding the nursing in Italy are very scarce and heavily influenced by the fragmented political and organisational management due to the historical divisions within Italy. All the same, the social and working conditions, at least in the north of Italy, were similar in this respect. The workforce up to the beginning of the 20th Century was equally divided between males and females. The female recruitment took place exclusively from the foundlings left in front of the hospital and raised within the hospital walls. The work was very hard with long working hours, under a total subordination to the religious administrators with miserable wage. These conditions remained unchanged until the second half of the 19th Century when, in central Europe, a change in the reorganisation of hospital management occurred, together with a cultural improvement in the nursing profession. This process of reforms had started in England some decades earlier from the reorganisation of nursing made by Florence Nightingale. After Italian post-unification the healthcare field was involved in the tentative to homologate the vast differences in the hospital organisation within the Italian states which also generated tension, bitterness and many political debates. The particular conditions created in the main hospital of Turin in the second half of the 19th Century, together with the political and social climate at the time and the reopening of debates between Socialist, Liberals and Catholics favoured the reorganizational improvement of the San Giovanni Battista hospital. Under this prospective, the foundation of the nursing school came into being, preceded by the intense control of a behavioral and ethical cleaning of the nurses, in particular the males. The availability of the hospital administrations in carrying out the recommendations of the medical staff in the modernisation and sanitary improvements and also in the quality of service was manifested by the decision to keep only the personnel who had obtained qualifications at the “Nursing School”. This was also due to the financial support of the school itself. A further indication of appreciation for the school activity was the premature decision to extend the course to two years. This formative activity rapidly showed positive results, improving service quality and raising the professional ethics of the nurses. A few years after the foundation of the Nursing School in Turin, the school was contacted by numerous Italian hospital administrations to obtain information on the practices and organisational activities of the school. Thus, the process of professional training of nursing in Italy gradually started to take hold. At the same time, despite the diffusion of the hospital nursing schools, the experience of the Nightingale style of schooling in Italy never firmly established with success. The continuity of the professional instruction is instead to be noted in the transformation of the hospital boarding schools, exclusively for females, which in turn evolved into the classic Italian professional nursing school.

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