Author Topic: Nurse training and exams in 1930s  (Read 495 times)


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Nurse training and exams in 1930s
« on: March 03, 2021, 11:56:03 PM »
Hi everyone,

I hope you are keeping well in this difficult time.

I'm working on a novel in which one of the main characters is a nurse who trains and qualifies just before the outbreak of WWII. I'd like to make everything as historically accurate as possible (even though there is a fantasy element to the plot) so I'm interested in finding out more about the subjects that would be studied during training back then, what the exams would be like, and what sort of school qualifications would be needed to train as a nurse.

It seems that there is some archival material, including personal papers from nurses who trained during that period, at the RCN archives in Edinburgh, and under normal circumstances I'd try to arrange a trip there, but obviously that isn't possible at the moment.

I was wondering whether anyone might know of other sources of information that are available during lockdown - online materials or books that I could buy? Or even personal testimonies, although I fear there will be very few people still with us now who trained in that era.

Thank you very much in advance,


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Re: Nurse training and exams in 1930s
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2021, 08:39:25 PM »
Hello Vicky, Greetings.

I think that your best bet may be our forum Administrator 'Backman'.  He may well see your post and respond...  I will mention it to him, just in case...

Very Best,


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Re: Nurse training and exams in 1930s
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2021, 12:26:28 PM »
My sources of information are the History of the GNC by Bendall and Raybould 1919-1969 and the GNC for England and Wales syllabus of training, written in 1923 and updated in 1933 and 1939. 
The subjects taught came under the headings of Anatomy and Physiology, Hygiene, First Aid, Theory and practice of nursing, Materia medica and therapeutics, Medical nursing, Surgical nursing and Gynaecology. 
The examination at that time were the Preliminary, which had 2 parts.  Part 1 taken after at least 6 months, unless taken prior to entry.  It examined anatomy and physiology and hygiene.  Part 2 was taken after 1 year and after passing part 1, it examined the theory and practice of nursing.  The final exam was taken after completion of 'the prescribed period' and success in the preliminary exams.  An oral exam as from 1935 was conducted by a doctor of 'good professional standard'.
School/entry qualifications were set by the hospital training school, the minimum age of entry was 18 years.  In 1936 the general school certificate was advised, but not mandated.  In 1937 the GCN developed an educational test, but again still not mandated.  And in 1939 a pre-nursing course was introduced which could act as an entry qualification.  Cheltenham Ladies College was the first 'school' to introduce such a course.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2021, 04:12:37 PM by Dianne »


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