My Mommy: My Nurse
Copyright 2007 Maribel Hernandez All Rights Reserved.
Motherhood is one of the oldest vocations in delivering nursing skills. Mothers are natural nurses; they hold the monopoly on motherhood.
Long before the Nursing profession came into vogue, mom nursed her children back to health. She has nursed (functional nutrition), bandaged their wounds (first aid skills), and tended to her baby’s diaper rash (dermatology). She also instructs her daughters on hormonal changes known as menses (Endocrinology).
Mommy all along has provided her family with a broad spectrum of nursing skills.
Miss Florence Nightingale understood the important roles of mothers as nurses. In her book, titled: Notes on Nursing, the preface reads in part.
“It was written not “as a manual to teach nurses to nurse” but to assist millions of women who had charge of their families to “think how to nurse.”
Her assertion was “Every Woman is a Nurse”. 1
But, in our technically advanced world of nursing, who could claim “every mother is a nurse”? How did this change? Why is mother appeared to look as if she is “no longer involved in the delivery of nursing skills for her family” “?
Before we answer, let’s look at the history of the nursing landscape.
Nurses 2 struggled prior to 1940′s to be respected and accredited. Much of the nursing landscape at that time was comprised of Private duty nursing. This meant you cared for the sick at home, with little recognition and perhaps no pay.
There arose ambitious nurses who felt nursing needed to move out of the house, and into professional status. By default this would cause the mothers at home who were nursing a family member back to health, look like a socially marginal nurse.
Caring for the child on the sick bed, took second place.
The ambitious group of nurses wanted to be recognized as “trained”, “licensed” and “employed”. They worked tirelessly for their new positions and professional status. Thus, by the 1940′s funding favored hospital-based nursing care. They began reaching a wider audience in order to promote their cause. Their cause, “Trained Nurses”. Thus, by seeking a secular model of nursing it distanced itself from it’s religious connotation and broadened its boundaries by excluding unlicensed mothers.
Naturally, nursing grew increasingly specialized in hospitals. Nurses wanted to become distinguished from other mothers who were caring at home for their family. Nursing became a profession. But, how is the nursing profession defined? Pyne says the profession means this:
“The word is more often defined as relating to the vows of a religious community than to any specialist areas of employment.” 3
During Miss Florence Nightingale’s day- in the 1860′s, nursing a family back to health was a description of a mother’s domestic duties, something mothers still do. These include caring for the following:
Keeping Body temperature comfortable
Attention to clothing
Evacuation (regular bowel movements)
Clean body (hygiene)
The wide spectrum of tasks hasn’t changed through the passage of time for mothers.
Nursing: A Moral and Spiritual Plane
Naturally, it isn’t surprising that nursing was considered a religious exercise, also that it has traditionally fallen to mothers; selflessness- an attribute of maternity.
Moreover, while unlicensed medicine was practiced by family teams of wives as well as husbands, daughters as well as sons, it was not automatically assumed that, if a nursing attendant were female, she would also be ignorant and incompetent. She might, indeed, have many specialist skills, in addition to midwifery and repertoire of herbal remedies;…5
During Biblical times, we see the role women have in Obstetrics. Scripture testifies to the presence of midwives. Exodus 1:15-21:
And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah…
… When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools…
…But the midwives feared God…
“But, what can I do, I have no formal training in nursing skills”?
You have fed your family, bandaged their cuts and stayed up till the crack of dawn at their sickbed. You have already practiced nursing skills.
In a limiting way you shouldered the responsibility of delivering nursing skills. A mother is often called upon to be a first responder in many medical emergencies before the paramedics ever arrive on the scene. It is only fair to state at this point, if a mother cannot perform the necessary nursing duties herself, she always has the option of employing a pediatrician, nurse, midwife or other healthcare giver.
Obviously, there are those instances where the paramedics or family doctor may be needed. But, for non-life threatening medical conditions many questions can be answered by standard pediatric textbooks. Preventative aspects of pediatric management should be nurtured. This will enable mothers to independently care for minor childhood illnesses and injuries at home. By building up a mother’s knowledge base and understanding of medical conditions- confidence in her own ability to deal with her child’s’ illness or accident becomes easier.
Some pediatric hospitalizations may be avoided when mother studies basic medical conditions, followed by medical botany.
The American Red Cross published Standard First Aid & Personal Safety 4. This is a good place to start learning about basic first aid. It is very practical. It covers conditions like: bleeding, infection, bites, eye injuries, back injuries, and much more. As you become more comfortable in handling small conditions at home; prioritizing their symptoms will too.
Domestic Medicine: Treating the Illness at Home
Domestic medicine is the treatment of illness or injury in the home.
Early advocates of “Domestic Medicine” included Lucy Meriwether-famous mother of frontier explorer Lewis Meriwether. Little did she know her son would one day use his knowledge of domestic medicine she taught him in order to treat Sacagawea’s intestinal infection
Clearly- mothers are still having babies. Babies have needs. Preparing yourself to meet those needs through domestic medicine is a doable option for mothers. You can use your interest in nursing to glorify God by separating yourself for His service. Develop capacities to serve your family, the elderly, or mothers of young children.
We saved over $30,000 in Obstetric and Pediatric Bills
By the grace of God, our family, in the first few years of pursing studies in domestic medicine (pre-natal care, using an otoscope, pediatric visits) we pocketed a minimum of $30,000. When I shared that in a newsletter a reader wanted to know how I came up with the figure. Here is a break down.
Pre-natal visits for 3 births from private doctors in practice: $ 30,000
Pediatric visit for ear infection: $ 60
Antibiotic for ear infection: $ 60
Gastroenterologist visit: $ 100
Neo-natal conjunctivitis visit to pediatrician’s office costs: $ 100
Hair line fracture of the clavicle: $ 100
Wryneck Visit to pediatrician: $ 100
In order to help mothers build their nursing skills while saving large sums of money, we have created an e-loop toward that end: “Classical Medical Education for Parents Naturally”. Subscribe HERE.
In conclusion, the survival, or revival of mothers with nursing skills, will depend upon noble woman taking steps in that direction.
1. Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale, Dover 1969.
2. Nursing the Finest Art: An Illustrated History, M. Patricia Donahue, Ph. D., R.N., Mosby 1985.
3. Professional Discipline in Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, R.H. Pyne, Oxford 1981.
4. Standard First Aid &Personal Safety, The American Red Cross, 1972.
5. The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Medicine, Irvine Loudon, Oxford, New York 1997.
The Hernandez’s compounded P&M Dermasalve, and blog at http://www.APMFormulators.com