A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



As the attitude of Headmistresses probably has some influence on their pupils’ choice of careers thirty were interviewed when the nursing survey was carried out among Secondary School girls.

Headmistresses were not interviewed on a set questionnaire, hence it is impossible to give quantitative results, but certain definite tendencies of opinion can be noted.

This appendix deals with the following points:-

  1. (1) The general attitude of Headmistresses to nursing as a career.

  2. (2) Headmistresses’ opinions about the attitude of parents to nursing.

  3. (3) Psychological and disciplinary problems as viewed by Headmistresses.

  4. (4) Variability of hospital conditions - Past pupils reports on their experiences and their influence in schools.

  5. (5) The problem of the “Gap” and remarks on the pre-nursing course.

  6. (6) The extent of publicity in schools to popularise nursing as a career - Suggestions.

  7. (7) Knowledge of present-day nursing conditions among staff of schools.

I. Nursing as a career - Headmistresses’ attitudes .

Twenty-three of the thirty Headmistresses interviewed stated that they present nursing to their pupils as a good and satisfactory career, but ten of these regard nursing as essentially vocational these only advise girls whom they consider physically and temperamentally suited to take up this work.

Of the remainder, two would not recommend nursing to their pupils until the status is made comparable to that of other professions, and the other few are definitely more in favour of academic careers.

It was suggested several times that the low recruitment to nursing was partly due to the ever-increasing competition of new careers which were more highly paid and required shorter training than nursing, and others where the training was only slightly longer and the prospects more attractive, e.g. medicine.

II. Headmistresses’ estimates of Parents’ attitudes .

Only one third of the Headmistresses dealt with parents’ attitudes towards nursing as a career, and these considered that girls were faced, quite often, with parental opposition.

These are some reasons suggested for this opposition

(A) Financial

(a) Low standard of pay - A few quotations will best illustrate this:

“Most of the girls’ father are hard-headed business men and disapprove of nursing as a career because of the bad pay and long hours.”

“Parents do not realize the benefit of training with keep.”

“I tell them that it is practically the only profession in which girls are paid while they are being trained.”

(b) The need or wish to earn - The majority of girls having, probably, matriculated or taken General Schools, are expected to leave school at sixteen.

“Parents of this type of girls can rarely afford and do not expect to give their children training after General Schools. Their attitude is ‘I left school at fourteen and she has had until sixteen - that should be sufficient’.”

“Girls want to earn at sixteen and parents think they should do so.”

“They consider it is much better to take a job at 30/- or 35/- per week at sixteen.”


(B) Living away from home

For various reasons some parents do not wish their daughter to leave home. Economic causes are often responsible for this attitude.

“When girls have stayed at school to sixteen, parents expect them to earn their own living and contribute to be family budget”.

(C) The short view of employment

Girls are expected to marry. “In the majority of cases work is regarded as an interim period.” So a career entailing a long training is shunned. It was also suggested that parents do not take a long view of nursing as a possible channel to good jobs.

It must be emphasized again that only a minority of Headmistresses expressed views on the attitude of parents to nursing, so that the above material contains Headmistresses’ opinion about what parents think.

It should also be noted that these Headmistresses deal with parents of secondary school girls and that these are a selected set of parents, and not representative of parents in general. of Appendix (i)

III. Psychological and disciplinary problems

Naturally, Headmistresses showed interest in the psychological problems connected with the entry of young girls into hospital life.

(a) Discipline . The desirability of bringing hospital discipline into line with the free discipline prevalent in schools of to-day was advocated by several Headmistresses. The heart of the problem was summed up thus; “Rigid discipline imposed on nurses while training has more to do with the reluctance of girls to enter the profession than the rigours of the work”.

(b) The personality of the Matron . Emphatic remarks were made on this subject - Here are some:-

“We must do away with the tyrant”.

“Matrons should be chosen with great care and with more attention to the ‘human’ qualities.”

“They are often not sympathetic or skilful in their handling of girls”.

“First impressions on the untutored mind are not considered in the right way”.

(c) Over and under supervision . While on the one hand it was stated that in some cases girls were terrified to approach their superiors, on the other hand under-supervision on the welfare side was strongly condemned by some Headmistresses.

One said that four of her pupils had had to give up nursing because of ill-health which she considered due to lack of supervision. “They need more supervision regarding their physical well-being during the first few months of their training. They have not yet become used to taking responsibility for their own health.”

The general attitude of those expressing views on discipline and psychological insight might be summarised in the words of one - “Hospitals themselves are responsible for losing potential candidates and nurses.”

In spite of these criticisms it would not be right to conclude that Headmistresses as a whole hold these views, or that those who expressed them would apply them to hospitals in general.

In fact, many remarks were made on:-


IV. The variability of conditions in hospitals .

Conditions in the view of Headmistresses go from one extreme to the other. Some hospitals are excellent - others are appalling. Some are progressive - others

are still in backwaters.

The conclusion seem to be that nursing will not get a fair chance until all hospitals reach the standard of the best.

Past pupils retaining contact with their schools can exercise considerable influence on nursing recruitment. Probably in many cases this is excellent, several Headmistresses stating that their girls were happy and others that they would not think of giving up their careers.

But one Headmistress provider an example of what might happen - she stated that “The girls knew too much about ............ Infirmary, probably from the old girls who came back”. In her own words: “Again and again girls from this school have started hopefully at the Infirmary but have left from over-tiredness and discouragement.”

V. The pre-nursing course and the “Gap” .

The pre-nursing course designed to fill the gap between matriculation at sixteen and entry into hospital at eighteen has been adopted by about one-fifth of the schools visited during the survey.

Not all Headmistresses made specific comments beyond stating the course was going well, but two interesting cases might be mentioned.

The Head of one of the first schools to organise this course (it is in its fifth year) reported that eight girls were taking pre-nursing this year (last year seven) and that no one had dropped out since the course had been inaugurated. She considered the course most valuable in preventing the drift away which takes place if girls have to fill up time by taking other work.

On the other hand a school which had adopted the course last year because five or six girls wanted to take up nursing, has only two taking the course this year.

Although it is not possible to draw any general conclusions from these contrasting results, it is interesting to note that in the former case the Headmistress was definitely very keen on the course, and nursing as a profession, while in the latter case the Senior Mistress who was in charge, stated that no special advice was given to the girls on specific careers - nursing is just one among many of which details are provided.

Several other Headmistresses had considered the possibility of introducing pre-nursing courses, but either through small numbers in the school, wartime conditions or difficulties in their negotiations with local hospitals, they had not been able to do anything up to date. One Headmistress was keen to have the course because “it would ease off the first year in hospital which nearly kills some of the girls who have come back and recounted their experiences, saying that the first months nearly put them off nursing for life, but now they would not change for another career.”

Some Headmistresses who did not mention the pre-nursing course referred to the “Gap” as a deterrent.

These are some of their ideas:-

“In several cases girls have left school with the desire to take up nursing, but under family pressure or from lack of any stimulating interest, they have drifted into easy clerical jobs instead.”

“The main difficulty is the age of entry - girls cannot afford to wait.”

“By eighteen girls are getting on in another job and don’t want to throw it up and start a long training.”


VI. The use of publicity in schools to popularise nursing as a career

This would seem to be very limited.

A very small minority only mentioned this subject.

Lectures are the most frequently used media, the M.O.I. photographs illustrating the life of a nurse being twice mentioned. Visits to local hospitals have been organised by a small percentage of the schools visited.

These suggestion were made with regard to publicity :-

  1. (a) Wireless talks on openings for trained nurses. Parents do not know of the possibility of good post-graduate jobs open to trained nurses.

  2. (b) Clear cut posters and circulars dealing with nurses’ training. Something to be hung up in the schools and to send round to parents through the pupils. This would counteract the prevailing ideas about nursing and explain recent improvements, etc.

  3. (c) Closer contact between schools and hospitals.

  4. (d) The talks by the A.T.S. and W.R.N.S. who visit schools are a strong counter-attraction to nursing. Nurses might give school talks.

VII. Knowledge of present day nursing conditions among the staff of schools .

It may perhaps be permissible to refer to a certain amount of ignorance on the part of school staffs about present day nursing conditions and recent improvements.

Some Headmistresses themselves have incomplete or inaccurate knowledge about the pre-nursing course. Even careers mistresses were met who did not know details of the Rushcliffe Report relating to pay, etc.

In view of these facts, even though the applications are by no means general, it might be helpful to the cause of nursing to put school staffs in possession of full details of the developments and prospects in the nursing profession.

Perhaps it is necessary to educate the teachers as well as the parents on the subject of nursing as a career.

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