Why did medical care need to be improved during the early 19th century

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Last updated: November 11, 2019

During the early 19th Century Surgery needed to be improved because 80% of people who had surgery would die during or soon after the surgery had taken place. During surgery there was very little done to stop pain, and surgeons thought that the best option was to go for speed so that the pain was a quick as possible, unfortunately many patience bled to death during their operation because nothing was put in place to stop blood loss.If people were lucky enough to survive their operation then they would probably end up dying in aftercare, Hospitals were far and few between and mostly in big cities, and they were very dirty, smelly and germ infested places to be, hospitals were probably the worst place to be when recovering from an operation.Nursing needed to be improved during the early 19th Century because most nurses were seen as drunken prostitutes who didn’t care for their patience but only for themselves, they didn’t really care for looking after the patients and attending to their needs and they would even take the patients medication and drink for themselves, so the lack of aftercare of an operation was a big killer for patience. As well as the care given from nurses there was also the problem with the lack of medicines.In the early 19th Century, most people would visit the Lady of the Manor, who lived in villages and was very rich for sickness.

Depending on the personality of the lady of the manor, she may only let certain people in to see her, if people were poor and living on the streets then they may not let people in to see them. Other poor people would visit the Wise Woman, she was is small villages and towns and were trusted for their deep knowledge of herbs and other treatments, but if anything was to go wrong then she would be accused of being a witch and killed.Other places for that the poorest people visited where the Travelling Quack, they always moved from towns to towns and country to country selling potions that they had made, although some did study about how to help people, most just wanted the money, and didn’t care about the effects of what they were offering would do to the potions, because of this they were very unreliable and where only used by the poorest of the poor. Weather being rich or poor, a lot of people also first went to other members of the family for help with sickness and illness.

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In the early 18th Century the hospitals that were available where mostly in big cities and were mostly private which cost a lot of money for patients to be treated. In the hospitals there were Physicians who where fully qualified doctors and were able to treat patients, although they were able to, they did not do it very well in the early 19th Century because they lacked the knowledge and believed in spontaneous generation, which was that things just appeared from nowhere, for example, if you put flour and sugar together in a cellar, then mice and rats would just appear out of nowhere.People who studied medicine also believe that the body was made up of four fluids that were blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. Surgeons were also in hospitals and were seen as second class doctor by the Physicians and they dealt with anything internally with the body which was very painful. There were midwifes who helped to deliver babies, but if a delivery became a problem then they would just transfer them to the Physician.Lastly there were Apothecary’s who gave out the medicines that had been subscribed by Physicians. So everyone in hospitals who were licensed by the government still had very little knowledge and didn’t know very much about how things actually worked. Source A is a Cartoon image showing the old style of nursing, and was published in 1879, it shows what looks like a sleeping nurse and a patient in a bed that is in a lot of pain, this is not how nurses should act and therefore shows that nursing needed to be improved.

Source B is an extract from a book published in 1927 called “Lister as I knew him”, it explains about how hygiene within hospitals needed to be improved. Source C is a print of an Amputation from the early 19th Century; the patient looks like he is in a lot of pain! Although the sources are useful there are still many problems that cannot be seen in the sources that existed in the 19th century.Source A is a Cartoon Image that was published in 1879 and shows an image of the “Old Style of Nursing”. It is a very stereotypical image because it shows nursing as it was in the early 19th Century, but nursing in the late 19th Century was different, although it was published in 1879, it was talking about what nursing was like in the early 19th Century, because nursing had changed a lot and it also stated in the bottom right corner of the Cartoon that it was “The Old Style of Nursing”.The cartoon shows a Nurse and a man in a bed, the Cartoon gives the impression that it is in a rich house, as you can see a four poster bed, and the man has a lot of covers to keep him warn, this symbolizes that this is not in a Hospital, but in a private home, because hospitals had beds closely packed together, they’re were certainly not four poster beds, and covers were thin.So although we get the impression that the man is rich and is in his own home, it does not mean that he is getting the best after care.

The nurse appears to be in a chair sleeping, she looks to have what looks like a pillow behind her to make herself more comfortable, which could have been taken from the patience bed. She also appears to be asleep in the chair, and the patient looks like he is in a lot of pain, but is not getting the help from the nurse that he actually needs.The fact that she is asleep in her chair could indicate that she has taken the patients medication and drink that he would have to soothe the pain, there was very little other than alcohol available in the early 19th Century to ease pain, and that fact that she is asleep indicated that she has drank it, this can be backed up because the patient looks like he is on a lot of pain and unable to do anything but suffer.The nurse appears to be fat, unhealthy, and as if she is not even able to look after herself, let alone another person, this also gives more of an impression that this is a cartoon based on the early 19th Century because nurses at that time were seen as dirty drunken prostitutes. Another reason that this would be showing nursing from the early 19th Century is because of the work of Florence Nightingale and how she improved nursing, hospitals and nurses in the later years of the 19th Century.Source B is a part of a book from a colleague of Joseph Lister, about what the conditions were like in hospitals. The article is about Hygiene and how it needed to be improved within the hospital, from a book called “From Lister as I Knew Him”. The colleague is called John Rudd Leeson and the book was published in 1927.

This source highlights the points of how bad Hospital Hygiene actually was and how it needed to be dramatically improved.The book was published in 1927, at this point many problems in Hospitals had actually been tackled and a lot more people were actually surviving surgery and illness. The source is of limited use because the writer (John Rudd Leeson) was saying how bad things used to be in hospitals, but it doesn’t explain what things are like at the time the book was written when improvements had been made, but we can only assume this because we don’t have the full book, only an extract from it, so we cannot come to a full conclusion as to if the book was useful, but just looking at the source, it has limited use.

The source explains that they stitch using dirty needles and thread, this would allow infection to spread very easily. They didn’t know were germs came from, they believe that it just grew out of nothing, and that it was all because of spontaneous generation so they didn’t think about the effects that dirty tools could have on the patient.The source also explain that the surgeons made lectures to people training to be surgeons in the same clothes that they actually did operations with, so they would be moving from place to place, catching germs on their clothes and spreading infection by going from place to place wearing the same clothes. Surgeons thought that surgery was a messy job anyway because of the blood that was lost, so they didn’t understand why they should wear clean clothes if they were just going to get dirty again, you know this because the source says ” Why should he a fresh frock coat when a discarded one was available.An operation was a dirty job and an outworn coat was a suitable garment” The source also explains about the ward sponge and how it was used for every job that contained mess, it was used to clean floors, blood, patient wounds, and it was only cleaned in warm water, and then passed on for the next job, the source says “It appeared at all dressings. It was simply wrung out in warm water and passed from case to case”.So although source B is useful in explaining what Hospital Hygiene used to be like, it does not explain what it was like during the time that the book was wrote, so it is only useful for the past, bad and negative sides of hospital hygiene.

Source C is a print from the early 19th Century, it is not dated, but it says early 19th Century. The print is of an amputation of an arm. The source is useful as it highlights how amputations took place in the early 19th Century.You can clearly tell from the print that medical care needed to be quickly improved in the early 19th Century because you can see a patient being held down by three people while one surgeon cut the arm with what looks to be a saw. There appears to be a bucket underneath the patient which indicated that he would lose a lot of blood during and after the amputation had taken place.

The surgeons look unclean and as If they don’t actually care about the patient, although they did to an extent because they did it fast which made the pain be over as quick as possible, on the other hand they didn’t care about the patient because they thought, if they died, then how can they complain about what happened. So this Source highlights the pain that was involved during an amputation.The source is of limited use because it does not explain if the patient has been administered with any pain relief, but we know that there were only basic pain reliefs available during the early 19th Century, these were alcohol, laudanum, mandrake and opium. There was also a leather strap that was used during amputations that would go just above the limb that was being cut off to try and cut of the blood circulation so that there was less loss of blood, although this was not a very effective method because so many people still died.

Chloroform was only invented in 1847 so it was unlikely that it was used in amputations at this time. The source also does not show how equipment would not have been sterilized before it was used, and it did not shot that equipment had wooden handles that would collect germs and bacteria which could infect people, and the wood could not be sterilized. Source C is also limited because it only shows the horror of surgery, but it does not give any indication of the risk of death through bleeding, shock or infection. It also does not indicate the absolute fear that people had regarding surgery.Sources A, B and C are useful to a point because together they explain basically how bad Surgery was in the 19th Century, but they only concentrate on the bad and negative points of Surgery and Medical Care.

By the end of the 19th Century most of the problems mentioned in the Sources had been solved, but the sources do not explain this, making them only partly useful. The improvers that made the improvements were Edward Jenner, who introduced vaccination in 1796; he gave a young boy cowpox and then attempted to give him smallpox, which he found stopped people getting smallpox.There was also Joseph Lister who invented Antiseptic, using carbolic acid to stop germs getting into wounds and amputations. Then there was Louis Pasteur who experimented and found out that microbes floating in the air could make things go bad, people started to believe the same for humans and the fact that carbolic acid was used to stop the spread of disease and to stop microbes getting to wounds, then people began to believe this too.There was also Robert Kock who was able to show microbes causing blood poisoning in 1872 and this is when people started to believe that the spread of germs caused infection and deaths. One of the most important improvers in my opinion was Florence Nightingale, she was a nurse who managed to open schools to train other nurses in the art of medicine and treatment, she managed to improve hospitals dramatically and after she did, very few patients died from aftercare.

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