For students up and down the country it is examination season. Whilst students of mental health nursing are busy submitting their dissertations, writing up their reflective essays and achieving their practice-based ‘competencies’ I thought it might be interesting to share the ‘Regulations for the Training and Examination of Candidates for the Certificate of Proficiency in Nursing and Attending on the Insane’. I have scanned these from my copy of the Red Handbook:
In uploading these pages I have just noticed the mention (on page 147, the last-but-one reproduced above) of ‘Attendance of the insane in private houses’. Is it stretching things too far to suggest this as an early reference to community mental health nursing?
I also notice how much these regulations refer to the assessment and maintenance of bodily health (although I have no idea whatsoever what might be meant by ‘the insane ear’, a phrase appearing on page 146). Earlier this week, writing in an editorial for the BMJ Graham Thornicroft described the excess mortality of people with mental health problems as ‘a human rights disgrace’. He’s right, and whilst I’m glad we’re out of the age of the asylum and of ‘attending on the insane’ we might yet learn something from an historic nursing syllabus which placed emphasis on the importance of physical well-being.