Assignment: Attached Master’s Essential

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Assignment: Attached Master’s Essential

Assignment: Attached Master’s Essential

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Communicable diseases were rampant during the Middle Ages, primarily because of the walled cities that emerged in response to the paranoia and isolation of the populations. Infection was next to impossible to control. Physicians had little to offer, deferring to the church for management of disease. Nursing roles were carried out primarily by religious orders. The oldest hospital (other than military hospitals in the Roman era) in Europe was most likely the Hôtel-Dieu in Lyon, France, founded about 542 by Childebert I, king of Paris. The Hôtel-Dieu in Paris was founded around 652 by Saint Landry, bishop of Paris. During the Middle Ages, charitable institutions, hospitals, and medical schools increased in number, with the religious leaders as caregivers. The word hospital, which is derived from the Latin word hospitalis, meaning service of guests, was most likely more of a shelter for travelers and other pilgrims as well as the occasional person who needed extra care (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1986). Early European hospitals were more like hospices or homes for the aged, sick pilgrims, or orphans. Nurses in these early hospitals were religious deaconesses who chose to care for others in a life of servitude and spiritual sacrifice.

Black Death

During the Middle Ages, a series of horrible epidemics, including the Black Death or bubonic plague, ravaged the civilized world (Diamond, 1997). In the 1300s, Europe, Asia, and Africa saw nearly half their populations lost to the bubonic plague. Worldwide, more than 60 million deaths were attributed to this horrible plague. In some parts of Europe, only one-fourth of the population survived, with some places having too few survivors alive to bury the dead. Families abandoned sick children, and the sick were often left to die alone (Cartwright, 1972).

Nurses and physicians were powerless to avert the disease. Black spots and tumors on the skin appeared, and petechiae and hemorrhages gave the skin a darkened appearance. There was also acute inflammation of the lungs, burning sensations, unquenchable thirst, and inflammation of the entire body. Hardly anyone afflicted survived the third day of the attack. So great was the fear of contagion that ships carrying bodies of infected persons were set to sail without a crew to drift from port to port through the North, Black, and Mediterranean seas with their dead passengers (Cohen, 1989).

Medieval people knew that this disease was in some way communicable, but they were unsure of the mode of transmission (Diamond, 1997); hence the avoidance of victims and a reliance on isolation techniques. During this time, the practice of quarantine in city ports was developed as a preventive measure that is still used today (Bullough & Bullough, 1978; Kalisch & Kalisch, 1986).

The Renaissance During the rebirth of Europe, political, social, and economic advances occurred along with a tremendous revival of learning. Donahue (1985) contends that the Renaissance has been “viewed as both a blessing and a curse” (p. 188). There was a renewed interest in the arts and sciences, which helped advance medical science (Boorstin, 1985; Bullough & Bullough, 1978). Columbus and other explorers discovered new worlds, and belief in a sun-centered rather than an Earth-centered universe was promoted by Copernicus (1473–1543). Sir Isaac Newton’s (1642–1727) theory of gravity changed the world forever. Gunpowder was introduced, and social and religious upheavals resulted in the American and French revolutions at the end of the 1700s. In the arts and sciences, Leonardo da Vinci, known as one of the greatest geniuses of all time, made a number of anatomic drawings based on dissection experiences. These drawings have become classics in the progression of knowledge about the human anatomy. Many artists of this time left an indelible mark and continue to exert influence today, including Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian (Donahue, 1985).

The Reformation Religious changes during the Renaissance influenced nursing perhaps more than any other aspect of society. Particularly important was the rise of Protestantism as a result of the reform movements of Martin Luther (1483–1546) in Germany and John Calvin (1509–1564) in France and Switzerland. Although the various sects were numerous in the Protestant movement, the agreement among the leaders was almost unanimous on the abolition of the monastic or cloistered career. The effects on nursing were drastic: Monastic-affiliated institutions, including hospitals and schools, were closed, and orders of nuns, including nurses, were dissolved. Even in countries where Catholicism flourished, royal leaders seized monasteries frequently.

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