Medicine's hoary roots lie firmly planted
in the shamans' practices since earliest men and women treated illness
and injury. Nursing does not have its roots in the ancient shamanic
practices of magico-religious rite and ritual, but rather has grown
almost in spite of the institutions of male medical practice. Nursing
first emerged from a lack of male attention toward caring for the
sickly poor. One of the earliest examples is the practice of midwifery.
It has historically been a female dominated vocation because male
physicians didn't want to be bothered with such things until the
forceps were invented in the 17th century.
The first healing institutions
were the temples of ancient civilizations. In China, "halls
of healing" were established adjacent to the religious temples,
and massage was a part of the treatment administered in these charitable
establishments. In Egypt and Greece, people went to temples with
their sickness or lameness more to pray to the temple gods than
to seek healing care from other humans. But healing care was given,
and it often included some massage administered by adept slaves.
At first these slaves were men, but over time women came to control
the temple healings.
During the Christian era women administered
to the sick poor because physicians wanted nothing to do with them
since they couldn't pay for their services. Women of the Church
nursed people with any kind of disease. As the disciples of Christ
began organizing churches, deaconesses appeared. They were usually
mature and widowed women who assisted the clergy. Included among
their duties was nursing for the poor sick; over time their nursing
duties became their primary job. During the medieval period we find
no mention of nursing among the deaconesses since the Church's emphasis
was on healing the soul, not the body.
Modern nursing arose not from ancient
roots or healing practices, but from the outpouring of empathy to
wounded soldiers on the battlefield. The first instruction in nursing
began during the middle of the 19th century, but it didn't come
from hospitals, mainstream physicians or even teaching institutions.
Nurse training in modern times began in the tent wards found on
the battlefield in the Crimean War from 1854 to 1857. Nurse Florence
Nightingale (1820-1910) established the first organized cadre of
women working on and near the battlefields that provided nursing
care to wounded and ill soldiers. Before Nightingale made her bold
and controversial step, the great and small armies of the world
provided but paltry medical care to wounded and sick soldiers on
the battlegrounds. The best care they might receive was from a lone
physician and his assistant or two doing their best amidst the ravages
of war upon hundreds and often thousands of soldiers.
When Nightingale and her small cadre
of nurses made their way to the Crimean War, with no help from the
men of power or those at war, it marked the world's first battlefield
nursing care given by women. Thus began the grand tradition of modern
nursing and women's dominance of this area of medicine.
In Nightingale's book, Notes on
Nursing, published in 1859, she makes no mention of massage
as a nursing modality even though massage was included in her training
school for nurses as early as 1860. Perhaps the first training school
for nurses was established in 1883 at the sanitarium at Battle Creek,
Michigan by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg where he was medical director.
Massage was an important part of nurse training at the sanitarium
and in Kellogg's 1895 book, The Art of Massage he provided what
is now a classic massage curriculum. Little more than a decade later
massage was a regular part of nursing education everywhere until
it began its gradual decline in the late 1920s until nearly disappearing
from nursing curriculum by the 1950s.
Nurse Mary McMillan, the founder of
American physical therapy, was a strong proponent of massage during
and after World War I, but her profession moved in step with medicine
resulting in a declining use of hands-on modalities such as massage.
In England, Irish practitioner Louisa
Despard's textbook for massage was used in nursing schools for nearly
30 years after first being published in 1911. Between 1895 and 1935
there were dozens of books published by physicians, nurses and lay
practitioners devoted to the study and instruction of massage for
physicians, manual therapists and nurses. In 1921 the International
Society of Medical Hydrology was formed in England as a professional
and political organization aimed toward legitimizing spa medicine,
of which massage was a part.
In both of the World Wars massage was
used by the nursing corp as part of their post-war injury therapies.
Today there is a national organization of nurses who practice massage
as a primary modality, but the mainstream of nurses working in hospitals
dont have the time or the training to administer massage to
their growing patient load. When massage is done by a hospital nurse
today it is often done surreptitiously out of a deep conviction
by the nurse that touching her patients is a healthy thing to do.
The bush nurses of Australia,
New Zealand and Tasmania braved the territory they went into that
was completely undeveloped and they braved the criticism of their
male counterparts in medicine, the doctors, and they were not welcomed
by the missionaries at first because they weren't bringing Christianity,
but nursing. But although they brought their caring hands and hearts
to the remote areas of these countries as early as 1911, they left
no record that massage was one of their tools even though evidence
shows they were trained in the art. In England nurses were trained
in the art of massage and records show it was used as early as 1890
by them in England. Massage among European nurses was done in conjunction
with medical gymnastics, and eventually led to the development of
physiotherapy as it did physical therapy in the United States. A
number of well known nurses, Mary McMillan among them, studied and
worked in Europe at a time when massage was a primary modality for
treating returning soldiers from the war against the German Czar.
From this experience, the U.S. Army developed the Reconstruction
Department which was staffed by the nursing corp.
The National Association of Nurse Massage
Therapists, established in the early 1990s, has revived the use
of massage among nurses within the modern medical establishment,
and has helped create a specialty within the broader field of nursing
for massage therapy. Thus massage has secured its historic place
within the ranks of nurses, but it is a movement still on the outer
edges of mainstream medical practice, which is dominated still by
the male practitioner."
Noah Calvert is the founder and CEO of Massage
Magazine. The material for this column comes from the World of
Museum's collection and Calvert's book, The
History of Massage, published in February 2002 by Healing Arts