Duties of Probationer under the Nightingale Fund

The following list of personal characteristics and skills was sent by the Nightingale Fund, in the 1860s, to applicants for nurse training. Applicants had to sign to confirm that they would work to meet these requirements.  During their training, probationers were assessed on these qualities (see the transcript of the probationer’s record for Jane Squires).

The form also stated that “The age considered desirable for Probationers is from 25 to 35”. Applicants had to provide a certificate of age as well as testimonials.

The Fund’s Committee paid gratuities of £3 and £5 on receiving evidence  of satisfactory service in a hospital for one year after training, providing the Committee had no reason to think the nurse intended to discontinue her employment.  Correspondence from nurses at Dorset County Hospital receiving their gratuity is available here.

The document from which the following has been extracted is held by the London Metropolitan Archives (reference H01/ST/NC/18/5/30).



 You are required to be








 You are expected to become skilful –

  1. In the dressing of blisters, burns, sores, wounds, and in applying fomentations, poultices and minor dressings.
  2. In the application of Leeches, externally and internally.
  3. In the administration of enemas for men and women.
  4. In the management of trusses, and applications in uterine complaints.
  5. In the best method of friction to the body and the extremities.
  6. In the management of helpless Patients, e., moving, changing, personal cleanliness of, feeding, keeping warm, (and cool), preventing and dressing bed sores, managing position of.
  7. In bandaging, making bandages, and rollers, lining of splints, &c.
  8. In making the beds of the Patients, and removal of sheets whilst Patient is in bed.
  9. You are required to attend at operations.
  10. To be competent to cook gruel, arrowroot, egg flip, puddings, drinks, for the sick.
  11. To understand Ventilation, or keeping the Ward fresh by night as well as by day ; you are to be careful that great cleanliness is observed in all the utensils ; those used for the secretions as well as those required for cooking.
  12. To make strict observations of the sick in the following particulars : –

The state of secretion, expectoration, pulse, skin, appetite ; intelligence, as delirium or stupor ; breathing, sleep, state of wounds, eruptions, formation of matter, effect of diet, or of stimulants, and of medicines.

  1. And to learn the management of convalescents.