Patients lying in bed in an old seaside mansion during World War II.

On the Wards

Although medical officers were technically in charge of the patients and staff under their jurisdiction and were obligated to furnish a daily report, much of the care giving activities that occurred on the wards fell to the nurses. Nurses were responsible for bathing patients, administering medication, changing dressings, taking vitals, and keeping notes on cases. While ambulatory patients and enlisted men assisted nurses with feeding their bed-ridden colleagues, turning them, making beds, cleaning the wards, and running errands and the anesthetists prepared patients for surgery, 12th General Hospital nurses still had to juggle many other demands from filling out reports, to ensuring that patients had the right clothing upon discharge, to outfitting their wards with equipment, which required begging those staffing the medical supply, cajoling carpenters to make them tables, cupboards, chart holders, and medicine cabinets, and a significant degree of improvisation on their own part. This resourcefulness entailed using ration containers for instruments and personal washboards to clean linens. At Ain-el-Turck, nurses had to sew all the lap sheets, drapes, and wrappers by hand and provide washcloths to the patients until the Officers’ Club contributed funds to purchase them. Nurses along with their official duties were expected to serve as moral support for the sick and injured. In addition to donating their own rations of cigarettes, candy, and gum to those recovering, nurses frequently helped initiate steps to procure partial pay for the invalids.