‘Gradual spiritual formation' - postcolonial mental handicap nursing in Ireland 1919-70

Sweeney, JF 2008, ‘Gradual spiritual formation' - postcolonial mental handicap nursing in Ireland 1919-70 , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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In this study a postcolonial and social historical framework was utilised to examine the development of mental handicap nursing in Ireland. The research derives from a historiographical study of documentary records for the period 1919-70 in Britain and Ireland to investigate the role played by key stakeholders in the development of what at the time of writing is known as intellectual disability nursing. Primary sources were examined to construct a narrative chronology of the role of specific Catholic religious orders, the Irish Division psychiatrists of the Roval Medico-Psychological Association (RMPA), the State and nursing regulatory bodies. The main argument of the thesis is that a confluence of medical, social, religious and nursing ideas about specialist care for people with intellectual disabilities in the nineteen-fifties led to the development of a new workforce i.e. mental handicap nurses. Mental handicap nursing emerged in the aftermath of Ireland's struggle for self-determination from postcolonial oppression. The Department of Local Government and General Nursing Council for Ireland (GNCI) opposed a mental deficiency colony solution to a legacy of workhouses and asylums. Training by a weak psychiatric establishment was distrusted because of the profession's links to Britain. The Irish Government as part of a policy to move growing numbers from Counts Homes, funded specialist residential schools developed by Catholic religious orders. Staffing needs during the nineteen-forties led one order to request the RMPA to train its psychiatric nurses for the mental deficiency register. Since the GNCI had closed its mental deficiency register in 1923 and opposed medical involvement in nursing education, nurses were trained under the RMPA scheme with approval of the General Nursing Council (GNC) for England and Wales. Encouraged by the Department of Health, a new nursing regulatory body introduced mental handicap nurse training in 1959. Though a Commission of Inquiry in 1965 endorsed the new workforce, divergent psychiatric and religious discourses on the nature of mental handicap led to enduring tensions as to the role of this practitioner thus underpinning a tenuous position within nursing.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Mitchell, D (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Funders: Wellcome Trust History of Medicine, Irish Nursing Board (An Bord Altranais)
Depositing User: Institutional Repository
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2021 09:36
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 11:21
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/61644

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