Session 1: Nursing practice from birth to death

Session outline

The first part of the session will provide an overview of the module as a whole - its aims and objectives and the methods to be pursued in achieving these. The second part will be delivered by a midwife-historian and will focus on historical perspectives relating to childbirth. The third part to this session will examine people's understanding and experiences with death and dying and the ramifications of this for nurses. It will also explore the process and drama of laying out

Session leaders

Christine Hallett, Janette Allotey and Jane Brooks


  • To examine the historical understanding of the experience and meaning of childbirth, and of the work of the birth attendant


  • To examine historical understanding of death and the post-mortem experience
  • To explore the care of the dying patient by religious and secular nurses
  • To examine the laying out process


  • Historical understanding of birth and the role of the birth attendant
  • Historical understanding of death and dying: Criteria for death, anxieties about death, religious and secular beliefs about death
  • Differences between religious and secular nurse care of the dying
  • History of palliative care
  • Dying in the workhouse
  • Christian beliefs in the wonder of dying
  • Theory and practice of laying out the body
  • The involvement of women in death and dying

Teaching methods

  • Lecture
  • Seminar

Indicative reading

  • Anne-Mei, The, (2002) Palliative Care and Communication, Open University Press.
  • Bashford A (2000) Purity and Pollution: Gender, Embodiment and Victorian Medicine. Basingstoke, Macmillan Press Ltd.
  • Blum C A (2006)‘Til death do us part?' The nurse's role in the care of the dead a historical perspective: 1850-2004. Geriatric Nursing 27 (1) January-February, 58-63
  • Jalland P (2000) Death in the Victorian Family. Oxford, OUP
  • Pennington E A (1978) Post-mortem care. American Journal of Nursing, May, 846-847
  • Richardson, R. Death, Dissection and the Destitute, London and New York, Routledge, 1987.