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Brief History of Midwifery, Health Care Assistants and Learning Disabilities Nurse


Midwifery is part of the health care profession. Nurses who practice midwifery are typically called midwives. Midwives not only care for a patient during pregnancy and birth, they also provide primary care related to reproductive health.

Brief history of midwifery:

  • Midwives are mentioned in the Old Testament. The Pharaoh instructs the midwives whose names were Shiphrah and Puah to kill any boys born to Hebrew women.
  • In Ancient Greece midwives were required by law to have children of their own.
  • One of the first schools for midwives was opened in the early sixteenth century at the Hotel-Dieu, Paris.
  • In 1840 several medical schools and colleges added midwifery to the curriculum.
  • In 1881 Midwives Institute (Royal College of Midwives) was founded.
  • In 1902 Midwifery became an established profession in Britain.
  • In 1975 the number of midwives was reported to be 16,550.

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Health care assistant

A health care assistant provides patient care under the supervision of a qualified nurse and supports a team by undertaking a range of clinical support functions.

Brief history of health care assistants:

  • During the Crimean War (1854-1856) was the first time that nurses’ aides were recognised as members of the nursing profession.
  • Florence Nightingale considered nurses aids to be assistants to trained nurses – working under instruction.
  • In 1955 the nursing assistant achieved formal recognition in the healthcare setting.
  • In 1988 The National Council for Vocational Qualifications was established and NVQ’s in health care became available.
  • In 2000  the RCN made HCAs with a vocational qualification at level 3 or above eligible to join as members.

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Learning Disabilities Nurse

Learning disability nurses support people with learning disabilities to maintain their health and wellbeing. They help people of all ages to live their lives as fully and independently as possible, while respecting their rights and dignity.

  • The term ”learning disability” preceded by the name mental handicap.
  • When the poor laws of 1834 were introduced, asylums were built in which to house people who were deemed at the time ‘feeble minded imbeciles or idiots’ for lifelong care.
  • There was no distinction between mental illness and learning disabilities until the 1959 Mental Health Act when the feebleminded became the mentally handicapped.
  • The Mental Health Act allowed for care to take place outside of a hospital setting.
  • Asylums that housed those with learning disabilities became hospitals with the introduction of the NHS in 1946.

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