Training the “modern nurse”: Italy and Spain 1870-1920

Stefania Bartoloni, Carmen González Canalejo


This article analyses the process through which careers in nursing were formally established in Italy and Spain. This process, which initiated in the nineteenth century and continued for most of the subsequent century, involved lawmakers and reformers in both countries, both of which are Catholic and Mediterranean. The Italian and Spanish movements for the reform of the healthcare professions share some similarities but they are also divided by differences. This research focuses on the training manuals for nurses, the gradual secularization of healthcare designed to diminish the presence of religious orders dedicated to hospital work, and the project of bringing women into the field in order to create a “modern” occupation. By placing emphasis on duties and requirements, the manuals served as important instruments for redefining the care of the sick and establishing the professional status of nurses. In the case of Italy, this professional status was put to the test with the country’s participation in World War I and the resulting emergencies, medical and otherwise, following the war; circumstances such as these led to the development of institutional and individual initiatives in the post-war period.


Italy; reform of healthcare professions; Spain; training manuals for nurses; women’s work

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