When talking about traditional female professions, the midwife probably counts as the oldest. Since the earliest days of mankind, experienced women acted as midwives for other women, and there, as well as in other disciplines, probably have been certain women in the clan, village or local community, which practically had it as a career.On the Faroe Islands has ancient concept nærkona “(near/close woman), which originally acted as midwife – and probably also as the nurse in the neighborhood. These were self-taught women with some knowledge of midwifery, but without much knowledge of complications. After the regular midwifes came, these women often acted as their helpers, or assisted at the birth if the midwife did not arrive in time.
In his “Reports from a Travel in Faroe Islands 1781 – 1782″ Jens Chr Svabo writes that there are midwives in the Faroe Islands at the time, but that they lack basic skills. He suggests that Faroese women should be educated in midwifery in Denmark – but it is uncertain whether this actually happened.
In the late 19th Century, several Faroese women went to Denmark to train in the midwifery profession. Back in the Faroes they were placed different islands and had their own districts of responsibility. In those days women gave birth at home, and the midwife had to be ready at all times to go to women who were about to deliver their babies. The infrastructure was not developed back then, and there are many harrowing stories of midwives, who have travelled over mountains or have been sailed across the sea in rain and sleet and snow storms. There are even stories of midwives, who were heavily pregnant themselves, but still had to go out in the storm to assist other women during childbirth.
In medieval Europe there was some form of organized nursing around the monasteries, where monks and nuns took care of the sick and infirm. The monasteries built a fairly extensive knowledge of nursing, but the purge of the monasteries during the Reformation in the sixteenth century was a major setback for nursing in the reformed countries.
During the time that followed, nursing was performed by uneducated women in the few hospitals, and it was not until the first half of the nineteenth century, that proper care of patients was organized. At that time the Deaconess Movement started in Germany, where mostly unmarried women from the bourgeoisie received lessons in patient care.
In 1860 the legendary Florence Nightingale created The Nightingale School in London, partly inspired by Deaconess Movement. This is considered as the foundation for the modern nurse training.
Concurrently with the development the medical science, the need for professionally trained nursing personnel arose. In the late nineteenth century they started to educate nurses in Denmark, and under pressure from, among others, The Danish Nurses Organization, founded in 1899, nursing was chartered in 1933.
The Faroe Islands followed the trend a little later than the Danish. After the Land-Surgeon, based in Tórshavn, for centuries had been the only medical officer in the Faroes, the first district medical officer was stationed on Suðuroy in 1852. In 1872 a doctor was stationed in Klaksvík and the Northern Islands, and in 1883 another one in Vestmanna, who was responsible for the Western Isles, Norðstreymoy and Norðeysturoy.
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Text: Anker Eli Petersen
Source Faroes Post