I enjoy reading a good book, and it looks like this nurse does, too. I found a book on eBay that made my heart gallop with glee when it was delivered to my postal mailbox. It was the ultimate handbook for nurses who were preparing for their state boards back in 1929. The book is full of tricks of the trade from the turn of the century. It’s entitled State Board Questions and Answers for Nurses, Being the Actual Questions Submitted at the Examinations of 31 State Examining Boards For Nurses, With Answers. It was compiled and edited by John A. Foote, M.D., and it was published by J. B. Lippincott Company. The previous owner, Miss Estey C. Cox, a student nurse at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, wrote notes about her days as a nursing student throughout the book. In the chapter about psychiatric nursing, she wrote, “Hardest of all. More power to me.” Some things never change.

I’ve read this entire book and I have concluded that I would have failed the boards. But really, did you know that the active ingredient of Dover’s Power was opium and that Fowler’s Solution was made from arsenic? And I bet none of your nursing instructors taught you how to give your patient a sulfur bath, or how to prepare a cream enema. I’m sure that this young nurse knew all of that stuff. Doesn’t she look confident? I bet she could have answered this question from the book:

As a district nurse, how would you give a sweat-bath with dry heat in the patient’s home?


To give this bath, a small alcohol lamp will be required, also several blankets, rubber sheeting, ice-cap, towels, a piece of stovepipe elbow and, if procurable, a piece of asbestos. Place a rubber sheet covered with a blanket under the patient, remove patient’s gown, place several chairs over patient to form a cradle for the blankets, place a blanket covered by a rubber sheet well over these chairs, standing well below patient’s feet and up to his chin and coming well down on either side so that a closed chamber will be formed. Arrange lighted lamp on chair beside the bed, place stove-pipe elbow over the lamp and let the other end pass under the blanket near one of the chairs, about three or four inches over patient’s feet, being careful not to leave the blanket over the opening of the pipe. Tuck the blankets around the patient so as to leave no opening and place a towel between the blankets and patient’s neck. Wrap asbestos or a wet towel around the end of the pipe as it passes under the blankets and fasten blankets about the pipe in an airtight manner.

Place ice-cap on patient’s head, and thermometer, if obtainable, in an accessible place under the blankets. The temperature should be 130-150 degrees F. Holy cow! An alcohol lamp and flames near bed linens? Asbestos? I wonder what JCAHO would think. I enjoy learning these old fashion tricks of the trade. This is just one question out of my 582 page book, so be looking for more test questions soon.