Conference Agenda

3D: Religion in Twentieth Century Hospitals
Wednesday, 08/Sept/2021:
1:30pm - 2:45pm

Session Chair: Prof. Kaat Wils, KU Leuven


Lay and religious nurses in the hospitals of central Europe, 1918-38: Complementary or competing?

Doyle, Barry Michael

University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom

Until the twentieth century almost all nursing in Europe was undertaken by people drawn from religious orders. However, following laws in France to exclude religion from public life and more general moves toward the professionalization of nursing led from the Anglophone world, an increasing numbers of hospitals sought to replace the religieuse with lay sisters. Drawing on local records, reports from the Rockefeller Foundation staff in Europe, especially Frances Crowell, and medical journals, like Nosokomeion, this paper will explore emergence of lay nursing in the successor states of central Europe formed in 1918, especially Czechoslovakia and Poland.

The paper will provide a brief assessment of the role of religious nurses in these states before examining the beginnings of lay nursing in the region. This will include consideration of the part played by the Rockefeller Foundation and other NGOs in developing training programmes and facilities. It will explore the conflicts and compromises that emerged as hospitals sought to introduce lay nurses and the development of courses for religious sisters. Finally it will trace the increasing integration of trained lay nurses across the interwar period, highlighting problems caused by the weakness of health finance in the region. Overall, it will conclude that a significant range of barriers prevented the transition of nursing from religious to lay control but in the process peaceful coexistence emerged as women from orders increasingly received the same training, in the same classes, as the lay staff, leading to the professionalization of services in the region.

From Re-foundation to Decline: A Century of the Catholic Church Hospitals Spain



From a long-term perspective, the presentation analyses the contribution of the Catholic Church to the Spanish Hospital System from the 1880s, when the first Spanish children's hospital (San Rafael, Barcelona) was created, until the 1980s, when the Hospital System changed because Public Administration transferred the healthcare competences to the Regional Governments (Autonomous Communities) and a new General Health Law (1986) was approved.

In Spain, after the processes of confiscation of the Church's properties, throughout the 19th century, hospitals with Ecclesiastical dependency disappeared. The new hospitals that re-emerged in the 1880s incorporated scientific innovations and medical specialization that were developing at that time. And, although with an interruption during the period of the Second Republic and the Civil War (1932-1939), over the years, the Catholic Church maintained an important role in some sectors of the Health System through a good number of mainly urban and specialized hospitals (Surgical, Maternity, Children's, Psychiatric, Hospital-asylums, etc.). We also present the analysis of the reduction of the number of hospital beds that depended on the Church that occurred in the 1980s, when the contribution of these hospitals to the entire Hospital System dropped from 17% of all the beds, in 1963, to 7.5%, in 1986 (Leon-Sanz, 2018).