Working in a ‘World of Hurt’. Nursing and Medical Care Following Facial Injury During World War One
This article aims to explore the impact of facial injury on British military personnel during the First World War. It focuses primarily on the Queen's Hospital, Sidcup, which became the First World War’s major centre for maxillo-facial and plastic surgery in the UK, and considers some of the ethical dilemmas that medical and nursing personnel encountered. It focuses primarily on nursing care, as although the role of nurses in the First World War has been increasingly acknowledged and examined, the contribution of nurses to the devel-opment of this new specialism has hitherto been largely unexplored. It finds that although pioneering surgery and nursing care helped to restore men’s faces, many had to adjust to a much-altered body image as well as physical impairments that affected them for the rest of their lives. They often had to endure a series of oper¬ations and spend many months in hospital. There is no clear evidence of the long-term outcomes for the men who underwent treatment, due to a paucity of sources, which enables only tentative conclusions to be drawn. While tales of depression and withdrawal are often recounted, alternative narratives can be found of men who went on to live contented lives and find fulfilling work. The aftercare for these men, within the context of the development of social welfare, will also be examined. Among the ethical dilemmas that faced medical and nursing staff were those experienced across medical specialities in this and other wars; specifically that they had to conform to military discipline and that in restoring men’s health they also enabled their patients to be sent back to battle. Added to this was that maxillo-facial surgery was often experimental, as new tech¬niques were attempted but were not always successful.
First World War
European Journal for Nursing History and Ethics