The Operating Theatre Technician
The Needs of the Times
During the Great War of 1914-18, Thousands of casualties were evacuated to the UK from the field hospitals close to the battlefield areas of the Flanders fields.
The English hospitals were working flat out, especially in the surgical wings, to cope with the workload. There were not enough box boys or Beadle as most had volunteered, or were recruited into the Armed Forces.
So female “nurses” (there was not much in the way of formal training, as you would see today, just on the job training) were recruited in great numbers to fill the gaps. The nurses coped with the workload of the hospitals on the mainland, in the theatres and on the wards.
The belief was, prior to the Great War, that Operating theatres were not seen as a pleasant place for women to work. The establishment at pre-war Britain felt that women working in such a bloody and cruel environment would not be able to cope with the stress, the blood and the heavy workload.
It however turned out that the women coped quite well, the WW1 women was used to hard work and suffering. As regards with the physical aspect of the job, they managed because all the theatre team generally helped out with the patient transfers and other heavy work.
It was the case then that all the fears that were put in place were as a result of the “Pre-anaesthesia” thinking, but the humane methods used now, (Anaesthesia) to prevent pain with also the use of porters to help move patients was to nullify this argument.
It was this success that nurses claimed in coping with the workload of the war wounded and dealing with the duties previously undertaken by the men who led the hospitals to abandon their preconceived ideas and keep them on post war.
At the end of the war, the returning soldiers found it hard to return to their jobs as some like the Beadles ceased to exist in the operating theatre, (most were given porter Jobs but were still called Beadles up until the early 70s) and most of the theatre places were filled by nurses.
There where vast changes made to the way theatres were run, instrumentation had altered to suit the needs of the specially. The way patients were looked after post op changed. In short, nurses were seen to cope very well without the Beadles, Box Boys and assistants post war. The Beadles continued in some hospitals as head Porter.