Who am I?
Rebecca Strong was a pioneering nurse. Born Rebecca Thorogood on the 23 August 1843 in London, she married and had a daughter before the age of 20. Widowed at a very young age, Strong decided to go into nursing and was accepted as a probationer at the Nightingale Training School which had started in 1860 at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. In 1868, following her training, she gained nursing experience at Winchester and at the British Army hospital at Netley, being appointed matron of the
Dundee Royal Infirmary, in 1874.
I am monumental because...
In 1879 Mrs Strong was appointed matron at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the largest voluntary hospital in Scotland. Attracted by the challenge, when she arrived in Glasgow she was shocked to find how backward the Infirmary appeared in relation to its nurses. She devoted her energies to improving nurse education and training and working conditions. With the support of Glasgow surgeon Sir William Macewen, Rebecca Strong initiated the ‘block
apprenticeship’ training programme, later adopted world-wide. Short periods of instruction in the hospital school were followed by periods of practice on the wards. This was a great improvement on previous nurse instruction whereby nurses were expected to attend lectures and study while still working long hours on the wards.
Why is my work important today?
Strong elevated nursing to the status of a profession. In 1942 the Mrs Strong medal in medical nursing was established at Glasgow Royal Infirmary to commemorate the pioneer work.
The pioneer Preliminary Training School was opened in January 1893 under an arrangement between Glasgow Royal Infirmary and St Mungo’s Medical College. She also worked for the improvement of the social life of nurses and was the moving spirit, along with Macewen, in the opening of a club for them in Glasgow in 1918.
Strong was awarded the O.B.E. in 1939 and celebrated her 100th Birthday on 23 August 1943. She died almost exactly a year later, on 24 April 1944.
Information Courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Find out more:
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has letters, photographs and pamphlets relating to the work of Rebecca Strong. Further information can be found on their blog:
Rebecca Strong (2nd right) and Sir William Macewen (centre) at Glasgow
Royal Infirmary c.1900. © Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.