1947: The first male district nurse


At the end of World War II, men returning home from the services with medical training were demobbed and recruited to fill peacetime positions in the health service.   

In 1947 an experiment was conducted. Four men, dubbed the 'early pioneers', were selected to be trained as District Nurses.  They nursed only male patients and did not wear a uniform, changing into a white jacket when in the patient’s home.  At first, the lack of uniform led them to being seen as insurance agents, meter readers, or even intruders.

The scheme proved to be successful and male district nurses became an established part of the profession, taking on a full range of duties and having an official uniform.


  'Doing his rounds on a bicycle'   (c)  TopFoto

'Doing his rounds on a bicycle'

(c) TopFoto


'Setting out on home visits'

(c) TopFoto


'Helping new mothers with their childcare and powdering a baby's bottom is all part of the service'

- Original caption, 1947


'Greeted at the door by one of his patients'

(c) TopFoto


  'Giving an injection to an elderly patient'   (c)  TopFoto

'Giving an injection to an elderly patient'

(c) TopFoto


  'Giving an injection to an elderly female patient'   (c)  TopFoto

'Giving an injection to an elderly female patient'

(c) TopFoto


  'Giving a male patient a bed bath'   (c)  TopFoto

'Giving a male patient a bed bath'

(c) TopFoto


'Before setting off on their home visits these district nurses are briefed by the senior nurses and for the first time they are joined by a male colleague'

(c) TopFoto


'Stocking up on his medical dressings and other equipment, before setting off on his home visits'

(c) TopFoto


'Greeted at the door by one of his patients'

(c) TopFoto


'Washing and dressing leg ulcers on an elderly male patient'

(c) TopFoto


  'Relaxing with a cup of tea and a piece of cake this lone male district nurse gets to know his female nursing colleagues in the newly implemented National Health Service'    ( c)  TopFoto

'Relaxing with a cup of tea and a piece of cake this lone male district nurse gets to know his female nursing colleagues in the newly implemented National Health Service'

(c) TopFoto



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 Text and curation: Amanda Uren



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