The important and prominent role of medicine and medical care permeates the history of modern civilization. From our impressions of the history of the ancient world, Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures, The Middle (Dark) Ages of Europe and our modern civilization, the course of societal development has been greatly affected by the presence of ill health and disease and the absence of contemporary adequate personal and public health sources.
Often the presence of the Healing Arts in a society has included the role of a leader which has evolved into the role of physician in the last several centuries, but often a more important factor has been the assistive leadership, knowledgeable skills, and caring abilities of the nursing profession. Beginning in many aspects as a devoted profession of religious societies of nuns ("sisters"), evolutionary history of the profession now presents it as a vital part of modern medical practice. A recently prominent book and PBS television series depicts this reality in a dramatically realistic manner.
Contemporary historical and experiential literature, especially personal life stories or autobiographies, often give us a depth of history, knowledge, and realism about a specific time period, geographic area or occupation. An example of such literature is the book "Call the Midwife" and its related television dramatizations of the experiences of its author, former midwife and district nurse Jennifer Worth.
Jennifer Lee Worth (1935-2011) encapsulated her early professional nursing life as a practitioner of midwifery (Obstetrics) and District Nursing (Public Health Nursing) in a series of books "Call the Midwife" and "Call the Midwife" trilogy. Mrs. Worth's career and life's adventures are remarkable. Born and educated in Redding, England, southwest of London, she went to London to study midwifery and then worked in the East End of London, the area of "Jack the Ripper," The Elephant Man," and the Kray Twins. In 1973, she followed her passion and became a professional musician, wife, and mother. In response to recognition of the lack of information and appreciation of the nursing profession and its literature by the public, she documented her life and work in these books before her death in 2011.
From a medical aspect, the television series was dramatic and entertaining. However, her book is a real joy to experience because it vividly depicts the life of the East Enders of the London Docks in post-World War II London with its culture and related life crises. Characterized by poverty, isolation, and dire living conditions, many of the medical and societal conditions are unpleasant and chilling to read, but one is impressed by the positive aspects of the area realized by Mrs. Worth - and the reader. This book of life experiences should present medical and societal challenges of perception and expectations of our modern society.