Fear of Infection, Getting Job Done: Not New to Nurses

Quarantine, isolation: medical terms heavy with accreted meanings (psychological, metaphorical). Terms we’ve been hearing a lot lately, as in the case of nurse Kaci Hickox, quarantined in a tent in New Jersey after her return from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, released today after days of public controversy.

These words have vivid histories. Epidemics of polio, influenza, and other illnesses took many lives in the U.S. during the 20th century. And nurses were always there, taking risks, applying the latest knowledge to control or cure. In the April 1940 edition of the American Journal of Nursing, a nurse wrote a short but evocative essay about her own fears of entering an isolation room to treat a child with an unnamed condition, perhaps measles or scarlet fever. Here’s a snippet.


(One wonders if she had been given the recommended personal protective equipment of the time for such infections . . .)

To read the article, free until December 1, click this link and then click through to the PDF version in the upper-right corner of the landing page.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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2016-11-21T13:03:38+00:00 October 27th, 2014|Nursing|3 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Jacob Molyneux October 28, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Absolutely…one reason we liked this article was its honesty about the fear a person can have, and about overcoming that fear to do a job. In the same issue of AJN from 1940, there were some more clinical articles examining isolation procedures, infection control, etc.

  2. christianliving2014 October 27, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    We should be grateful for the risks nurse’s and doctors take everyday.

  3. johanna October 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Nurses are people too.
    Everyday they put themselves at risk for others…their back, their immune system and their sanity.
    Please respect the decisions of these people who care for others everyday!
    Understand the implications of your judgements!
    Be supportive and understanding. Everyone is different. The risk and cost is different for everyone!
    There are individuals who would jump at the opportunity-and those are the ones for the job.

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

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