Historical information

The equipment items in this photograph are loaned out to Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) patient's to use in their homes. They are returned to RDNS and sterilized, or cleaned with disinfectant, whichever is appropriate, once they are no longer required. The material items are given to patient's as required. Many of these items are made and donated by RDNS Auxiliary members.


From its inception in 1885, the two Trained nurses (Nurses) of the Melbourne District Nursing Society (MDNS) worked in the now CBD, ie from Spencer Street to Spring Street and from Victoria Parade to Flinders Street. At that time they walked the streets and lane ways amid the slums of inner Melbourne carrying their nursing bags containing lotion, ointments, powders, liniment, bandages, dressings, a case of spirits, and the Nurse's own clean apron, soap and small towel. They supplied equipment on loan, such as earthenware hot water bottles, splints, urinals, bed pans, bed cradles, feeding mugs, and air-cushions as well as providing blankets and clean bed linen, and nightdresses and clothes as necessary.
The Society was at the forefront of health care and continued to liaise with Doctors as the Society expanded. The Nurses provided high quality nursing care to a range of people, often in destitute situations, some lying on rags on the floor as they had no bed, others with just a bed and maybe a thin blanket, a chair and nothing else. Their ages ranged from babes, children, adults to the elderly. The Nurses gave medications as ordered, dressed wounds e.g. to the injured, and surgical cases, and to those with leg ulcers; attended to patients with ‘surgical ailments’ such as ‘hip disease’; gave care to those with acute illnesses such as bronchitis, pleurisy, pneumonia, measles, and scarlet fever, as well as those with chronic illnesses such as consumption (tuberculosis), heart disease, arthritis, cancer, debility, neuritis and paralysis. They educated their patients, and their Carers, in the curing and prevention of disease;
Over the years items were given and equipment was loaned and demonstrated to patients, and if appropriate, to their family members to enable them to care for their loved ones in their homes. The Trained nurses had the rehabilitation of their patients in the forefront of their minds to ensure they were able to live as independently as possible in their own homes. As the years passed the Trained nurses changed from being called 'Nurse' to 'Sister' and the Society changed its name. In the 1970s, now with Royal patronage, and known as Royal District Nursing Service ( RDNS), they contracted a Private and then employed, a Physiotherapist who taught RDNS Sisters the correct transferring techniques, including the use of a hoist when this became available. RDNS Sisters taught and used these techniques in patient’s homes to undertake safe transfer of the patient and to reduce physical strain on RDNS nursing staff and family members. Each RDNS Centre had a room or shed where equipment for loan was kept, and Headquarters also kept additional equipment which could be transported to Centres as required.

Physical description

This black and white photograph shows some of the equipment loaned, along with some to be given, to Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) patients as required. Rear L-R - a white long nightdress with dark embroidery and buttons on the front and embroidery on the edge of the short sleeves. Next are two wooden bath seats; a square metal commode with lid and with its round legs extended to form handles on the left and right sides. A folded dark and white striped crocheted rug hangs over one of the handles. In the centre L-R, is a metal bed cradle, a metal 4 prong walking stick, bed pans, male urinal, stack of nappies with a white child's knitted jumper hanging over them, and a doona. In the front, L-R is a grey blanket, dark coloured bed socks, a sheepskin with a white smocked baby dress sitting on it, and a white babies nightgown on a clear plastic covered white bundle. A black mat sits under these items and a cream brick wall is in the background.

Inscriptions & markings

Barry Sutton LS 47