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Public Hygiene Museum (Madrid, Spain)


The Health Care and Public Hygiene Museum of Spain

Ramón Navarro y García1
1Profesor emérito y exconservador del Museo de Sanidad e Higiene Pública de España, Madrid, España

Mail delivery: Instituto de Salud Carlos III.C/ Sinesio Delgado nº 6, 28029 Madrid, España

Manuscript accepted by 2.4.2008

Temperamentvm 2008; 7




How to cite this document

Navarro y García, Ramón. The Health Care and Public Hygiene Museum of Spain. Temperamentvm 2008, 7. In </temperamentum/tn7/t7081.php> Consulted




    The Health Care and Public Hygiene Museum of the Health Care Institute 'Carlos III', in Madrid, aims to provide a representation of the History of Health Care in Spain based on a chronological iconographic sequence.

It is important that health care professionals acquire both professional and historical knowledge. In other words, it is essential that health care professionals learn where they come from in order to understand where they are heading to.

Health Care has evolved throughout centuries, expanding its boundaries and acquiring responsibilities. However, from a legal/official point of view, Health care is actually relatively young. The first Health Care Law in Spain was given in 1855 in order to regulate sea Health Care (also known as Exterior Health Care). Concretely, this law was designed to avoid importing pestilent and quarantine-required diseases from abroad, namely plague and yellow fever. Eleven years later, in 1866, cholera was added to this list. Later on, smallpox, typhoid fever, recurrent fever and lice were also added up to the previous contagious processes (the last three diseases have now been removed by the International Health Care Regulation).

The second Health Care Law was the Law of General Health Care Instruction of 1904, which was designed to organise Home Health Care. It not only structured the medical professions, namely doctors, practicantes and midwives but also tackled the area of hygiene and prostitution.

The third Health Care Law was the Law of Health Care Bases of 1944, which gave regulations for socially-significant diseases including tuberculosis, malaria and diseases with high children mortality.

The fourth and most recent one was the General Law of Health Care of 1986, which regulated the National Health Service in Spain.

Separately from official Health Care laws, which dealt with prevention and not treatment, the Health Insurance (1942) and the Social Insurance (1963) regulated health care in relation to disease treatment. Citizens with limited economic resources (poor) were looked after by Beneficence (1822-1972).

For this reason, the Health Care and Public Hygiene Museum, which has been qualified by the press as "A Monument to Health Care", does not contain much material on Medicine or Nursing, apart from those specialities related to Preventative Medicine and Public Health (National Health Care Medics, Health Care Instructors, Disinfectors, etc.).

However, there are plenty of graphics, photos and other documents about the History of Nursing including:


1350. Nursing in a medieval hospital.


1409. F. Jofre created the first home for humanitarian treatment of mentally ill patients in Valencia. He is considered as the first psychiatric nurse of the Western world.


1526. J.L. Vives insisted on the necessity of looking after the poor and needy. He is considered as the founder of Beneficence.


1537. Saint Juan de Dios, founder of professional Nursing from a vocational point of view. He also created the religious Order of S. Juan de Dios.


1634. Saint Vicente Paul, founder of the Order of Sisters of Charity.


1803. Balmis' philanthropist expedition to introduce vaccines in India, including Isabel Sendales, first officially appointed nurse responsible for children; two assistant nurses accompanied her (A. Pastor, B. Bolaños y P. Ortega).


1896. Florence Nightingale, founder of modern Nursing and promoter of institutional hygienic practices (barracks, hospitals, etc.).


1899. Dr. Rubio y Gali founded the Instituto de Técnica Operatoria and the first Spanish Nursing School, Santa Isabel de Hungria.


1911. A disinfector-nurse carries out fumigations.


1922. Queen Victoria-Eugenia appears wearing the uniform of the Ladies of the Red Cross.


1923. Creation of the National Childrearing School in order to train both doctors and nurses.


1934. Creation of the School of Health Care Instructors in order to train Public Health-specialised nurses.


Prof. Pittaluga appointed first Director of the School of Health Care Instructors.


1938. Creation of FET de las JONS nurses in order to provide support to military nurses and Red Cross nurses during the Spanish Civil War.


Dr. Fernández Turégano, appointed Director of the School of Health Care Instructors (1940-1962).


Dr. Rico-Avello, appointed Director of the School of Health Care Instructors (1962-1977).


1943. Class graduation photograph of the third promotion of Instructors of the Patronato Nacional Antituberculoso.


1948. BCG vaccination campaign carried out by Instructor-Nurses of the Patronato Nacional Antituberculoso.


1957. Nurses look after patients in iron lungs.


1957. Development of the area of Rehabilitation which opens great possibilities for nurses. This speciality was firstly developed by physiotherapy.


1958. Dr. N. Perales promotes Occupational Health with both doctors and ATSs with a specialisation in Occupational Health.


1972. Dr. Serigó Segarra creates the first School of Mental Health-specialised ATSs.


Dummy dressed in the uniform of Health Care Instructors.

There is also plenty of material about Nursing, Sterilisation, Disinfection, etc. In addition, the museum's library includes titles such as "El Código Enfermero Español. Siglo XX: Compendio Legislativo", edited by the Instituto Carlos III and written by the Spanish nurse Dr. Carlos Álvarez Nebreda.

From this Museum and as an Emeritus Professor of the National Health Care School I would like to offer one last reflection on Nursing in Spain.

Apart from Nursing, few professions have experienced such a rapid development in such a short period of time; possibly IT or Astronautic. In less than one century, since the issuing of the Order of 7th May 1915, which regulated the Nursing Curriculum in Spain, Nursing has evolved from an Auxiliary profession (which none or little technical training) to a University Degree (1977) with several approved specialisations including Midwifery, Mental Health, Geriatrics, Occupational Health, Medical-Surgical Care, District Nursing and Paediatrics (2005), as well as a significant number of complex procedures (dressings, bandaging, iv canulation and therapy, surgical procedures, blood transfusion, gas treatment, dialyses, endoscopies, etc.).

Nursing has successively absorbed the professions of Ministrante (1846), Practicante and Midwifery (1857), and Health Care Technical Assistants (1953). In addition, it has contributed to generate related positions including Clinical Support Workers and Orderlies, Laboratory Specialists, X-Ray Technicians and Pathologic Anatomy. Physiotherapy became a separate profession in 1980.

Finally, nurses have recently gained access to Master level and soon to PhD studies, which will give them open access to the largely neglected areas of Research and University Teaching.

In addition, it cannot be forgotten that, from a social point of view as well as from the patient's perspective, good nursing care is as essential as medical care, both of them necessarily aiming at achieving excellence.

Congratulations to all Spanish Nurses and keep cruising right along!

For more information about the Museum see: <http://www.isciii.es/htdocs/centros/ens/museo_visita.jsp>.

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