We are going to take our first side trip from our main medical references series and concentrate on a particular specialty area we’ll call prepper nursing. Notice the small ‘n’ rather than capital ‘N’. This is the manner of care that anyone from Grandmother Mabel to Karl the Mechanic can and will be expected to provide for a loved one or a hunting buddy should the need arise. This is not about Nursing as a career avocation but rather nursing for the benefit of family or fellow man during times of duress. It is for ongoing rather than strictly short-term care, such as a medic would provide.

Granted, nursing care is not as sexy as field surgery or combat care, but even in those scenarios there is going to be follow-on care required. Despite what we would like to believe from PAW fiction we are not going to just ‘walk off’ a broken leg with the aid of a SAM splint and paracord.

Unlike the provision of First Aid, nursing care is what follows while the patient heals from whatever malady or injury causes them to require treatment to begin with. In simple terms, it is the provision of bedside care and assistance, as differentiated from occasional ‘clinic’ visits from a walking patient who can otherwise care for themselves and who only requires a dressing change or similarly quick care.

The following references will help to guide and educate you for when the time comes to provide ongoing steady care for persons affected by illness or injury. They are recommended for people with no formal nursing training, but would also benefit anyone who is otherwise trained as a medic, i.e. for short-term but not long-term care. By steady care I am referring to a period of days and perhaps weeks, instead of the hours a medic is expected to perform.

Before we proceed, though, I have a major caveat to offer once more: some of the recommended works are out of print. Needless to say the expected response is “then why bother to tout them?” For the simple reason that they happen at this time to be in this author’s opinion the best that can be had until something better comes along. All can still be found with a bit of digging but with the passing of future years the certainty grows less. If they can be found all the better. If not, adapt, improvise and overcome.

Throughout this series I have and will continue to recommend only works that I have personally laid hands on and studied. Not everything I have gathered will ever be recommended. In fact most will not. I get that some readers will have their preferences over mine, but I will ask in return: have you studied those I offer for consideration before you make that assessment? There is a better than even chance that I may have already seen yours and found it wanting for MY purposes. YOURS may of course differ.

Remember, we are addressing ‘prepper’ rather than career nursing. Modern nursing manuals are 90% useless for what we want to learn because they rely on a functioning modern system with all its electronics and multiple ancillary services. They also rely on formally trained doctors making a diagnosis we can then develop a care plan around. They are all about disease process and theory, and offer very little in the way of hands-on practical skills absent a functioning modern hospital. In the absence of such, we have to rely on our wits and what knowledge we can gain from pre-event resources and otherwise pick up along the way.

I am hoping that by this series of reference articles I can assist the reader is determining what level of care they wish to A) train to and B) provide. I make the distinction because they are not one and the same. For example I have training up to and including critical care, but absent a fully functioning system I will be very hard pressed to provide that level despite my training and experience. But I can still whip together a fairly decent clinic or small field hospital and provide competent basic care using what I have.

One thing many people overlook when considering living in a grid-down world is that we may well return for a time to the circuit-riding doctor, a practice not that far removed from what was offered not all that long ago in certain parts of the world, and may still be in some nations. The doctor or other advanced care provider may come, make a diagnosis, prescribe as circumstance allows, and even perform surgery or another procedure, but after that it will be up to the local populace to provide the ongoing care in the doctor’s absence as they ride off to their next visit.

The References

The Ship’s Captain’s Medical Guide – published by Her Majesty’s Stationary Office.

I have from the beginning cautioned against electronic-only references and still do. Unfortunately, sometimes that is the only practical means of acquiring some materials. This is one of them, unless you’d like to dig out an address over in jolly old England to order a hard copy from. The US has their own version of this, but it suffers from a paucity of illustrations, unlike the British version. In my view, it is amateurish and doesn’t hold a candle to what the Brits have done with theirs. National pride aside I’ll recommend the better work.

This link will take you directly to Chapter 3, which is the nursing chapter. There are 18 pages to download and print off so it won’t break the bank as far as the costs. The information is straightforward, does not require a medical dictionary to translate, and doesn’t end with the advice to establish a ship-to-shore link for further guidance. It is a guide intended to enable untrained sea dogs to provide basic ongoing care. As it so happens it’ll also be of aid to Karl as well.

The Survival Nurse: Running an Emergency Nursing Station Under Adverse Conditions by Ragnar Benson

To date this is the only manual written for prepper-style nursing care. Unfortunately it is out of print, with what copies still remaining being bought up rather quickly. Amazon still had a few left but the publisher has closed its doors so those may be the last easily found. If you run across a copy at a show snag it. If you run across several contact me. Ragnar’s book is good at addressing general concepts, but very weak in actual how-to. Consider it to be a guide to further consideration and otherwise a general outline. He does address things like laundry, feeding, environment, etc. that people normally only think of in passing ahead of time, if at all.

Note: I have in the past seen a pdf copy running around on the ‘net but could not find a working link at the time this was written. Should anyone find it…

Nurse’s Illustrated Handbook of Home Health Procedures

Regrettably this is another out-of-print recommendation. Used copies can be located through Amazon resellers and reputable used book dealers like Abe Books and others. Well worth having if you can find a copy. A decently-illustrated work intended for inexperienced nurses. Injection guides, how to measure vital signs, how to administer medications such as eye drops or medications through a stomach tube, use a humidifier and more. It goes well beyond mere lifting and turning. It would take too much space to list the common tasks this book can teach that a nursing aid manual cannot.

American Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training Textbook

Choosing the example of the infamous through-and-through thigh wound so often used in PAW fiction stories (second in occurrence only to shoulder wounds) the actual care that will be required for the recovery period consists of much more than a packet of Qwik-Clot, an improvised crutch and a few Ibuprofen. There will be bed confinement in between ambulation exercises and assistance required for hygiene issues. And this is before we get to the ongoing wound care, nutritional concerns, medications, etc.

There are various and sundry Certified Nursing Aid manuals on the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For our purposes this one will suffice nicely and at a much lower cost. We aren’t concerned with the rules and regulations that govern the provision of (paid for) in home health services, so let’s stick to the basic mechanics.

Expedition Home – Journey to Safety From Pandemic Influenza: The Use of Preventive Quarantine by Skip Hofstrand, MD, PhD

This is an amazing little book that recommends the return of the old-time quarantine treatment for addressing pandemic illness. If anything exists as a modern replacement for Ragnar’s Survival Nurse work this is it.

The intent is to have a plan for the small town resident, homesteader or prepper to follow upon the arrival of the inevitable flu pandemic. (That will be the subject of a future article) It also works equally well for most other sweeping infectious diseases that have historically plagued Mankind, such as Cholera, Whooping Cough and many more. The only acute shortcoming with this book is that it does not teach the hands-on aspect of care, only the why and general principals, while offering much food for thought. Hofstrand does offer some helps such as basic recipes for nutritious foods that also keep in mind the later consequences of consuming same, and which are easy to digest. I offer the caveat that after a couple of weeks of same your cravings for even a simple McDonald’s hamburger will be overwhelming.

The good news is that Amazon stocks this item for under $10/copy. Despite the author’s intent to address only a specific disease situation for quarantine the concepts can very easily be transferred to other instances that do not otherwise require isolating the patient from the rest of the family/compound/community.

Wrap Up

Our journey to medical preparedness will take time, just like preparing for homesteading, combat operations, or even graduation from high school. Previously we covered basic and intermediate medical references that can both teach and supplement that teaching. Today we are combining those tools with others which are narrower in scope in order that we might prepare ourselves for an inevitable situation from whatever cause that will require a new set of skills to address properly. Anyone, no matter their primary occupation, can learn to provide the type of basic bedside care that will aid greatly in helping a child with croup, a spouse with an attack of diverticulitis, or a buddy affected by an errant projectile.


Reasonable Rascal has been plaguing the internet since 1997 and refuses to go away despite years of jeers. He began his medical career using all the skills the Boy Scouts could teach him and eventually found his way into a more formal career as a Paramedic and Registered Nurse. He is one of the authors of Survival and Austere Medicine, 3rd Edition, available here at American Partisan at no cost in e-book format.

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