Washington University School of Medicine Oral History Project

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Surgical operation, Base Hospital 21
Levi H. Fuson operating on a patient at Base Hospital 21 in Rouen, France. The doors in the background led to the lab and X-ray departments. There were 5 operating tables in the room. The chief surgeon could direct multiple operating tables at one time, accommodating a large number of surgical cases. The operating room was staffed with three nurses who had charge of the preparation of instruments, dressings, and general supplies. When operating, each team had an orderly for its table to prepare the patient and to help throughout the operation. One of the three nurses in the operating room was a “sterile nurse,” who had the responsibility of distributing sterile instruments and dressings from a large general supply, preparing a table of these for each surgeon and making additions whenever necessary. The second nurse took the instruments after an operation and washed and put them into the sterilizer. The third nurse circulated, opening up new supplies and giving out such incidentals as were required by the surgeons. During one offensive, the unit averaged sixty operations a day. The Base Hospital 21 Surgical Service cared for almost 30,000 British and American wounded during its service in the First World War.