Healing, in its fullest sense, consists of both curing and caring, doctoring and nursing. The old lay healers of an earlier time had combined both functions, and were valued for both. (For example, midwives not only presided at the delivery, but lived in until the new mother was ready to resume care of her children.) But with the development of scientific medicine, and the modern medical profession, the two functions were split irrevocably. Curing became the exclusive province of the doctor; caring was relegated to the nurse. All credit for the patient’s recovery went to the doctor and his “quick fix,” for only the doctor participated in the mystique of Science. The nurse’s activities, on the other hand, were barely distinguishable from those of a servant. She had no power, no magic, and no claim to the credit.
Doctoring and nursing arose as complementary functions, and the society which defined nursing as feminine could readily see doctoring as intrinsically “masculine.” If the nurse was idealized Woman, the doctor was idealized Man – combining intellect and action, abstract theory and hard-headed pragmatism. The very qualities which fitted Woman for nursing barred her from doctoring, and vice versa. Her tenderness and innate spirituality were out of place in the harsh, linear world of science. His decisiveness and curiosity made him unfit for long hours of patient nurturing.