Today marks 107 years since the birth of Dame Kathleen Annie Raven (1910-1999), an influential nurse whose archive is held at Special Collections.

Kathleen Raven Report
MS 1721/3/4/1 Kathleen Raven Archive: Report on experimentation with various techniques in the prevention and treatment of pressure sores. Image courtesy of The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

The new Kathleen Raven Archive catalogue was launched earlier this year, and we’re pleased to announce that parts of the collection have been digitised and are now available online. This digitisation was supported by the AHRC project Exploring Histories and Futures of Innovation in Advanced Wound Care at the University of Leeds.

The digitisation focused on items related to the treatment of wounds and skin in the collection. This has included a number of Raven’s notebooks from her period of nurse training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which have gone online for the first time. These cover various medical-related topics, such as dietetics, surgery, gynaecology, obstetrics and midwifery, as well as a focus on skin.

Kathleen Raven's notebooks
MS 1721/2/2, 4: Lecture notebooks written by Kathleen Raven during her nurse training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Image credit: Leeds University Library

In addition to the notebooks, we digitised documents from a project experimenting with methods for treating pressure sores, undertaken by Raven during her time as Matron at the Leeds General Infirmary.

The experiment ran at the Infirmary between July 1956 and August 1957. They investigated whether applying new barrier creams, rather than the usual practice of a soap and water massage, would help better prevent pressure sores in patients. They found that it was the frequent turning of the patients which had the most impact, rather than any particular topical cream.

Pressure ulcers are still a common healthcare problem today, and can be severely debilitating or even lead to life-threatening complications.

Explore the digitised items in the Kathleen Raven Archive

Some of these items, and other material in Special Collections relating to the history of nursing and wound care, will be on display at the upcoming event Nurses on the Frontline of wound care: from Passchendaele to pressure ulcers. It is being held on Friday 17th November, and will commemorate the life of the nurse Nellie Spindler during Stop Pressure Ulcer Week.

The event has been organised as a partnership between the University of Leeds and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and is supported by funds from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Trust and Gateways to the First World War.