hospital corners

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hospital corners

Post by Archived Topic » Wed Jun 23, 2004 1:41 am

does anyone know who first developed the phrase "hospital corners" to describe the way in which bedsheet corners are tucked under a mattress?
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 1:56 am

Random House Unabridged Dictionary: HOSPITAL CORNER. a fold on a bed sheet or blanket made by tucking the foot or head of the sheet straight under the mattress with the ends protruding and then making a diagonal fold at the side corner of the sheet and tucking this under to produce a triangular corner.
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OED: a way of tucking in sheets used by nurses
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Everyone from computer jockeys, to engineers, to businessmen, to common folk like to use ‘hospital corners’ figuratively – crisp, sharp, everything proper and according to specs. Nurses and military types, however, often have to employ them literally. Some also claim that anal retentives do them compulsively (I can visualize it. Every sheet in every home, tent, and lean-to that Martha Stewart owns has them!!).

When I was in Army basic training in 1964 we had to do them, but they were never called ‘hospital corners.’ If done properly and ‘tight,’ during an inspection, your sergeant would be able to drop a quarter on your olive drab, wool, military issue blanket and watch it BOUNCE (a.k.a., ‘bounce quarters off your bunk’ – a praiseworthy achievement!).

I’ve done a pretty decent search looking for early usage, and I have the feeling that it might go back to before WW II (maybe older), but have found nothing to confirm that.

The problem I’m having is, that all the quotes I see are from NOW or near now (e.g. nurses, soldiers, former campers, etc. in the last 2 or 3 decades) talking about ‘hospital corners’ way back WHEN or THEN. All just seem to be describing what they did or saw in days of old, and I think POSSIBLY with a phrase that they may not have learned until much later on. What I looked for and couldn’t find were any THEN THENs. False memories (mine too) and the use of anachronisms of this kind are common – see Homer’s supposed use of the phrase ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ back when there were no barrels and no guns (I did shoot down bows also), under posting #2740.
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Typical of this problem are the following:

Oldest reference that I found, was from an oral history of an older British man entitled ‘I Was Born in a Workhouse’ describing his daily routine in the period 1939-1943: ‘Also used to have to make thirty-six beds per boy before breakfast. If they didn’t have HOSPITAL CORNERS on them when they were finished and made up ready for a patient to get in, the whole lot, not one, would be stripped off and you did them again. Now if you hadn’t finished by the time the breakfast bell went, you never had any breakfast.’
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From a family genealogy: ‘During World War Two, she also did her bit by making beds in the local hospital. It must have been then that she learned how to do ‘hospital corners’ a skill that has been passed down to the current generation. She died at home at 6.00 a.m. on 28 January 1977 of a cerebral vascular accident and hypertension.’
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‘National Review,’ April 2000. ‘The Ph.D. With the Lamp’: ‘My mother would have been shocked, though not surprised. She was a nurse herself — a professional Registered Nurse in England — for her whole working life. She had trained in English hospitals in the early 1940s, under a regime something like a U.S. Marines boot camp. Discipline was tremendous. In part this was due to the senior nurses having done their own training on the battlefields of WWI. (See Vera Britain’s Testament of Youth for insight into what this involved.) All bed linen was bleached, starched and changed daily. Daily inspections of the wards were carried out like a military parade: For example, all the open ends of the pillow cases had to be facing the same way. Sheets and blankets had to be tucked in with precise HOSPITAL CORNERS, somewhat similar to the technique used in wrapping a parcel — I still do "hospital corners" myself when making a bed. "Sister Tutors" — the senior nurses in charge of training — were objects of terror; house surgeons expected to be, and were, regarded with reverential awe. Trainee nurses lived in a residential block known as "Virgin Villas," guarded by unblinking concierges . . . and so on.
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Good Girl Magazine (2002): Other women I've asked say they learned housekeeping from their mothers. Not always willingly, and certainly not graciously, but they did learn. They learned to separate their whites and colours, to make a bed with HOSPITAL CORNERS, cook Grandma's roast chicken or Aunt Emma's peach crumble.
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Military and military-type manuals are loaded with references to hospital corners, but all the manuals that I found which use it are of recent vintage. Some old manuals which I saved from my Army days, do tell you how to do just about everything – from which way to point your shaving brush for inspections (even though we all used the aerosol can, we had to own a brush because that’s what the picture in our manual showed), to just about how to wipe your rear end. However, they said nothing about hospital corners. Typical of more recent manuals are:

Colorado Wing Civil Air Patrol Cadet Encampment Guide - 6.3 HOSPITAL CORNERS. Grasp the side of the sheet approximately 12 inches from head/foot. Lay it on top of the bed. Tuck remaining loose sheet under the mattress. Tuck the remaining sheet under the mattress without changing shape.
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Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets Manual: Room Cleanliness, Beds: Are made according to regulations, with proper HOSPITAL CORNERS and linen measurements. . . .
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An Unabridged Unofficial Dictionary for Marines – Hospital Corners: A method of making a rack where the top blanket is squared off at the corners leaving one 45 degree angle on each corner. The procedure allows the blanket to be tucked under making it straight and tight.
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To sum up: I have not been able to find any usage of the phrase that was not of relatively recent vintage. Better GOOGLISTS than I may be able to find something on the web. But an old military manual from WW II or older, or an old nurses or hospital manual, although not necessarily an example of earliest use, would at least get us out of recent (for me) times.
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Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, Colorado – U.S.A.)
7/5/02











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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 2:10 am

many thanks for all that good work, Ken. one can only guess that a nursing school training manual holds the key. let's see what i can turn up.
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 2:25 am

do you have any images? or illlustrations of hosiptal corners? i.e how to fold them?
interested architecture student uk.

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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 2:39 am

My friend Casey said that he had to make up the bed before he could come out and drink beer with us b/c his wife couldn't make nurse's corners the way he liked them; he is such a woman.
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 2:53 am

Wow, sounds like your friend "nurse Casey" may play for the other team if you know what i mean. Maybe you could post his telephone number and location because I know a lot of poeple who are on the lookout for a good male nurse with tight nurse's corners.
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 3:08 am

I knew a guy who made hospital corners for a whole year turns out he wasn't a guy. Come to think of it he knew how to play bridge, and could name the entire original cast of Lavern and Shirley. Man, I should have known.
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 3:22 am

Seriously people, this is a serious site devoted to those adore and truly appreciate the art of nurse's corners. Nurse's corners are definitely fun and enjoyable to all, but remember its not a game. Please keep all comments in-line with the seriousness that we intended for this delicate matter and this site. Always remember that no one wants floppy sheets; no one wants to wake up at the crack of noon and realize that Mr. Right Foot has left the building and can be found outside in the cold. Neatness is cleanliness. Have a super day all.
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 3:37 am

I think we should all follow the example set by "nurses corners" and remember to keep our comments taunt, folded nicely, and no less than 12 inches from head/foot area while tucking extra sheet under and remembering not to change the shape. This site has been theriputic to me. I used to think I was the only one who would light candles play some Al Greene and make all the beds in my house with nurses corners over and over again until my hands cramped. To sum up nurses corners are not just a way to tuck in sheets, but a journey to happiness.
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 3:51 am

I am glad to see that some people are as passionate about "nurses’ corners" as I. People like me that are not going to put up with this tom foolery any longer. To me there is nothing like folding some nice nurse’s corners and getting all snug and watching Will and Grace and Trading Spaces with my two little dogs; Mr. Happy and little Miss Nurses corner. It makes me happy and isn’t that what’s its all about. I mean come on guys. :-)
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 4:05 am

The corners that I've made lately have been a little different. I'm doing all the same moves but I just can't seem to get them right. It has affected everything in my life. I can't sleep obviously, but I'm behind on laundry, the ironing is pileing up, I feal dirty all the time, and all I want to do is make little houses out of pop sickle sticks. Does anyone have any suggestions? Signed Lonely and frustrated in San Fransico
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Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 4:20 am

I was in the Military and was discharged due to family hardship and about the only thig I didn't know how to do was hospital corners and I nearly got yeild at everyday, I was probley about the only one out of almost 100 people that couldn't do it, not only did I fell angry towards myself but I also felt like I was stupid and it really made my days in bootcamp even harder. Well now I'm more than likly am going back in, and would love to learn how to make hospital corners before getting there, Are there any illustrations or pictures on how to do them properly.

Mike
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Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 4:34 am

My husband, shockingly enough, did not know what 'hospital corners' were until he met me 5 years ago! There is no excuse for this. An intelligent chap, he has not only worked in a hospital setting, but also is a former professor at a medical school. Also, his mother,the self appointed Queen of the Perfectly Made Bed, never acknowleged or used h.c. Neglect, I call it, raising 5 kids, teaching bedmaking 101, and NOT including hospital corners as an integral part of the curriculum... Mary, San Diego
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hospital corners

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jun 23, 2004 4:49 am

You people epitomize the phrase "Get a Life..."
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Re: hospital corners

Post by lain12 » Sat Nov 21, 2020 9:28 am

Hi, My brother doesn't know about 'hospital corners' were until I gave him a punch in the mouth! and the main thing that He is running a business of bed sheets for 4 years still doesn't know about it.
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