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Title: Matron  
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Subject: Nursing in the United Kingdom, Nursing, Nursing management, Hattie Jacques, HMHS Llandovery Castle
Collection: Nursing in the United Kingdom
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Matron is the job title of a very senior or the chief in several countries, including the United Kingdom, its former colonies, such as India, and also the Republic of Ireland.[1] matron,[2] nursing officer,[3] or clinical nurse manager in UK English; the head nurse or director of nursing in US English,[4][5] and the nursing superintendent or matron in Indian English, among other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations.[6][7]

In the United Kingdom, matrons today "have powers over budgets, catering and cleaning as well as being in charge of nurses" and "have the powers to withhold payments from catering and cleaning services if they don't think they are giving the best service to the NHS."[2] Historically, matrons supervised the hospital as a whole but today, they are in-charge for supervising two or three wards.[8]

The chief nurse is a CEO or COO.


  • History 1
  • Contemporary matrons 2
  • Other uses 3
  • References 4


The word "matron" is derived from the Latin for "mother", via French.

The matron was once the most senior nurse in a hospital (in the United Kingdom before ca. 1967). She was responsible for all the nurses and domestic staff, overseeing all patient care, and the efficient running of the hospital, although she almost never had real power over the strategic running of the hospital.[9] Matrons were almost invariably female—male nurses were not at all common, especially in senior positions. They were often seen as fearsome administrators, but were respected by nurses and doctors alike. [10][11] The National Health Service matron became memorably associated with the formidable character played by actress Hattie Jacques in the 1967 film Carry On Doctor. The matron usually had a very distinctive uniform, with a dark blue dress (although often of a slightly different colour from those worn by her direct subordinates, the sisters) and an elaborate headdress.

Contemporary matrons

More recently, the British Government announced the return of the matron to the NHS, electing to call this new breed of nurses "modern matrons," in response to various press complaints of dirty, ineffective hospitals with poorly disciplined staff.[2]

They are not intended to have the same level of responsibility as the old matrons, as they often oversee just one department (therefore a hospital may have many matrons—one for surgery, one for medicine, one for geriatrics, one for the accident & emergency department, etc.) but do have budgetary control regarding catering and cleaning contracts. In larger hospitals some will have a group of wards to manage.

Their managerial powers are more limited, and they spend most of their time on administrative work rather than having direct responsibility for patient care.[12]

Many areas of the UK now employ Community Matrons. The role of this staff group is predominantly Clinical and these Matrons have a caseload of patients for whom they are clinically responsible. Many of these patients have chronic health conditions such as COPD, Emphysema, and/or palliative conditions which result in multiple hospital admissions. It is the aim of this staff group to treat the patient within the community thereby limiting hospital admissions. This staff group are predominantly Nurses, but there are other Allied Health Professionals also in the role such as Paramedics and Occupational Therapists.

The nursing branches of the British Armed Forces have never abandoned the term "Matron", and it is used for male as well as female officers, usually holding the rank of Major (or equivalent) or above. It was formerly used as an actual rank in the nursing services.

In South Africa and its former mandated territory South-West Africa (today's Namibia), Matron is the rank of the most senior nurse of a hospital.[13]

Other uses

Long before women were commonly employed as fully sworn police officers, many police forces employed uniformed women with limited powers to search and attend to female prisoners and deal with matters specifically affecting women and children. These female officers were often known as "police matrons". Officers in women's prisons sometimes also used the title of "matron"; sometimes the matron was a senior officer who supervised the other wardresses.

Institutions such as children's homes and workhouses were also run by matrons. The matron of a workhouse was very often the wife of the master and looked after the domestic affairs of the establishment. This was, in fact, the original meaning of the term. Its use in hospitals was borrowed from workhouses.

The term was also used in boarding schools (and is still used in some British public schools) for the woman in charge of domestic affairs in a boarding house or the school nurse. In the past, the matron was sometimes the wife of the housemaster.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the female spouse of a temple president or his counselors is referred to as a temple matron.


  1. ^ """Definition of "matron. Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Matrons back on the wards".  
  3. ^ "Matron". Cambridge English Dictionary. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  4. ^ """Definition of "head nurse. Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Head nurse". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Agarwal, Arun K. (21 June 2007). Standard Operating Procedures For Hospitals In India. Atlantic Publishers. p. 245.  
  7. ^ "Nursing".  
  8. ^ Johnston, Philip (8 April 2005). "Recall for hospital matrons - who really did know best".  
  9. ^ Butler, Patrick (4 April 2001). "Analysis: The Matron".  
  10. ^ Rivett, Geoffery. "NHS History 1948-1967". Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 29 October 2006. 
  11. ^ Ministry of Health and Scottish Home and Health Departments (1966). Report of the Committee on Senior Nursing Staff Structure (the Salmon Report). London: HMSO. 
  12. ^ Department of Health (2001). Implementing the NHS plan: modern matrons: strengthening the role of ward sisters and introducing senior sisters. London: HMSO. 
  13. ^ Sasmann, Catherine (7 May 2010). "Kamboi Hulda Shipanga: Namibia's first black matron (1926 to 2010)".  
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