I know this is typically the place for English word origins, but I was wondering if anyone had any background information on the German word Krankenschwester.
Today in German we were going over some job titles, and their male & female forms. Examples: Der Artz, a male doctor; and Die Ärtzin, a female doctor. Naturally, we came to word for a female nurse, Die Krankenschwester, and for the male: not Krankenbruder, as you might expect, but Der Krankenpfleger.
However, Der Krankenpfleger has its own feminine counterpart, Die Krankenpflegerin. So the question was raised, so why don’t we just use Die Krankenpflegerin when referring to a female nurse? The answer came, speculatively, that Krankenschwester might probably be the older of the two terms, as nursing has a history of being dominated by women, compassionate care being seen as a naturally feminine/matronly concern; and that the -schwester or, ‘sister,’ probably originated from when most nursing was taken care of in nun operated facilities, etc; and that -pfleger/in, a ‘care-er’ was added later when political correctness became a concern.
But after doing some searching, I’m a little skeptical that this might be the case. It appears as though (and this is just my own amateur guess) that Krankenpfleger/in is the older of the two terms. Krankenpfleger and -pflegerin both appear in the Grimm Brother’s Dictionary, while Krankenschwester does not. I would assume that that would indicate that Krankenschwester was not in common usage at the time the brothers compiled their book.
So any information regarding how this term came into usage, or how old it is, or any other background information would be greatly appreciated.