AskDefine | Define matron

Dictionary Definition



1 a married woman (usually middle-aged with children) who is staid and dignified
2 a wardress in a prison
3 a woman in charge of nursing in a medical institution [syn: head nurse]

User Contributed Dictionary



From French matrone, Latin matrona, from mater (meaning mother).


  1. A wife or a widow, especially, one who has borne children; a woman of staid or motherly manners.
    ''Your wives, your daughters, Your matrons, and your maids. Shakespeare
  2. A housekeeper; especially, a woman who manages the domestic economy of a public institution; a head nurse in a hospital; as, the matron of a school or hospital.


Extensive Definition

Matron is the job title of a very senior nurse in several countries, including the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland altough the title Clinical Nurse Manager is used.


The role of matron in the early British National Health Service (NHS) was to be the most senior nurse in the hospital. The matron was responsible for all of the nurses and domestic staff, overseeing all patient care, and the efficient running of the hospital, although they rarely had real power over the strategic running of the hospital. 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. The role of the matron was abolished in the late 60s as part of the reorganisation recommended by the Salmon report. The NHS matron became memorably associated with the formidable character played by the late actress Hattie Jacques in the 1960s film Carry on Doctor.

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
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 budgetry control regarding catering and cleaning contracts.
Their managerial powers are more limited, and they spend most of their time on administrative work rather than having direct patient care
The medical branches of the British Armed Forces have never abandoned the term "Matron", and it is used for male as well as female officers.

Other uses

Before women were commonly employed as fully sworn police officers, many police forces employed uniformed women with limited powers to search and look after 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.


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Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Eve, Frau, abbess, better half, chatelaine, common-law wife, concubine, dame, daughter of Eve, distaff, domina, donna, dowager, feme, feme covert, femme, first lady, frow, gentlewoman, girl, goodwife, goody, governess, grande dame, great lady, helpmate, helpmeet, homemaker, housewife, lady, lass, madam, married woman, matriarch, milady, mistress, mother superior, old lady, old woman, rib, squaw, vrouw, wahine, weaker vessel, wedded wife, wife, woman
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