Forgetfulness, old style nurse training

I can’t remember what I was going to say! I was planning to do a podcast yesterday when I was in the house on my own but I didn’t get down to it before family appeared on the scene. What was I going to talk about? Can’t remember!

My short term memory is wearing out but so is my long term one, I think. My sister can remember learning to walk, I can’t.My mum told me years ago that I learned to walk backwards first and went around saying bugger , bugger which she hoped would soon wear off. I think it did.

When I decided to become a nurse  ( at about 23 years old) , I rang the local school of nursing and asked them what qualifications were required. They asked if I had O level English and I said I’d got A level to which they replied, “yes but have you got O level?” I should have stopped right there eh?

When I trained we had to start off in PTS (preliminary training school) for a few weeks before being let loose on our first ward.We had to learn about all the systems of the body in this time.Our tutor was an elderly lady who said that , when she retired, she’d like to be a pavement artist and draw kidneys .Trouble was , she didn’t really teach us much. When she was off in the last two weeks another tutor turned up and kept saying “now you know about this..” and eventually we had to tell her that we had only learned about two systems and then she had to pull all the stops out to cram the rest in in the last two weeks.

One day we had to fill in forms for our uniforms. Measurements were noted down, the circumference of our wrists, the length of our arms. Funny that, the uniforms had short sleeves.  We were due to visit the wards and the uniforms hadn’t arrived. There was talk of us having to wear paper shrouds! The uniforms arrived in the nick of time. No “this is yours, student nurse ” it was dive in and see what’s an approximate fit. Only the taller slimmer girls had uniforms that looked as if they fitted.

Later on in my training there was a move to introduce the “national uniform”.This was a ghastly checked affair in a rather insipid blue. We were saved from that fate, however, because the nursing standard journal published and article about how flammable (or should that be inflammable) these dresses were. They showed pictures of a uniform being set alight and virtually dissolving instantly.

We had fetching cardboard hats and some of us procured white elasticated cuffs and starched aprons which weren’t strictly uniform any more.

I can remember going on to my first ward,(male surgical, ward 6) and having to do TPRs (temperature, pulse ,respiration). I found it hard to shake the thermometers down and wondered why my arm ached the next day.

Our training was organised so that we belonged to a ward for a period of time and were part of the staff for that ward.  Every few weeks we returned to school for a block of study.This system was pretty efficient but it did mean that, if a student left, the wards to which she had been allocated would be one member of staff short. It also sometimes meant that we couldn’t go and observe a procedure if we were too busy.

We had little books which had lists of procedures which had to be ticked off in our first, second and third years. A bit like “see one, do one teach one” which is generally how Doctors learned. We also had to do four practical assessments, a drug round, patient care,ward management and a dressing. At the end of the three years we took final exams.

My first ward was male surgical, a lovely ward which was decorated in a sort of pale aquamarine .It was a lovely colour scheme, light and fresh. The patients were lovely and so were the staff apart from one who was frankly a bit of a disaster. I was glad I didn’t work next door which was female surgical, the colour scheme was red and it seemed a dark place and to be honest looking after men was much more fun.

My friend and I used to do odd things. One day we stuck needles in ourselves to draw off blood, I can’t remember which of us carried some round for a few days ! We both used to love smelling all the surgical spirit, hibiscrub etc. She worked on the female surgical ward.

Sometimes people used to say to us “Did you always want to be a nurse?” and we’d say “No , and we still don’t” or they’d say “Why do you want to be a nurse?” and we’d say “Because we like seeing people in pain”
The Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital Shrine  is a rather weird site about the hospital where I started my training. It was left empty to rot for about 20 years and has now been demolished to make way for houses. It is National Trust land but the planners have permitted housing for the over 55s. Some of my freinds from thoise days are talking about moving in so we could all be together again.

CRX was the best hospital in the world. I’ll probably be telling you more about it from time to time.

Published in: on March 5, 2007 at 1:26 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. […] known as H.R.H. Duchess of Connaught Hospital, during the First World War). Sadly, despite being “the best hospital in the world”, the hospital was ultimately closed in 1985 less than a year after I was born there. The hospital […]

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