70’s student nurse

At last we were launched onto our wards! Early or late shifts, early being 7.30am to 4ish and late being 1pm to 9.30 pm. No consistent pattern to the shifts and the week began on Sunday so you didn’t get a whole weekend off unless you asked for Friday and Saturday from one week and Sunday and Monday from another, That could mean you ended up working ten days on either side of your weekend off. I was too tired to do anything much anyway! One day I came home after an early and fell asleep. My friend rang me up to see if I wanted to go out and I was in a panic because I thought it was morning.

We didn’t sit down except to receive”Report” which was the handover at the end of each shift when the nurse in charge handed over to the nurse in charge of the new shift. There was a Kardex system, each patient had a page on which the nurses wrote what had been done on their shift, for example “catheter removed, no difficulty passing urine”.

Talking of the Kardex, a GP who I worked for at a later stage of my nursing career told me a lovely story. To appreciate this you must first learn that the term for painful sexual intercourse in a female is called dyspareunia. The doctor was working in Nigeria. A patient was admitted complaining of pain on intercourse and the nurse had written in the Kardex “admitted with dyspareunia but has not complained of this since admission”. I also remember reading the report on a paediatric ward where the sister had written”drinking well when awake”.

When I worked in hospitals we did not have care assistants to help us. We had some “Auxillary Nurses” some of whom were excellent and others less so. This meant that we had to do all the bed making, bed pan fetching and feeding as well ask taking blood pressure, temperature and respiration readings (TPR) and changing of dressings. We also had to take patients to theatre. On one occasion an auxillary who was a bit simple took a patient to theatre. One of the boys who had been working as a chef had started to train as an operating department assistant but I’m not sure the patient understood when she said”This is Jimmy, he used to work in the kitchens”.

Our ward had a sister called Sister Tingle and a Charge Nurse called Mr Shelley. She was lovely and we looked up to her but frankly Mr Shelley was a bit of a buffoon. Staff Nurse Welsh was a beautiful girl who was calm and friendly and helpful. I remember watching her drawing up an injection in the treatment room and she was expertly flicking the air bubble out of the syringe. I told her I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do that myself!

One of our jobs was administering Tinct Benz inhalations via Nelson’s Inhalers. These were porcelain jugs with tubes coming out of them, one for the steam to come out of and one for the patient to inhale through.

https://i0.wp.com/www.dundee.ac.uk/museum/medical/DUNUC4272.thumb.jpgThese devices were potentially dangerous as they contained boiling water and I don’t really know why someone who had had an ingrowing toenail removed would benefit from having one but our charge nurse was a great fan of them. (If you do have a cough they can be beneficial). Tinct benz is epsom salts by the way. After the inhalation is finished the inhalers have to be cleaned and of course that was our job too. Trouble was the tubes were glass and we were very good at breaking them, in fact the inhalers themselves sometimes broke and we positioned them back on the shelves so it didn’t show!

Published in: on August 14, 2008 at 6:04 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I love reading about other people’s lives!

    I am considering not bothering to wait until I finish an autobiography-sized chunk of memoirs and just publish them on the blog. Then again, I’d rather wait until mum and dad are no longer with us, if I do, because so much is about my messed-up childhood.

    Maybe I will try to keep writing them in private for now…

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