The Best Hospital in the World (TBH)

TNH was arranged as two long corridors which were bridged at intervals by connecting corridors. the wards were all laid out off the back corridor and each had a day room opening out to the grounds. there were squirrels and rabbits and trees.Patients were kept in hospital for several days after surgery, probably too long if one post appendicectomy patient is an example. the physio was coming to see him so he ran away across the gardens!

Having patients who were, in effect, convalescing, was very beneficial for us nurses because not only could they look after themselves, they could make the tea and dish it out from the trolley. No doubt that wouldn’t be allowed now, health and safety don’t you know!

A patient started a tea club. He got a notebook, took money from all the other patients and went to the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS, now WRVS as Royal is now included in the title) and bought biscuits and extra sugar so the patients could have more. When he was discharged he passed the book on to someone else and so the club continued. I think he came back(to have his other hernia repaired) and ran the club again. Some of the men used to get hungry so we would save roast meat from lunch and make them sandwiches in the afternoon.

It might sound as if we had little work to do but that wasn’t the case at all. We made all the beds, gave bed baths, did dressings, dished out meals and took patients to theatre. When patients were discharged we stripped their beds, turned the matresses and disinfected them and the lockers. We cleaned the sluice and the linen cupboard and did the TPRs and blood pressures. The beds were all low which put a strain on our backs (which is why I’ve had a hip replacement and have got a disc problem). We weren’t allowed to sit down and my feet always killed me! There was always great camaraderie though and the ward maid was part of the team too which is something that ought to be considered these days- no contract cleaners!

Tales from the days of a 70’s student nurse

I don’t know why I decided to become a nurse, it certainly wasn’t a burning ambition. I had worked in the Health Service as a clerk in the waiting list office, in medical records and as a clerical officer and a higher clerical officer at the regional board. It may have been when I met a ship’s surgeon and his nurse on a cruise ship, they seemed to have a lot of fun. I realised that I’d done a whole lot of different jobs and that maybe it was time to get a qualification (other than A levels) as it might become more difficult to get jobs in the future.

I ‘phoned our local hospital and asked what qualifications one needed to apply for nurse training. I was told I’d need O level English. I said I’d got A level but was then asked “but have you got O level?” Maybe I should have realised that that was a clue as to how the NHS operates!

I had to go for an interview where I seem to remember saying that I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty (I’d worked in a potting shed before). Anyway I got a place on the course.

Our training was split between three hospitals in the group with a year spent at each. We had to attend preliminary training school for eight weeks before being let loose on a ward. When we were on a ward we were part of the team and our placements were planned for the whole three years. This meant that,if a student nurse left, her allocated wards would be shorthanded .

PTS was fun really. We had a lecturer who was somewhat fossilised, She liked drawing kidneys and said she’d like to become a pavement artist when she retired, she’d draw kidneys on pavements! She was a nice person but not a fantastically good teacher. I do remember her saying that her tutor had given her a maxim which was”if it’s doubtful it’s dirty” which is a good thought. She told us stories about laughing at people wearing funny hats on buses after night duty and she brought in another old nurse to talk to us about going on nights. She began her lecture by saying “now I know you may be apprehensitive about going on night duty…”, not a good start really!

As far as good starts go, it turned out that Miss Stone (the fossil) had not been teaching us as she should have been. One day she wasn’t there and another teacher came in and proceeded to assume that we knew a heck of a lot more than we did until we pointed out that we hadn’t been taught any of the things she thought we knew! She valiantly crammed in about six systems of the body in two weeks.

One day we had to take measurements for our uniforms. We measured our wrists and the lengths of our arms as well as the usual bust ,waist and hips. As the time for our launch on to the wards got nearer, there was no sign of our uniforms, in fact there was talk of us having to don paper shrouds for our first forray. The uniforms arrived in the nick of time,short sleeved and not sorted in to sizes. It was more a case of diving in and seeing what fitted!

My first ward was male surgical in the “best hospital in the world”. Male Surgical was ward six, a “Nightingale Ward” that is one where the beds are lined up in two rows opposite each other. This arrangement has fallen out of favour because it was thought that people prefer more privacy but, in my opinion, that isn’t necessarily the case. If you are marooned in a hospital bed it is nice to see what’s going on and to be able to ask a passing nurse for something rather than having to rely on a buzzer and a potentially long wait. Similarly, said passing nurse can keep an eye on patients and go to them quickly at the first sign of any trouble. Being stuck in a side room makes the patient feel isolated and gives them more time to brood.

Ward six was beautiful, there was something soothing about the colour scheme.Sort of aqua I suppose. Next door female surgical was a mirror arrangement of ward six but the colour scheme was red and the affect was gloomy. I always found that males made easier patients somehow, often very stoical and grateful for the smallest “extras” like washing a pair of pyjama trousers. The women would want to know why you hadn’t washed to top as well. I put this down to the female patients feeling that it was their turn to be looked after as they did all the looking after others at home. There was also a particularly annoying type of woman who would call out to you to tell you that another patient hadn’t had her meal yet. Obviously, when you are dishing out the meals, someone will be last, won’t they?

The first time I was on the ward I had to take lots of patient’s temperatures. It takes a little while to get the knack of shaking the mercury back down. The next day I wondered why my arm was aching and then I realised that it was all the thermometer shaking.

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)