Interview with Nurse
M, Thelma Bench and Jeanette Hawthorn
Nurse M, now in her 80s and currently living
in Inverclyde, used to manage a local shop in the early days of
the NHS. After many discussions with her friend, they both decided
to apply for a nursing course and follow in the footsteps of their
In 1951 Nurse M applied for a place at Glasgow
Royal Infirmary and moved from Inverclyde to live in the nursing
quarters, which was compulsory. The Nursing Sister ran the Nursing
Quarters and also lived on site.
After passing the entrance exam, Nurse M underwent
preliminary training at the nursing school for three months based
in Lancaster Crescent in the Hyndland area of Glasgow. After the
three month period, nurses would then sit a House Exam and once
passed, they would then become a student nurse and undergo practical
experience in the hospitals.
In the early days, there were very few married
nurses. Nurses were addressed as either Nurse or Staff Nurse, no
first name terms, and the Doctors were addressed as Sir. When the
Doctor carried out a ward round the Nurses would turn down their
cuffs and stand to attention. When returning to their ward duties
they would turn their cuffs back up to continue nursing. The canteen
arrangements back then were different in that the different types
of staff would be divided: the Auxilliaries would have a table together;
the Staff Nurses would sit together; and the Administration Team
would sit together.
The Health Service in the Clyde area in 1948
consisted of nine hospitals: Greenock Royal Infirmary, Duncan McPherson,
ENT Hospital, Greenock Eye Infirmary, Broadstone Hospital, Broadfield
Hospital, Larkfield Hospital, Gateside Hospital, Rankin Memorial
Hospital and Smithston Hospital. There was a General Board overseeing
all hospitals; the Doctors would look after the clinical staff;
the Hospital Administrator would look after the Buildings; and Admin
Services and the Matron (who was "classed as a god") looked
after all the Nursing staff, Catering Staff, Laundry Staff and Domestic
The Hospital Wards were known as "The Florence
Nightingale Wards" which eventually became four-bedded bays.
On the Night Shift, the nurse would wake patients at 4.30 am to
carry out general nursing duties.
The Uniform in the early days consisted of a
White Dress which consisted of rigid starched collar and cuffs.
An apron was also worn, which was easily changed if dirty and the
hat was always to be sitting perfectly in a butterfly style.
There were no Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists
or Chiropodists - these duties were all carried out by the Nursing
Staff who often worked split duties, sometimes 11am to 2 pm then
a break until 4 pm to 8 pm. There was no Occupational Health Department
and if you suffered a sore back you were expected to take some strong
pain killers and get on with your work! There were no such things
as Family Friendly Policies, Parental Leave or Carers Leave.
Interestingly, the District Nurses were employed
by the Council. The Nursing staff were allocated a maid to carry
out cleaning duties followed by a thorough inspection by the Nursing
Officer. Orderlies were employed to provide breakfast. Staff would
leave their uniform at work either in their locker or send it to
the Laundry for an intensive wash.
Patients were cared for by the Nursing
Staff, Antibiotics were very much in their infancy and nine-out-of-ten
times it was good Nursing Care that helped patients to better health.
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