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1951 : Nursing - The Early Days

An interview with Nurse M, Thelma Bench and Jeanette Hawthorn

Nurse M, 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 relatives.

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 Staff.

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.

Last Updated: 12 June 2018