Celebrate World Nurses Day - 12th May 2012

Posted: March 16, 2012

Nurses past and present share their special memories

World Nurses Day on 12th May 2012  is a special day for nurses all over the world to celebrate their profession. The 12th May marks the birthday of Florence Nightingale, whose hard work and dedication during the Crimean War helped shaped the way nursing is today.

Come and see us in the Atrium at Great Western Hospital on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th May 2012 for displays, freebies and a fun quiz.

Community events

There will also be a number of events in Salisbury to mark the event:

  • Tuesday 8th May - Health information stand at Salisbury Library.
  • Saturday 12th May, 9am-12.30pm - Health Fair at Salisbury Guildhall with a uniform display from 1850 to the present day, stands from local organisations and singing on the Guildhall steps at 11am to raise awareness of the Alzheimer's Society's Singing for the Brain campaign.

Your stories

We have been inviting nurses past and present to join in with our celebrations at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust by sharing their experiences of being a nurse.

You can read some of their stories below.

Fay Howard, Staff Nurse

Fay started training at PMH in August 1988. She became a nurse because "I like people. I had no idea that I wanted to make nursing my career but I'd already worked as a Nursing Auxillary and had enjoyed that."

She says:

"Before training I worked as an auxillary & in the hospital laundry. Since qualifying I began in Day Surgery when it was a very new concept, then I worked on the bank whilst having my children. I became permanent on nights on Meldon (or Bishopstone as it was then) in 2000.

"Today, there are more patients to staff and it has become more technical, more pumps, gadgets, epidurals, Patient controlled pain relief etc and PCs, everything is on the computer and also in paper. People staying for less time and we get everyone moving quickly after surgery.

"My special memories include: hanging out of the window in PMH when Princess Diana visited a patient. Being at work on Yatesbury, when Lockerbie happened. Being 'in charge' for the first time. Bedpan washers breaking down often at PMH. The pink carpet. The patient who came back after discharge to bring me some bombay mix. The move to GWH, everything being brand new."

Lucy Pratt, Nursing Student

Lucy started her nurse training at Oxford Brookes University in September 2009, She joined the Nurse Bank in September 2010 to help her gain experience and hand's on patient care to help her in her student placements. She graduates at the end of this year.

"I wanted to support and care for patients during their time in hospital. Recognising that the smallest thing can mean such a big difference to their day and can restore their self esteem. Caring for the person rather than the condition, and when patients are appreciative of what you do reminds me of why I chose to become a nurse.

"I think that there has been an increased need for nurses over the years from hospitals, nursing homes, community, schools etc. I think there has been more paperwork introduced which has increased nursing workload which can mean less patient contact.

"Since I started in 2009, I have loved every placement that I have had and doing my nurse bank work. The satisfaction when patients tell you how happy you made them feel by taking the time to talk to them and reassuring their families is a big positive I have had. I am looking forward to starting on my first staff nurse post soon."

Paddy Green

"I enrolled as a student nurse at Cirencester Memorial Hospital on December 29th 1949, eighteen months after the start of the National Health Service.

"The hospital was quite small having only three wards, male, female and children and five private wards, plus a busy casualty and out patients department.   Although small it was very busy, covering a large area around the town.

"My first hospital in Swindon was Stratton St. Margaret which consisted of a large brick building housing medical male and female patients, gynae, children and a theatre.  Also in the grounds were five long low level buildings known as 'the huts'.  These were used for geriatric and long term chronically sick patients some of whom were in for years.  The work was very heavy and consisted mainly of bed changing, cleaning incontinent patients and preventing bedsores.  Most of the patients were seldom removed from their beds and needed careful handling.  In later years the wards were extended to give day space to sit patients out and some occupational therapy was given but not in my time.

"On the medical wards, we gained a good insight into a variety of conditions, but diabetes was one area we seemed to spend a lot of time with, endlessly testing urine with test tubes and a Bunsen burner - we certainly knew the significance of a blue, green or orange reaction.  There were obviously many other conditions on these wards but one of the most distressing problems, mainly affecting women, was a reaction to the new washing powders which became available, creating many skin rashes and sores for which one of the treatments was to sit for long periods in a bath of a coal tar preparation which was quite greasy and very difficult to clean from the bath.  It was as well we were trained to do blanket baths as there was only one bathroom to each ward.   It was whilst I was working on the male ward, and to Sister Price's dismay, I became friendly with a patient, really frowned upon in those days.

"My next hospital was the Victoria which was mainly general surgery, adult and children with one ward devoted to male genito-urinary problems and mainly staffed by male nurses.  The Victoria was one of the first to be transferred to Princess Margarets Hospital.
"We had a spell at the Isolation Hospital in Gorse Hill where we nursed TB patients. Also at the isolation were wards for diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough and it was here that I encountered iron-lungs being used by poliomyelitis patients, which was rife at this time.

"Casualty, orthopedic and ophthalmic patients were treated at the Great Western Hospital in Faringdon Road. Most of the hospital has been demolished,  all that remains is the stone building, now Emlyn Square Community Centre.

"Following my one and a half years in Swindon I returned to Cirencester to complete my training and spend a spell as a staff nurse.  As I was going to marry my ex-patient who was now working in hospital himself, I returned to Swindon and worked at the Great Western Hospital, on the wards for a while until a new staff nurse was needed in theatre. A condition of employment was that I had to agree to be on-call 24/7 on alternate weeks.  This frequently meant being called out at night to open up theatre, scrub for the operation, clean up theatre and still be on surgery at 7.30 a.m.  There were only four staff, sister myself as staff nurse an orderly (auxiliary) and a theatre porter (technician).

"We each had to be prepared to do anything needed but I was responsible for all instruments which were cleaned after use, boiled for four minutes, dried and stored in there respective places in a cupboard.  For each operation the appropriate instruments were selected, boiled again and placed on the sterile towels on the trolley.  Needles for suturing were not threaded, the suturing material being in a glass phial and needles threaded as needed using a non-touch technique. Syringes and needles were all used several times and after cleaning were stored in surgical spirit.  Scalpel blade and other sharps were stored in neat Lysol.   Gloves, gowns, towels and dressings were packed in metal drums and sterilized by steam in a large autoclave.  Anaesthetic room, theatre, sluice area and sterilizing section were all housed in three rooms, but fortunately there never seemed to be any infection.  We must have done things well!

"I regret the passing of a 'real' uniform especially aprons which could be changed frequently through the day, and caps which kept hair tidy.

"I enjoyed my training, made many good friends and despite the facts that as students we had no choice but to live in a nurses home, being checked in and lights out at 10.30 p.m. unless we were on a rationed late-pass, I would not have changed it for anything.  I consider nursing to have provided me with a challenging, interesting and satisfying life."

Jacqueline Cuttle

"I started my training on January 1st 1951 (no Bank Holiday then) at the Borough General Hospital, Heath Road, Ipswich, Suffolk.  I was 17 ½ years old.  I suppose I was "hooked" at about 14, when masquerading as 16 years old, I went to visit an Aunt in hospital who had had an operation.  The smell of antiseptic and trolleys going down the corridors to Theatre was quite thrilling and I never thought of following any other career.  Later I did Part I Midwifery at Rochford General Hospital, Essex and Part II, on the district in Ipswich.  A year later I went to Zimbabwe (then still Rhodezia) for three years in government service, where the huge amount of responsibility in African hospitals left us all very confident, dealing with all kinds of situations.  I later did two years in a general hospital in Canada, Niagara Falls.

"I have always enjoyed looking after people, and got great satisfaction in helping patients recover from operations and regain their health.  It saddens me to hear of the neglect of older people and until very recently I have worked in a domiciliary capacity, living in with people no longer able to live alone.

"During training, I lived at home, cycled the three miles to the hospital in all weathers and earned £15 a month, half of which went to my mother for my keep.  The day started at 7.30am until either 5pm or 8.20pm with one day off a week.  The discipline was very strict (eating on the ward meant instant dismissal) but we were terrific nurses; the best training in the world was to be had in this country.

"I am now a very well preserved 78 years old, married for 49 years, four daughters, two grandsons and one grand-daughter.  I have had a fortunate life and never cease to be thankful for my excellent health and my genetic inheritance."

Rosemary Butler (nee Cook)

Rosemary began her career in 1961 as a cadet nurse at Victoria and Princess Margaret Hospital. She says she always wanted to be a nurse, attending the Red Cross as a junior cadet until she was 16. She then became a staff nurse and later Junior Sister on a medical ward at PMH, worked on the maternity unit and the became a Staff Nurse at the Ridgeway Hospital, working her way up to Director of Nursing in 2005. She was then HR Manager for two years before her retirement in 2007.

She says:

"We all had strict rules in the nurses home having to be in by 10 o clock or have a late pass until 11.  We had to go to casualty and wait to be let into the nurses home by the Sister in Charge.  We had a home warden who made sure no men were in the nurses' rooms.

"Our clean and starched uniforms were laundered at the hospital and were mended by the sewing room staff. The nurses wore stripes on their hats to denote which year they were in. We worked hard but also had fun.

"The ward Sister had a ward cleaner who took pride in their work. The Ward Sister or Senior nurse served the food to patients from a heated trolley in the centre of the ward and the nurses fed patients to ensure they ate.

"A Consultant had his own ward and at Christmas the Consultant would carve the turkey for the patients . Nurses sang carols around the hospital for patients."

Sophie Fielder, RGN

"I was born in 1953 in a Polish resettlement camp in North Wales built by the Americans for the Polish people.  My parents came to England as refugees following World War II.

"From a very early age, I used to visit the wounded airmen who were shot down by enemy planes and paralysed spending the rest of their lives in wheelchairs.  From an early age it was instilled into me to have respect, compassion and a caring attitude towards people, respecting privacy rights and choice.

"Both my parents worked in the camp.  My mother was an Auxiliary Nurse and my father an X-ray Operator/Day Room Technician.  I used to visit the patients, talk to them, and I knew from then that I wanted to become a Nurse.  I thought that I could make a difference.

"In 1964 I attended the local comprehensive school, I spoke Polish and Russian at home but spoke English at school.  After obtaining 5 O' Level passes at school, I enrolled at the local college to start a pre-Nursing course.

"After completing the one year course, I applied to train as a Pupil Nurse at the Wrexham School of Nursing and started training on October 1972 working on all wards and departments within the hospital gaining valuable experience in all aspects of Nursing, enjoying every moment of the training.  The work was hard, we were expected to do a lot, take a lot of responsibility early on in our training.  We were left in charge of the ward in our 2nd and 3rd year, with the supervision of the Ward Sister.  It was frightening but good.  I found that what I had learnt was very interesting and satisfying.  I used to live in and made a lot of new friends, we used to enjoy each others company, compare situations and scenarios, talk about our day on the wards, and share our experiences and problems.

"In 1975, I moved to Liverpool and began a 9 month Ophthalmic course at St. Paul's Eye Hospital, a small but friendly specialist hospital.  Here I learnt about all aspects of Ophthalmic Nursing, which I found very interesting, qualifying as an Ophthalmic Nurse in 1975.  From here I went to London to a group of hospitals specialising in Urology completing the Nephro-Urology course in 1976.

"After this, I worked in various hospitals around the country gaining valuable experience and enjoying my career.  In 1978, I got married and moved to Bristol General Hospital, I worked on a Gynaecological Ward but as I lived in Corsham, I found the travelling hard, as I didn't drive.  I reluctantly gave up nursing and got a job in the local supermarket and factory but I never stopped thinking that I would love to return to Nursing.

"In 1982 I reapplied and started work at Chippenham Hospital, the old St Andrews Hospital.  It was a good place to work, the work was heavy and hard, a lot of "hands-on" care and manual handling.   I enjoyed working in a team, loved the "hands-on" care, the interaction with the patients and their relatives, I took pride in my work, and we all pulled together.  I was left in charge of the ward on a shift basis, prioritising my workload accordingly. In 1993 I left and got a job in a Nursing home near to my home and stayed there for 7 years.

"In 2001, I sustained a fracture of my left clavicle and wrist in a road traffic accident.  After recovering from the operation, I was advised not to do a heavy job as I had done previously, so I went to work in a residential care home, near to my home, as a carer; as this home did not employ permanent nurses.

"In 1995, I became a Translator in Polish for the UBHT in Polish being a native Polish speaker, I was able to this job with ease and interest, ensuring that patients needs are met through me.  I found this job very interesting, fulfilling and enjoyable, but it was only on a bank basis.

"Nursing has definitely changed from when I first started, gone are the days when the Consultant was in charge.  I can remember you had to stand up when a Consultant came into the room.  Now everyone works together and there is better communication.  The care of the patients is still the same but we are looking after people with more complex needs that we ever did before.  Years ago, people stayed in hospital for longer where as now we can look after people in their own homes.  People are also living longer and the technological advances have been huge."


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