Nursing in the Sixties – Scottish nostalgia


08 October 2018
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Janet Strickland recalls the strict rules and hard work of nursing in Sixties Scotland.

Janet Strickland recalls the strict rules and hard work of nursing in Sixties Scotland.

There is, somewhere between the consciousness of the mind and the calm of deep sleep, a moment when memories come back to haunt the restless brain. The clarity of the pictures conjured up brings to life the sights, sounds and even smells of long ago.

The long lines of Nissen huts put up during the war were still being used as wards at the orthopaedic hospital. Nervously I entered.

Emergency Ward 10 was the ‘must watch’ programme in the early 1960s and there was I, straight out of preliminary training school and put on Ward 10! It was a long ward of thirty men and it was an orthopaedic ward, a lot had fractures from motorbike and car accidents, and TB spines.

Life on ward 10

The discipline was tight. Ward 10 was run like an army camp. It’s amazing looking back what we took in our stride. One day my pal Pat and I had made the thirty beds ourselves, short staffed as always. No duvets – all sheets, blankets and coverlets. Then a really snooty staff nurse took out a tape measure and measured each counterpane. One was one inch longer on one side and she made us redo all thirty beds. Nowadays this would never happen, but we just fumed and got on with it.

The patients knew this was my first ward. I’d never had a boyfriend and was straight from a convent school.  I can honestly say I received more education in four months on that ward than I had in my whole 17.5 years of life!

Strict regime

We did four-hourly back rubs where we went around with our trolley, the enamel jug, surgical spirit and baby powder and rubbed backs, heels and elbows to prevent pressure sores. If we ever had either a bed sore or plaster sore on the ward all of us, including Sister, were sent to Matron for a severe reprimand. We nurses were also often seen in the linen room rubbing our feet with the spirit and powder. Of course we waited till Sister was off duty.

When my rotation was up and I had to leave war 10 I did so with a heavy heart. I went to shake hands with sister and she said ‘Nurse, remember your place. Don’t you know that you do not shake hands with Sisters?’

But despite that and the hard discipline, the fun, laughter and friendships I forged in those days I remember fondly.

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(image copyright Tuck DB Postcards)