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Showing posts from February, 2012

Episode 3: Waking the dead

After gynaecology came my first placement at Dulwich Hospital on Barry, a Male Medical ward on the second floor.  It specialised in skin and respiratory diseases and was run by an excellent 'old fashioned' sister of whom everyone was terrified.  She was a great teacher though, and wonderful with the patients - does anyone remember her name?  I saw the agonies of eczema and psoriasis in young men who returned time and again for daily dressings and ultra-violet light treatment.  I became adept at the application of Texas catheters and bathing dirty old men without getting groped!  I also had my first experience of laying out the dead, juddering with shock as the deceased elderly patient let out a groan from his lungs as we turned him over.  It was a privilege to perform the age-old rituals of death, offering a last wash and a shave and preparing a body before the porters were called to escort it to the mortuary.  However busy the ward, this task was never rushed and curtains wer…

Episode 2

Being a student nurse in the 1980s wasn't easy.  Others' memoirs from earlier times (such as Jennifer Worth's 'Call the Midwife') chronicle nursing as a way of life rather than a job with little pay, no time off, rigid hierarchies, rationing of 'late passes' and strict rules - an almost monastic existence.  However there was also a solid support structure with matrons, sister tutors, home sisters and communal meals.  Kings College Hospital in the 1980s thought itself progressive and, though traditional uniforms and hierarchies were still very much in evidence on on the wards, student nurses were free to come and go as they pleased with swipe cards to enter the Nurses' Home out of hours.  The staff canteen served food at meal times but there was no expectation of communal eating - and thus little sense of community. It could be a lonely place at times for a girl like me from a sheltered background with little experience of city life.

I had never really b…