It is always a stomach churning time – returning to hospital after a holiday – until you had examined the notice board and seen where you were going to be working for the next three months. It was night duty for me, which meant living a topsy-turvy sort of life; going to bed in daylight and working in dimly lit wards with darkness looming through the large windows. It could be quite scary – especially if you had to reach the outside wards or visit the mortuary. We didn’t have hospital porters so we were the trolley pushers.
The hospital did their best to keep us healthy; we had sun lamp sessions where we stood in a special room, clustered round a machine – a green triangle of material protecting our bosoms and an oily smell slowly emanating from us. We had a night nurse’s corridor where banging doors and loud voices were forbidden and, best of all; we had nine nights on and three nights off.
In charge of us were two sisters and a staff nurse and on each ward there would be at least a trained or very experienced nurse and a junior nurse. One of the sisters was a power house of energy and she would flit from ward to ward like a tornado – you never knew when she was going to appear and she was a tower of strength in an emergency. She had a short fuse and one night when her buzzer was buzzing rather longer than usual she stormed on the ward and demanded.
‘Can’t I even pee in peace?’
The junior nurse was responsible for the children’s breakfast and I thought it would be a good idea to mash the bananas in the porridge. Sister didn’t agree and I was sent to Matron. One day I burnt the bacon and I was sent to Matron. If you broke a thermometer you were STM. You had to shake them violently to bring the mercury down and it got to the stage where I bought replacements out of my salary rather than face Matron again. We were all in awe of Matron. She was always impeccably turned out and glided through the wards with grace. She was responsible for the discipline, efficiency and smooth running of the hospital and she was a paragon. I always found her to be very fair and she had a lovely twinkle in her eyes which made you feel you weren’t all that bad.
When I first went on the wards and witnessed my first death the ward sister took myself and the other junior on one side. She was concerned of the effect this would have on two young inexperienced girls. She was a very down to earth person – nothing remotely ‘airy - fairy’ about her and we believed her when she said we shouldn’t feel sad about the child as all her problems were now over and she had gone to a better place. Where else would a child go but to Heaven? When I was on night duty we lost a child and I had to assist the staff nurse with the last offices and was comforted by what the sister had said. The little girl was gone and we had to do this last task for her as carefully, as professionally and as reverently as possible. RIP
Gran was much in demand. She had gone out to the States to help Auntie Janet with her new baby and promised to be back for Maddie’s baby in February. That meant no room for me at Maddies so I had better start saving up if I wanted to se MTL again.