What wound a nurse do if...

(2) She was in charge of pre-registration education

Immediately return to the good old three-year apprenticeship training because:

  • ‘Working split shifts for 6 and a half days in a row, trying to attend lectures in between shifts/sleep, and having only one full day off a month never did me any harm’
  • Being part of the rostered workforce while on placement makes you feel part of a team (despite as a first year student, being so low down the pecking order that you had to clean the sluice all day, every day for the first 6 weeks, after which you were promoted to bottle/bedpan rounds, and it was only half-way through your second year you actually realised that those people in beds who stared at you whilst you walked down the ward were patients)
  • The fact that it was compulsory to live in the nurses home ensured that our moral welfare was never in danger, that the home sister would come marching into our rooms each morning [or evening in the night nurses wing] to make sure we weren’t late for work, and that being allowed an 11pm ‘late-pass’ was a privilege that was often rescinded because of some minor misdemeanour such as breaking a thermometer).
  • The uniforms were fabulous despite having to spend 2 hours trying to change your half-moon shaped piece of linen into something resembling the Taj Mahal…
  • As part of your education you learnt about the process of turning raw sewerage into fresh water (the visit to the treatment plant being the highlight of year 1) and the journey of a cheese sandwich from teeth to… well, the other end, and can still recite the physiological processes involved. You also learnt to make a bed; importantly, type of ‘hospital corner’ used took on a Masonic significance, as often they indicated the hospital you trained in. And you still make you own bed using those corners (unless you use fitted sheets of course – clearly not designed by a nurse)
  • You learnt how to cook bland meals for those with gastric ulcers and how to boil 40 eggs for the breakfasts at 4.30am because after that you had to start getting patients up, and do the drugs round, and clean the sluice before sister came on duty. Some learnt the art of buttering mounds of bread and covering with sheets of damp kitchen paper in an attempt to keep them fresh. These lucky few have gone on to have second careers in cricket teas after retirement from nursing
  • You trained at one hospital, ‘your’ hospital, and after 6-12 months of staffing, were given a hospital badge. Such ‘trifles’ however always break the ice at conferences - ‘Oh, I trained there too – what set were you in?’ ‘Do you remember Sister Snapdragon?’, and allowed parents/grandparents the opportunity to boast about you to whoever would listen
  • You learnt that actually, while it appeared that Sister was fulfilling every wish of the consultants, actually what she was doing was skilfully managing them while letting them think they were in charge. And when she discussed clinical matters, she held her own because she knew her patients and their conditions inside out, and so was respected, with or without a degree