Nurses' experiences and anecdotes
In this section we present some quotes from interviews we carried out with former Hospital staff.
'There were quite a number of romances that went on in the Hospital – and if they came back late to the Nurses' Home, the male nurse would lift the girl onto the flat piece of the glass and then push it up and she’d get into the Nurses’ Home. Imagine the night superintendent arriving to see them doing this kind of thing!!'
'A young nurse on her first ward approximately 18 Years old was asked by the sister to go and start bathing the ambulant men at the end of the ward. As she approached an elderly gentleman sitting in the corridor, he stood up. So she asked him if he was ready for his bath. To which he answered that he didn’t want a bath. The young nurse wasn’t going to be deterred so she took the gentleman very gently by the arm and said to him “you wouldn’t want me to get into trouble with sister now would you?”. So the gentleman took the young nurses arm. As they started off towards the bathroom, the sister called out “Nurse P, where are you going with Mrs T’s husband?” Poor Mr T was only visiting his wife!! It was a long time before the teasing stopped.'
'On another occasion, the same nurse was sent off the ward to look for a patient from another ward that had gone missing. As she went down the corridor she approached an elderly gentleman wearing a shirt and tie, jumper, raincoat and trilby hat carrying a fishing rod. As it was the middle of summer she thought this must be the missing patient, to be dressed like he was on a hot day. So she said to the gentleman that he had to go with her. To which he replied “I’m going fishing, my dear!” The nurse said “not today, you have to come with me”. He replied “but I’m Dr B”. She carried on walking with her arm linked into the gentleman back to her ward, when they passed two nurses who called out “Good afternoon Dr B”. The young nurse was very embarrassed but every time Dr B saw the nurse after that he said to her “I’m not going fishing today, my dear”!!'
'Miss Degnam was a wonderful Matron. Very much respected and “feared” by both nurses and doctors. The nurses would phone the next ward on from them to warn that Matron was on her rounds. Male nurses would rush to drawers and pull out their best ties and clean white coats!! The wards were immaculate, otherwise Matron would have words with them.'
'When the Matron came through, you stood to attention. It didn’t matter what you were doing with a patient, you had to stop and look at the Matron and say ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’'
'My Dad used to deliver the beer and stuff up there because, the male patients were given some beer and Dad, when he was going up Exminster Drive, every time he saw this chap with his wheelbarrow upside down and he said ‘one of these days I am going to ask him why’. So, he did. And this chap turned round and said ‘well, I am not bloody silly. If I turned it up the other way, they’d only fill it up’'
'There was one girl, she was a staff nurse and she was full of life. And it was a quiet time and she was messing around. So, I thought ‘I’ll get you’. So, we made a bodice of newspaper wrapped with sellotape around her and a skirt and got this disposable bedpan with a pyjama cord to make a hat and made spots on it and she went into the lounge and there was this elderly lady who was so miserable, she really didn’t crack her face at all. She was just standing up on her Zimmer frame and she looked at her and she rocked with laughter, absolutely rocked. And, do you know, she never forgot that and she was a different woman after that. She really was. She smiled, there was something that struck a chord with her. And if we got into trouble – I mean if there had been visitors there, we might have got into trouble – it was worth it because that made such a difference to that lady and also her care because we were able to communicate with her. But yes, we did get up to some things, which these days you’d be sacked for. But as I say, it was never done to the detriment of anybody, but you know, we worked hard and we had our jokes as well.'
'I can remember when I was Sister on Hallett Clinic we had a new student nurse. And in those days, if somebody came in with false teeth, we had an identi-kit for false teeth and what you did is you had the side of the false teeth and you scrubbed it off with almost like a nail file thing and then you wrote in with a very fine black ink their name and then you had like a varnish and you would do it over the top and let it set over night. It was a night nurse’s job. Well, one day we had a student come in and she took all the dentures – everybody had a denture pot – but she put them all into one bowl to clean them. And some of them hadn’t been marked. Can you imagine what that was like? Oh dear! It was horrific. Just make sure those are well cleaned before you try them in anybody.'
'I remember one night in 1986, when my Mum – who worked nights on Merthyr (a house on its own half-way down the drive) - on her own at night there with the patients. I remember one night I rang her up and "J" was on the switchboard, so he put me through. And I was chatting away and all of a sudden she went ‘Oh’ - like that and the phone went down. And I thought – my word, what’s happened? So, I rang back and got "J" and he said ‘what’s the matter "M?"and I said ‘I was just on the phone to Mum and she gave a bit of a yell all of a sudden and the phone went dead’. ‘Alright’, he said, ‘I’ll get the nursing officer to go down’ – that’s how good they were there, you know. And he got in touch with the nursing officer and he went down to see her. And what had happened was a bat had got in and while she was on the phone to me it landed on her head. Oh, it gives me the creeps even now thinking about it. And I said ‘you were so brave, Mum, I would have been running around screaming’. But of course this would have made matters worse, as bats go by sound. But that's what it was like - everyone pulled together and helped each other.'
'I do recall one patient saying very loudly to one of the doctors from overseas - 'Speak English, man, I can't understand a bloody word you are saying' and he was very well spoken.'
'I lost a lot of weight and they sent me for an X-ray. And I told the X-ray lady that I had had TB [tuberculosis] when I was eight years old. My father died of TB and I was the only one in the family who got it, but I spent a lot of time with him. I had a scar on my lung, but I was – it sounds silly, but I was a healthy child and I got rid of it through my own immune system. But she didn’t put it on the report, so the Matron went bananas when she saw this. So, I was moved to another ward that was going to be lighter – well, where she got that from, I do not know because it was a heavier ward than the one I was already on. So, she sent me to another longstay ward where there was more people in bed and more people more reliant on the staff. And she used to come in the ward every day – she did a round every day, sometimes twice – and she always stood over me and made me drink half a pint of milk. And I hate the taste of milk, always have done ever since I was in school. I used to hate it. I used to try and hide from her, but she would always find me. Anyway, I put on a bit of weight, so she stopped doing that, thank Goodness. It was hard work. It was very heavy work because we had no lifting gear. We lifted people everywhere. That was really hard work. But there was a good camaraderie with the staff. Staff – if they saw you struggle with somebody, you got help. You know, you didn’t have to ask for it, they were there. And the Ward Sisters, I mean they were just on a pedestal kind of thing.'