Training and Education
The Exe Vale School of Nursing was offically opened at the Digby Hospital site, on 7th July 1964 by Miss Muriel Powell, C.B.E., who was at that time the Matron of St. George's Hospital, London.
The new school comprised of two main classrooms, two group discussion rooms and a library.
The training facilities were for both Registered Mental Nurses and State Enrolled Nurses. The Registered Nurses (Students) completed a 3 year course for their certificate and the State Enrolled Nurses (Pupils) a two year course. An entrance exam was taken before training commenced and another exam was taken after the first year to see how they were progressing and whether they could finish the rest of the course. During the initial training course, placements were allocated between the 3 Hospitals - Exminster, Digby and Wonford House. They also did a placement at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital for a brief insight into general physical health. This was helpful, as a lot of patients suffered from mental health problems due to physical illness.
Once qualified, the nurse received The Green Star Badge which was the Exe Vale star. You only received it, if you qualified in that school. Once qualified, there was an opportunity for the nurses to go to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital and train as State Registered Nurses (SRNs). So, there was a group of nurses quite highly trained in both general health and mental health, which was an advantage when seeking promotion. There was one medical ward for patients with physical health problems as well as mental health ones. Nurses who worked on this ward were generally double trained.
Training also took part on the wards. Not only Students and Pupils trained there, but Nursing Assistants took courses and attained certificates in subjects such as "Observations" - these being Temperature, Pulse, Respirations and Blood Pressure taking as well as the "right" way to make beds - nice sharp envelope corners!! The aim was to provide care of the patient as a whole - not just for their mental health but for their physical health too.
There was also a Nursing Cadet Scheme for 16 and 17 year olds, males and females, interested in a nursing career but too young to start training.