Friday, March 2

Things that go bump in the night!

When I was 18 I began training to be a nurse. It had been the one thing I had wanted to do, for as long as I could remember. I had taken courses at school, with that aim in mind, & when I left school, I took a job to fill in time, until I was old enough to begin my training.

In those days you had to apply to the Hospital you wanted to train with, & most of the girls 'lived in', in the Nursing Home.

I was accepted by the Hospital I first applied to, & so began my training. In those days, you spent 6 weeks of training in a classroom, with weekend rosters on the wards, & then this was followed by 6 weeks on different wards, to gain experience.

My favourite ward to work, was the Maternity Ward. I loved the everything about it, from helping the mothers with deliveries to feeding & caring for the babies, in the Nursery, which is where they 'lived' while the mothers were still in hospital. In those days the mothers usually spent about 7 days in hospital!

And the only time they had contact with the babies was during feeding time. It seems extraordinary to think about it now. And the mothers were not allowed up, to have their own showers but had the indignity of having to be 'washed down there', by the nurses.

A very young girl who had a baby, begged me to adopt her baby. She was unmarried, & unable to keep her baby. Poor girl, she knew I loved her baby, but of course I was young - & single, myself! Another mother had given birth to a severely deformed baby that had died -it seemed terrible to think she still had to give birth the natural way. She had other children, & told me sadly, that she had known from the start something was not right, & she had mentally prepared herself for the worst.

We girls did our rosters on the different wards, & I think the one I least liked was the cancer ward, because it was inevitably the saddest. It was also the infectious ward in those days, so there would be interesting patients, but not always the happiest of patients. Some of the TB patients were long term, & they hated to be in hospital so long. I once watched an old Maori woman, who made up her mind to die. She just sat, like a black ghost, & she did die, as she refused to eat or drink.

I was not very fond of the children's ward either. I found dealing with fractious children quite hard. And 'children' included 16 year olds, & they could be bad patients!

Accident & Emergency were always interesting & frequently hectic. But it could also be 'dead' during the night, & there would be nothing much to do. There were side wards where short term patients were kept, & we doubled as A & E nurses on that ward. Often patients died on that ward, & we would get them off the ward as quickly as possible.

There were usually two nurses rostered on at night, to be used as 'Runners'. If you were a runner you could be called to any ward when necessary, & could spend whole nights going from one ward to another. It was rare to spend the whole night in one ward.

The whole of Hospital, in those days, was a series of seperate buildings, or wards that had been added on to the main original old Hospital. The Maternity, Geriatric, & Infectious Wards were all seperate buildings, & the walkways between them were not always well lit.

The Morgue was in the centre of these buildings close to the old Laundry. If we were called to the Geriatric Ward, we had to walk past the Morgue. And there were always horrible mysterious noises that came from that building. And no matter how many times we tried to find out what or where the noises came from, no one ever had a satisfactory explanation. I remember discussing it with the Matron once, & she agreed it was a mystery.

Of course, at night it was terrifying to have to pass the Morgue alone, & I can remember 'running for my life' to get to the Geriatric Ward. There seemed to always be noises of a 'normal'nature, too, as the boilers went day & night to keep the airconditioning going in the hospital buildings. And the Laundry seemed to always have steam coming from somewhere. But the spooky Morgue noises never seemed 'normal' at all!

This photo was taken outside the Geriatric Ward. I am on the left. The three girls at the right were trainees, in my class, & the other girls were Nurses Aids as they were called then. The girl holding the baby was a 3rd year Nurse.And this photo is of one of my good friends Nga, who came from Raratonga, specially to train. The baby was a 4th generation baby brought to the Geriatric Ward so they could have photos taken professionally.
I never did get a photo of the Great Grandmother with the baby, or the family. I cant remember who suggested we had our photos taken, but it is a nice reminder of those days.
I foolishly left my training early, & eventually lost touch with those girls. I often think of Nga, & wonder if she stayed in New Zealand once her training was complete.


joyce said...

Your story was interesting, as usual. I knew my choices were teacher, nurse or secretary and I quickly settled on teacher. My training was not nearly as interesting but once I started my career it was. My first job was a one-room school and then we went to teach on an Indian Reservation. THose were the days. I wish I had the energy now that I had then!

smilnsigh said...

Wonderful memories and thank you for sharing them. And the photos are great!!!


Quilting Kim said...

What wonderful memories that you have - and share.

You look so pretty and tall in your nursing uniform. I don't know why I pictured you as being on the short side.

Molly said...

Falling out of my chair here as I picture the youthful and superstitious Megs highstepping it past the morgue!

Diana said...

Another great story, Meggie. I had several cousins train for nursing in the same way. My MIL did the same thing in the thirties. She also has some interesting stories to tell. Now I think nursing students go to college before they actually begin working in hospitals.

DubiQuilts - Debbi said...

Growing up I knew I could never be a nurse because I hate to help sick people. I loved blood and guts but was not good at helping. It must of been the tomboy in me. When my mom was sick and my sister and I took care of her. The Hospice nurses said I did such a good job. I was honored to care my mom but at the same time it sucked.

I was always thankful for the nursee who help me when I was in the hospital and those who help with my mom. Bless you all!!!

Liz said...

Thanks for sharing from the memory bank again. This is such an interesting story. I smiled too (and then shivered) when I pictured young nurses scurrying past the morgue in the dead of night.

Stomper Girl said...

Weren't your nurses hats wonderful?! Did you have to assemble them yourselves?

h&b said...

I love old photos - these are beautiful :)