Thursday, 26 July 2012

The real 'call the midwife'

(Lois writes) As part of my project working memories I've been working with the Stroke Support Group, at New Mills Volunteer Centre. This week I spent the afternoon reminiscing with Anneliese, Mary and Margaret. Below Margaret beautifully describes aspects of her training and life as a Nurse and Midwife in the 1940s, 50s and 60s:

I trained as a Nurse at Manchester Royal at 18, had to go in a school for 3 months, a block then on the wards for 9 months, then 3 months school and went on like that. Life was good when you got used to it. In war time the companionship of others was all important.

We had a room of our own, that room was ours. The Night Nurses had a special section, so they could sleep in the day without disturbance.  If you were on a split shift you worked from 7.30 to 12, then back on 5.00 till 9.00. You got used to it. Night duty went on at 9.00 and off at 8.30 in the morning, that was hard. The companionship, you had worries but you could moan to your friends. I met my husband there, he was a patient. It was the second ward I was on, it was nearly all old men, this one was 26, coming in to get his varicose veins done…how romantic! My first words to him were, ‘can you take your trousers off?’

When you’ve done your three years training, you had to give a year to the hospital, you could usually pick the ward you would be a Staff Nurse were on. If young people died that could be traumatic, there was no support, it was left to your friends. Traumatic Stress Disorder wasn’t thought of. You were so busy you got on with your work, that helped you get on with it.

Then Midwifery, In 1953 I went into a very modern hospital in Sheffield only for 6 months, The Jessop Hospital. Every patient had their own room with babies in there to, it was quite modern for those days. Then I went to Derby, a very old house that had been converted for midwifery, with bikes for the midwifes to go out on. There women had beds close together, 20 or 30 in a ward, it wasn’t good. 50 babies in the nursery, they could scream all night! When it was feeding time, we carried a baby in each arm down the spiral staircase. (thankfully nobody dropped one whilst I was there!)

After 3 months it was over to the bicycles, the first night I got a decent bike out of the pool, and off I went, the father came running up to me ‘she’s had it, think there might be another.’ She was a sweet lady, already had 3 children, well she had twins, I was just in time to deliver the 2nd twin. They all lived together in one room. Isla and Iona the twins were called. A lovely little family, but how they managed in that one little room?

When I finished my training I was home for a fortnight, but I was so bored that I took a job at the Cavendish Hospital, Buxton. Then after I got married then a job as the District Nurse in New Mills. I had a second hand pink and silver racing bike (the tires often punchered going round those rough roads) I had a big bag made for the bike, started of at Newtown, gradually made my way into New Mills. There was no telephone, so called at the Doctors Surgery every day, then the chemist. In 1957 with the Suez Crisis, learner drivers could go out alone, without that I wouldn’t have passed.

There were a lot of injections to do, as there were no water tablets in those days, there were no disposable syringes, you had to boil them wherever you went. When you were boiling the water for the needles on solid rings, your heart sank- it took so long, fire or gas was fine.

It was general care: washing them up, looking after leg ulcers, caring, making them right for the day.

There were no incontinence pads, you could hire rubber sheets from the red cross, or people used to tear up big sheets for drawer sheets. The dressings you had to bake in the oven in a biscuit tin, if they were pale brown they were done. There were no plastic aprons, it was all starched aprons. There was poverty down at the bottom of High Street, but work was plentiful, however not much support if you were ill. 

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