A new book will share the stories of 12 student nurses, 50 years after they enrolled in training at Preston Royal Infirmary.Advertisement
To Heal The Sick recounts the experiences of the student nurses during a time of political change, when the training and perception of nurses was evolving from long established traditions. They were part of the Preliminary Training School of 1968, which was the first to combine the nurse training schools of Preston Royal Infirmary and Sharoe Green Hospital.
Co-author Jane Dean said, “The book is a living social history, produced to celebrate our 50th anniversary in September.
“Each of the featured nurses has a different story to tell. The last to retire in 2017 from the now Royal Preston Hospital was Jacqueline Tompkins, after 49 years of uninterrupted service to the NHS.
“I’m sure the book will be of interest to the people of Preston, as all the old Wards are named with their then Ward Sister.”
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To Heal The Sick will be published in September. Here, Jane shares her insights into what nurse training was like back in the late 1960s…
“In 1968, the NHS was 20 years old and required modernisation, but it was suffering from underfunding. The Labour government never envisioned that a national health service would become so unwieldy and difficult to manage. Patient demand was far exceeding initial expectations and planning.
“Training was controlled by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales (GNC) and each hospital had its own nurse training school, headed by Sister Tutors. In 1962 the GNC had reintroduced a minimum educational standard, which had been suspended during World War II when hospitals struggled to staff their wards.
“Although basic educational qualifications were necessary to enter the profession, more emphasis was put upon good character and background. Nurses were expected to be altruistic, compassionate and gentle towards their patients.
“The road to acceptance by a nurse training school and eventual goal of State Registration reveals how determined aspiring nurses had to be, as encouragement from superiors was rarely forthcoming. Their workload was heavy, and they worked long hours with little pay while trying to find time for study and coursework.
“They lived in the nurses home and worked together. Social and personal life was limited and working hours subject to change. It was still frowned upon for women to enter a pub unattended by a male companion. Finding a dance hall or a rare trip to the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool was cause for excitement. Marriage was discouraged and could lead to professional disadvantage.
“Looking back, a first year student nurse was little more than a skivvy. Dancing attendance on the patients was one thing, but being at the beck and call of any senior nurse or doctor was a very intimidating experience for some.
“We would be expected to give way on the corridor to senior staff and would never walk in front of such a person. To question authority was unheard off. Even patients were reluctant to query any treatment as they would be told ‘this is what the doctor ordered’, which brought an end to any discussion.
“The country was changing but nurse training in the provinces was in a time warp. Fifty years on it is hard to imagine how nurses at that time accepted draconian rules and regulations without complaint.”
Do you have memories of nursing or of visiting Preston’s hospitals in the 1960s? Let us know in the comments below.