Sunday 5 August 2012

Storytelling Sunday.........................28 days, weeks.............YEARS later

Good day everyone and welcome to another episode of Storytelling Sunday brought to you with the love and support of Sian at High in the sky. This is a regular feature many bloggers do on the first Sunday of each month. Do join us. All the details are here.

So Sian's suggestion for this month was ''Summer Lovin'' and I already had several ideas for my post. So today my post is about my love for nursing and how it all started, with a few silly stories thrown in. Oh yes and the title is a reference to the film 28 days later of course. No zombies in this post but an excellent film.............the follow-up not so much!

 The Royal London in Whitechapel.

 Bethnal Green Hospital as it is today - apartments on the facade remains.

St Clements Hospital front entrance as it was.

As regular readers of my blog will know I am a nurse although my friend Luke says I haven't been a real nurse for years............................yes he is obnoxious sometimes. Anyway I say Once a nurse always a nurse. So imagine yourself back in the summer of 1984, you've just finished your A levels, yes I am that old, and your family have moved from Sussex to Somerset. You are about to leave home and move to the East end of London. I was 18 1/2 years old and terrified.  My only week at the new house involved unpacking and repacking my stuff ready to leave home. My first shopping trip to Bristol was to buy shoes. I sat sewing name labels into my pants..................for no good reason in the end. I think it a joke idea on the list.
I remember driving up from Somerset with my parents and sister all the way to Mile End hospital which was my new home for 6 weeks with fear but also excitement. The boot was full of my clothes, books, stereo and music and food. That was August 15th 1984.

The nursing home was attached to the hospital and was to be Set 489's base for the first 6 weeks of PTS where we learned all the basics we needed to work on our first ward. We went onto the wards to learn how to make beds with London hospital corners and the London hospital flick. One of the girls in our set bravely agreed to be bed bathed by our tutors and we practised injecting oranges with water. We also had lessons in making our hats which involved us folding perfect numbers of pleats in a starched semi-circle and scrubbing starch out of the hat ties with our toothbrushes.................very technological. Most nurses no longer wear hats.

The first weekend I was there our A' level results arrived and I passed but with terrible marks but we celebrated with a trip to pictures at Stepney cinema.

After 6 weeks we got our first ward placements, mine was a renal ward at The London Hospital 2 miles away in Whitechapel, so we moved down to The Luckes Home. This was a really old nurses home with many floors and long corridors of rooms with shared bathrooms where you could have a conversation with your fellow bathers as the walls didn't meet the ceiling. I decorated my room with postcards which I still have and prepared myself for first warder status. On my first ward I learnt how to really nurse patients, with care, understanding and consideration, I experienced my first death which was a huge shock and as it was a male ward how to deal with ill chaps when ur a naive teenager. It was a steep learning curve.

Throughout it all I had my 2 key friends, who are still friends to this day, Naomi and PJ. We lived next to each other on our corridor and our first night together we played my music and talked and talked before our first day of lessons. Naomi was a year older than me, feisty and fun and PJ was my age and looked about 15, all the patients kept saying she was too young to be a nurse. We lived on the same corridor most of the first year along with many of our set. The lady on the front desk ran a strict ship and doors were locked at eleven sharp. If u were caught with a boy in your room all hell broke loose although there were ways of slipping past her. All the nurses home were linked to hospital by specially constructed bridges so if you knew the way in you could get home late without getting into trouble.....................of course I was a goody goody and never did anything like that ;)).

During my training I worked on many different wards including orthopaedics, gynaecology, psychiatry, care of the elderly, paediatrics, theatres, cardiology, gastric surgery, general surgery, renal, oncology, and a few more which have slipped my mind. I worked in four different parts of the hospital The London, Bethnal Green, St Clements and Mile End. Lived in four different places and met hundreds of interesting and brave patient and their families.

We spent our evenings often in one of the local hostelrys but our local was really The Good Sams or else The Three Feathers hospital club.

 the Good Sams.

Sometimes, but rarely the medical college. I often walked home from the West End and would get as far Aldgate when a black cabbie would hail me and encourage me into his cab for a free ride home, once he knew I was a nurse from the London. My friend M and I would walk from Bethnal Green up the canals to Camden Market where invariably she would be accosted by numerous hairdressing trainees from Trevor Sorbie requesting to redesign her amazing hair. I think she even got to appear as a model on the catwalk after being styled.  I bought my bike at Brick Lane Market and cycled from our flat in Bow to The London for shifts.

Today The Royal London has changed dramatically with a mass of new, modern building and a helipad.

 aerial view of todays hospital site.

The uniform I loved is no more and most of the places we went to and lived in are apparently gone. I suppose progress must be made but it makes me sad none the less. You can go to the museum in the old church behind the hospital. My two friends are no longer nursing. PJ emigrated to Oz about 20 years ago now and lives North of Sydney and Naomi lives in the UK with her growing children. Me, well I have come full circle as I am nursing again on night duty and rediscovering skills I learned all those years ago. And yes ok sometimes I do feel like a zombie, but I promise not a flesh eating one.


  1. Lovely to hear more about your nursing and a little bit of history to go with it. I really enjoyed Call the Midwife and hope it returns for another series :o)

  2. What fond memories! I have just spent a week in London and had a gloriously sunny day in Camden and a fab time in Brick Lane checking out the markets too!

  3. What a gloriously conjured up summer of 84! Yes, I remember it well, but I have enjoyed reading your memories so much - you have reminded me why "Angels" was my favourite tv programme! The hospital dramas just aren't the same anymore - I'm sure losing the hats had something to do with it lol

    Thanks JO, this is another cracking story

  4. What a trip down the nursing memory lane and a tour of London Hospitals too. I like the photograph of the pub particularly as it is such a British Institution. Well done you for returning to hospital life. I am sure it is taxing but very rewarding.

  5. The three feathers was always an institution - went into there with nursing friends just a few years later that your summer of 1984. Just read "Call the Midwife" which although 30 years earlier was another glimpse into by-gone years.

    So many bits of hospitals and nursing have changed.

  6. I had a friend who went upnto nurse in 1984 and I visited her in her 'digs' and your story brought it all back. Thanks for sharing :-)

  7. Some great memories here. I remember the traditional nurses uniform, the new ones are probably more practical but don't have the same image about them. A lovely story!

  8. I love your story today. My mother was a nurse, and I put together an album with her pictures from nursing school and really enjoyed her stories.

  9. Jo, it is fascionating to hear your story today - I have enjoyed every part of it. Good luck with the night shifts, my aunty is a midwife and she has been doing a lot of nightshifts lately!

  10. wow didn't realised you had gone back to shifts Jo good luck! I used to love night duty but think I would find it harder to cope with now, as haven't done a night shift for over 15 years!!

  11. Really interesting to read about your nursing career and just what things were like ... Hadn't realised you were doing nights again, and hope you continue to enjoy it. Is it very busy, or do you have time to think up great blog posts like this one?

  12. That was a very interesting read. Training for nursing now is nothing like that. I am not a nurse but I have a few friends who are and theirs would be a very different story. I do miss a uniform or sorts, now days it is hard to tell who is a nurse. My husband was in hospital last month and the nurses all wore different clothes each time you saw them! Your stories remind me of my MIL. She trained to be a nurse way before you did and up in Newcastle, but the stories about her taining were very similar.

  13. Ha! Missed this last weekend (a bit occupied at the hospital myself!).
    It was a great story about your nursing training/career - thanks for sharing, Jo!
    The nurses' uniforms are certainly very different nowadays. I like the smart tops worn by the senior nurses and "Sister" at our local hospital, but I hate the scruffy trousers and tops worn by the orderly staff and juniors... they look so floppy, untidy and somehow not very clean (even though the idea of the tops / trousers, is to be cleaner!). There's a lot to be said for starch and pleats, when it comes to giving a good impression and looking professional!

    I'm so pleased to hear you are back nursing again now. I hope you are enjoying it.
    Hope to get in touch "properly" fairly soon - if things will only quieten down here...just a little bit!

    Good luck with the night shifts. XXX

  14. How amazing lying here in bed in Sydney surfing the net about the London hospital I literally stumbled on this Jo ! How bizarre to be reading a nursing history which was so familiar to me well done Jo bought back many happy memories and I loved the photos from your nursing partner in crime Pj!! Xx

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Hello and thank you so much for stopping by. It is always a pleasure to read the comments I receive and to meet new friends. I try and reply to comments on friend's blogs as much as possible. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog and look forward to seeing you here again soon. Love Jo xxx