Nurse who spent 50 years on wards reflects on changes

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A NURSE who spent half a century caring for patients has finally decided to end her career and said the job had changed beyond all recognition over the last 50 years.

Nancy Bennett, who was born in Scotland, first started out in 1962 as a pupil nurse at Strathclyde Hospital, in Motherwell.

She moved to Doncaster Royal Infirmary in 1978 and has worked on wards, in the outpatients chest clinic and dermatology and also trained in retinal screening.

Mrs Bennett, 68, said: “Things have certainly changed since my days as a pupil nurse. Like many hospitals at that time, Strathclyde was an infectious disease hospital.

“We had long, open Nightingale-style wards called pavilions which had a kitchen in the middle. I remember heating up the plates in water and serving the food for the patients.

“We used to do all the dusting on the ward and everything had to be in line for the matron’s inspection – it was very strict.

“We even sterilised the glass syringes and metal needles on the ward by boiling them up in water; nowadays, they are delivered to the ward in boxes. In those days, hospital nurses went out in the ambulance to pick up patients from their homes. I will never forget having to help the driver carry the stretcher and being terrified of dropping it.

“It was a lot stricter and everyone was referred to by their surnames. In the dining room there were separate tables for different grades of nurses. Student nurses were the lowest and we had to remain standing until the sisters were seated.

Now everyone uses each other’s first names and we all sit together. At DRI, I worked nights on Ward 25 and back in the 70s we only had one trained nurse and an auxiliary covering both Wards 24 and 25.

“Even though there were just two of us on nights looking after more patients, we seemed to have more time as the patients back then had different care needs.

“The patients in those days were much younger. The patients we care for nowadays have more complex care needs because they are more elderly and dependent.

“This requires a different type of nursing, which is more personalised and focused on each patient’s individual needs.

“We have daily cleaning schedules to combat infections making sure everything gets cleaned. Anything on the ward that’s for nursing care – we clean it.

“In the 1960s and 70s consultants were treated like gods. We still have great respect for them today, but now we are allowed to give them a hug every now and again.”

Mrs Bennett, of Wheatley Hills, Doncaster, said she was now spending more time with her grandchildren and helping her husband John with the gardening.