MEMORIES OF GUY'S
Trish 1967 Luke Ward
Trish Rees, nee Adams, Guy's 1965 - 68 Sister 1970-71
I recently looked at a website where the Guy's uniform over different time periods was being discussed. So I thought it might be of interest to post on the Guy's League Memory Section what the uniform looked like during my years there with some photos of what I wore showing the indicators of different degrees of seniority. Also, a few recollections of my time there in the 60/70's.
I arrived at Guy's in September 1965. I was one of a few nurses who had done the combined 4yr training with Moorfields Eye Hospital and, therefore, I was classed as an end of first year student. This system was horrible on so many fronts as far as I was concerned. I joined alone, no-one from my Moorfields set came as there were other hospitals involved in the scheme. I was attached to the January 65 set for blocks but took State Finals with the October 64 set and really I knew no-one for a very long time. My first ward was Wilks and I wonder now how I survived the shock of being on a ward with very sick patients. At Moorfields no-one was ill and I had never even seen a drip. In my first week one of 'my' patients arrested and I had no idea how to do CPR. So much for doing PTS in an eye hospital! We worked 12 hour shifts, 8am-8pm, with 2 hours off in either the morning or the afternoon. We had one day off a week and usually worked 8-6 the day before the day off and came back at lunchtime the day after. We went into first year block at the end of October. Everyone had made there circle of friends in PTS and no-one spoke to me and I spoke to no-one. I am sure I appeared stand-offish but the truth was I was shy, terrified and very lonely.
As to the uniform, the dress was pinstripe white and lilac cotton with a soft lilac collar. We had belts of the same material but they were worn beneath the apron. Our caps had to be shaped round cardboard to make the front stand upright whilst at the back was stitched across the bottom with a drawstring thread and then pulled into shape and 8 small, equal pleats were then made. These were apparantly for the 8 Beatitudes, or so I was told. It's difficult to describe so I hope the photos will show the end result better. Our uniform was regulated to even the shoes and the particular shade of grey stockings we had to wear. We had a short navy cape with red lining for walking around the hospital and a long cloak with a bonnet for outdoor wear offsite. This made us look somewhat like the Salvation Army and my, eventual, flat mate was given 2/6d for them one day! (We weren't allowed to live out until we were well into our 2nd years). On Christmas Day we wore our short capes reversed and started off at 6am to go round every ward in the hospital to sing carols. We always sang 'Away in a Manger' on the Maternity ward and finished in the courtyard beneath the East Wing singing 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'!
In January 66 I was sent to the Evelina Hospital, just off Borough High Street, as a relief night nurse and whilst I was there I got my 'stripe', worn on the sleeves to indicate senior student nurse status ie second year. I have to mention how very dated the Evelina was as a hospital. My first duty every night was to crawl beneath the steriliser on the ward and light the gas!! As a relief nurse I was allocated a different ward every night and had to know the name, age and diagnosis of every patient before the very scary night sister arrived. I got a good telling off for saying to her that a child had suspected lead poisoning when an xray that day had shown lead in the jaw and 'therefore, nurse, it is no longer suspected'! I stayed at the Evelina to do day duty on Hector Cameron, a psychiatric ward with just 7 beds and a nurse allocated to each child. We had the bizarre task of taking them out alone for various excursions and I was the recipient one day of a phone call from a child whose nurse had jumped on the tube but he hadn't and he was lost! This can only be beaten by an event when I was working in York clinic and a nurse with the same remit took her patient to the top of the Monument. The patient refused to come down and they had to get the Fire Brigade!
The next step up was to become a 3rd year student. 'Strings' were given after 2yrs and 3mths and we became Head Nurses. These strings were given on merit and were not automatic (although I didn't know anyone who did not get theirs). The strings were two flat pieces of white cotton about 12ins long and 2ins wide. These were starched rigidly and folded precisely into 3 across the length and then sewed around the 'bow' end. The 2 pieces were twisted and wrapped together to look like a bow and the top of the bow was stitched to keep it held onto the backing piece. Basically, it wasn't a bow at all but was formulated to look like one. The 2 lengths of the remaining string went up behind the ears to the top of the head and were held in place with hair grips before the cap was put over the top. It was a moment of utter pride and joy to be awarded your strings and tradition dictated that you took them to your ward sister and she would make up your first pair for you and show you how to do it. The kudos of having strings is probably unimaginable today but it meant everything to us plus it gave us much greater status on the ward and we were allowed to do drug rounds and be in charge of shifts. Somehow we had become special and we knew it.
The final stage of change in uniform was on State Registration. For me that was November 1967. On that day our set members who had passed were taken to a large meeting room, I think in the East Wing. We sat in alphabetical order round a vast table and were called up to Matron who gave us each a dark purple petersham belt and our Guy's badges. These were put on immediately and off we went back to our wards. I was actually on night duty on Patience so went to bed but I soon knew the difference my belt made when the night sister came to the ward for her round and told me she no longer needed to do one as I was now qualified. I was so qualified that she then started phoning me to go to other wards to check drugs!
It may seem very strange now but we were allowed to request an allocation to a ward of our choice to be the Staff Nurse on. I applied to go to Hurst simply because I really liked the ward sister. So many of them were still 'dragons'! I was lucky to get my choice and spent a few months there before re-allocating to Outpatients to work in the Ophthalmic Clinic. I think my change was based on the fact you only had to work one evening till 8pm as opposed to late shifts still on the wards.
That is the end of my training years but not quite all the story. I left in August 1968 to go back to Moorfields as a Theatre Sister but in March 1970 I wrote to Guys to see if there were any vacancies and was offered, to my amazement, a Relief Sister's post. The amazement was that I was 23yrs old and Guy's didn't have Sisters that young but when I got back I discovered the Salmon system had rolled in and all the older and wiser Sisters had been moved into management or teaching. What a waste of all that expertise on the wards. I went to visit a ward one day and was asked my opinion about something because I had 'been there the longest'! The Sister's uniform was royal blue, long sleeved and with a bustle at the back. We had starched collars plus starched cuffs for long sleeves and frilly cuffs we put on when we rolled our sleeves up on the ward. The caps were the same shape as the nurses but with pretty lace edging and the pleats at the back were 4 large ones, again with lace edging. I did some relief but then settled on Stephen where I stayed until the end of 1971. I left because the shortage of nurses meant I was the only trained nurse on my ward for a very long time. I was working 10am-8pm to cover drug and doctors' rounds plus I had two peritoneal dialysis beds and worked with the 2 most junior nurses so my Head nurses had the more trained support on their shifts. It became untenable. I went to Matron's Office to say goodbye at the end of September and asked it she had found a replacement Sister for my ward. She had not. I offered to stay one more month whilst she did. That was how dire it was. We think today that staff shortage is a new phenomenon but I can attest that it wasn't.
There were good times, bad times and times in between but now I look back with pride and affection at everything I gained from Guy's and, I hope, gave back.
Trish 1967, Trish, Sister Adams,1970
In The Park at Guy's Sister's uniform
Trish with strings 1967 Snow in the Park
If you remember Trish and wish to contact her
Christmas on the ward firstname.lastname@example.org
Christmas at Guy's 1955: Caleb Ward
Jean Tucker, nee Elliot
We had already been carol singing round the hospital during Christmas week and in our spare moments been busy making decorations for the wards - Noddy and Muffin the Mule being the stars of the day. Night staff had filled stockings with toys from the stack in the day room sent to the hospital.
Christmas Day began with Communion in our beautiful hospital chapel before breakfast. The children had found their stockings by the time we day staff had arrived so having done our routine tasks we then had a little more time to play and talk with them. We were also allowed to invite a friend in the hospital to spend the day with us on the ward and I asked a dental student from South Africa who was delighted with the prospect: Christmas at Guy's had always had a magic reputation far and wide!
During the morning Father Christmas arrived, in his wheelchair, operating all kinds of noisy medical devices of a push-me pull-you nature which reduced everyone to helpless giggling and those children not too sick were visited.
Lunch was served in the open hallway between the medical and surgical wards and Sister on Diplock brought a child in a cot who had a tracheotomy, in order to have him close at hand. One of the surgeons or physicians carved the turkey and what a wonderful spread it seemed since butter and sugar were still rationed at that time. to a generation which had grown up during the war.
Afterwards we were able to go round the hospital and visit all the wards and departments, eventually finding the Christmas entertainment in Queen Ward put on by housemen and students and including the proverbial shadow play with sausages causing much merriment.
Then back to the ward for the children's tea and settling them down for the night. Food left over from lunch was put in the day room and when the night staff arrived we were able to gather and enjoy our supper and chat over the highlights of the day. This was interrupted by a noise outside where groups of students were chairing the Night Superintendent around the Park and having deposited her on the steps of the Medical School were demanding a speech.
'Aunty' was of course an Institution having taught countless generations of Guy's nurses and doctors and was due to retire.